Dobson: I wanted to fit right in at Burnley
THE route to Martin Dobson’s home is long, winding and steep and takes you past Bolton Wanderers’ Reebok Stadium.
It is not the first time he has taken the high ground over his old club.
A young Dobson wondered what was for him when he was released after just one year with the Trotters.
Despite his dad’s confidence in his ability, he was apprehensive about what Burnley would say; if manager Harry Potts would even remember him.
He would soon find out.
“It was around the first week in May or whatever it is when they announce free transfers,” he recalled.
“My dad actually got on the phone and he managed to get through to Harry Potts.
“I have a laugh now because can you imagine trying to get through to any Premier League manager these days like that?
“You’ve got to go through about 15 people! Plus at that time of year he could have easily been on holiday, or out of the office, but my dad got through to him and said ‘Mr Potts, I don’t know if you remember this lad Martin Dobson, you showed a bit of interest and he’s just got a free transfer, could you suggest anything?’ “I was full of hope but I was thinking then ‘Is he going to remember me? I’ve got a free transfer from a Second Division club’.
“Burnley were in the top division at that time, with all those international players.
“Would he even consider me?
“But Harry came straight back and said ‘Tell Martin to come down on July 1, we start pre-season training, and we’ll have a look at him for two weeks’.
“That gave me the lift I needed.
“I had a good family, good lifestyle, but being released was a shock across the bows for me.
“Straight away I thought ‘I’m going to prove people wrong’. It’s only one person, maybe two people, but you don’t let it affect your confidence.”
Burnley had thrown Dobson a footballing lifeline and it gave him a fresh focus, tunnel vision in fact, and a determination to be in the best shape possible.
In a couple of months’ time he would have just two weeks to make an impression, and if his one season at Bolton had taught him anything it’s that he had to be fit.
“I put my tracksuit on straight away and I started running every day, because I needed to be fitter than anyone else,” he said.
“It’s no use you being back with the also-rans in pre-season, you’ve got to be up top in the first six on the runs.
“I wanted to do everything I could to try and be a success and not let people down.
“Harry Potts had shown faith in me, my family were supporting me, and I became a bit aggressive towards what I wanted to do. Ruthless.
“But it’s no use having ability if you’ve not got that fighting spirit.
“So all of a sudden my mentality changed.”
Dobson used the canal banks near his Rishton home for his daily work-outs.
“I used to get up at 6am and run again in the afternoon. I didn’t do weights but I wanted to be fit. I wanted to be quicker so I did sprints,” he said.
A herd of oncoming cows helped in that department one day.
“One of them gave me the eyes and I had to run even quicker to get away from them otherwise they’d have knocked me into the canal,” he added.
His first day at Gawthorpe came around quickly, but Dobson was ready.
Despite being in the company of a host of international players he was determined to slot in.
“I looked around and I saw excellent players. But I wasn’t in awe of anyone, I was just trying to be myself,” he recalled.
“The coaching was brilliant. After Bolton I had something to compare it to.
“At Burnley everything was on the ball; two-touch football, control the ball, pass and move. It was all about dominating possession.
“It was fantastic down at Gawthorpe, pristine pitches, international players – the likes of John Angus, Alex Elder, Gordon Harris, Willie Irvine, Sammy Todd, Willie Morgan, Ralph Coates. You could go right through them.
“Jimmy Adamson was the coach – what a brilliant coach – and with Harry Potts in charge it was the perfect combination.”
Dobson’s two-week trial was extended by another fortnight so that the management could see him in match action – the first a reserve team pre-season friendly at Buxton, where he scored twice in a 4-1 win.
But by the end of the month, after a couple more appearances, he had to play the waiting game.
“On the Friday, the last day of my trial, nothing had been said so I was getting nervous. I went over to Jimmy Adamson at the end of the final session and I said to him ‘Do you want me in on Monday morning?’,” he said.
“He looked at me and said, ‘What do you mean do we want you in?’ “I said: ‘Well the manager had given me a month’s trial and it’s come to the end.’ “He said ‘Of course we want you in, has he not seen you yet? Go and knock on his door now’.
“So I knocked on his door, but you’re apprehensive because you’ve had a free transfer and you don’t take anything for granted at all.
“Harry Potts said: ‘Come on in Martin, here’s your contract’.
“It was £20 a week, £5 appearance in the first team and a £4 bonus for winning.
“I’d been on £14 at Bolton, all of a sudden a free transfer and I’m at a First Division club and I’ve got £6 more.
“I signed a one-year contract without even reading it.”
Dobson left the office, punched the air and went to catch the bus back to Rishton so that he could announce the good news to his family.
He was on top of the world, with energy to burn.
He got off the bus at Clayton-le-Moors and ran all the way home.
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