CONES for goalposts are laid out in the garden of Martin Dobson’s home – an upgrade from the jumpers that used to make the markings in his childhood.
Nurturing the next generation’s football skills is a natural past-time for the 66-year-old former Burnley, Everton and England star as he and his wife, Carole, take on childcare duties with two of their eight grandchildren.
But passing on the benefit of his experience has always been the way for Dobson.
Going back to that day when he was given a second chance at a career in football by Harry Potts at Burnley he has been mindful of making sure others like him stay on the right track and do not fall by the wayside.
It came to the fore in his first managerial post with Bury, but it influenced his decision to stand up to John Bond, in what proved to be the beginning of the end of his playing days at Turf Moor.
Burnley had yo-yoed between the second and third tier following the departure of Harry Potts in October of the 1979/80 season. Brian Miller got them back up, as champions, in 1982 but they were relegated the following season, with Frank Casper taking charge halfway through.
The club’s production line kept moving regardless, though. But that conveyor belt was dismantled by Bond in 1983.
Dobson, who had developed into a stylish sweeper, was stripped of the captaincy and left out of the side, yet blamed for a heavy opening day defeat to Hull City. And like a scene from a Western film it led to a stand-off.
Dobson said: “In the next training session he asked me my opinion about the game and I told him the defenders didn’t know whether to track back or play a high line, and straight away he said ‘You’ve got an attitude problem’.
“It was a defining moment because I decided to tell him what I thought. I stepped forward and everyone else in the circle dropped back.
“I said ‘I’ve got an attitude problem? You haven’t even got the guts to tell me I’m not captain anymore, I’ve got to read it in the paper’, and there were three or four other issues. I said ‘You’ve destroyed this football club, all those good young players you’ve criticised all the time, there’s no encouragement. You encourage the players you’ve brought in from Manchester City, but nobody else’.”
Dobson assumed it was game over for him at Turf Moor, but he was told by assistant boss John Benson the following day that Bond appreciated people speaking their minds.
Dobson did leave later that season, after an offer from Fourth Division Bury to become their player-manager.
After five years with the Shakers Dobson’s managerial career moved on to Bristol Rovers, but it was over after just four months.
It never fazed him though, such is his willingness to keep busy and try new things, while the desire to develop young football talent never left him.
Ironically, in 1996/97, it led to a return to Bolton – the club that had rejected him and threatened to crush his dreams before Burnley stepped in – as academy director, overseeing the under nines to under 18s.
He went back to Burnley in 2008 as director of youth development. This time, they called him.
“They had some great staff with Vince Overson, Jeff Taylor and Terry Pashley. Super professionals,” he said.
“Jay Rodriguez came through the ranks and the two Irish lads – Chris McCann and Kyle Lafferty.”
But Dobson’s three-year contract was not renewed.
“In the space of 18 months there were three managers and they all have their own ideas,” said the 66-year-old who went on to scout for Ipswich Town, and now Leicester City.
“I was a bit disappointed because there were still things to do at the academy, which I really enjoyed working on.
“In the meantime you do other things as well. I’ve worked for the office for national statistics doing surveys.
“While I was at Everton I did a business management course at Blackburn College. These days I help deliver new and used cars to a depot in the Isle of Man.”
Dobson is also involved in hospitality at Everton on home matchdays.
In his spare time he teaches himself the saxophone.
“I’ve always thought the saxophone, when it’s played well, is a fantastic instrument,” he said.
“Carole bought me one for Christmas but I couldn’t get a sound out of it for weeks and weeks. I laugh about it now.”
Typical Dobson, always upbeat.
“In football I always told players what I was told: ‘Play with a smile on your face and a chuckle in your boots’.”