Looking Back At: Gordon Hobson

Hobson v Oxford

Malcolm always does such a good job of his player profiles, and I thought to boost the site a little I’d do a few of my own.

Why not start with an all-time favourite of mine, and of many other people, Gordon Hobson? Today marks the 43rd anniversary of his debut, a 4-1 victory against Cambridge United, so it seems a great place to start my own articles on stars of the past to run alongside Malcolm’s.

Gordon Hobson was a fast and tricky striker who scored goals regularly throughout his playing career, reaching a total of 129 from his 459 appearances spread over 14 years.

Hobson could have been spotted by City earlier, he played for the club’s nursery team Sheffield Rangers as a teenager, but then trained as a plumber upon leaving school. He played football alongside his plumbing role, turning out for Manchester Villa, a Sheffield pub team, on Sundays. Shortly after the tricky striker turned 20, that Imps’ scout Geoff Worth decided to take another look.

By now, Hobson was a qualified plumber, but Worth was convinced that the youngster had what it took to become a professional, and he signed for City in December 1977. It was a tough time to arrive at the club; George Kerr had not long since been sacked and Willie Bell was just pulling up his chair at the manager’s desk.

Youthful Hobson prior to his debut

He waited patiently for his debut, getting the chance on April 8, 1978. Those who were there were delighted to see him grab two assists and a goal of his own to defeat Cambridge who battling for promotion at the top end of the table. When the season concluded, the Imps finished 16th and Cambridge were promoted to what is now the Championship as runner up. Some debut. After that, he quickly established himself as a first-team regular. His initial partnership was with Big Mick Harford, both scored before the end of the season in a 2-1 win against Carlisle, then Hobson opened his account on the opening day of 1978/79 with a goal in the win against Tranmere.

All was not well at the club though, and the two exciting youngsters only started eight of the opening 20 league matches together. By then, Willie Bell had been sacked and Colin Murphy appointed. Thus began the fairytale of Murphy’s Imps, with Gordon Hobson as a central, key character. Hobson grabbed six league goals from his 27 starts that season, enough to finish as the joint-leading scorer with John Ward, Glenn Cockerill and Mick Harford. It seems mad that with those four playing regularly we actually went down.

That was a season of transition, and at the start of 79/80 City were getting back on track. Hobson hit ten, including his first-ever hat-trick in a 5-2 victory at Torquay on the final day of the campaign. The Imps finished seventh, but the signs of progression were clearly there. Mick Harford, so often the recipient of a wicked Hobson cross, scored 16 in 35 in the league, with a young Tony Cunningham scoring 12 in 33.

Twisting and turning with Big Sam Allardyce in attendance

The following season, Hobson finally caught light in a major way, finishing as leading scorer after Harford (10 in 21) left for Newcastle Utd. Hobson netted 21 goals as City won promotion from the Fourth Division, finishing behind Southend by just two points. In the 8-0 thrashing of Northampton Town, Hobson scored four times, but his goals were just a single part of his all-round appeal. His pace and trickery often drew players to him, creating space for others, whilst he was as comfortable providing goals as he was scoring them.

In 1981/82, the Imps came within a whisker of promotion to the Second Division, missing out only because of a 1-1 draw with Fulham in the final game of the season. Again, Hobson was amongst the top performers, providing plenty of assists as Cockerill, Shipley and Cunningham all finished on 11 goals. Hobson bagged seven, but missed no fewer than 14 matches with injury.

In 82/83, a season which has been compared to the current campaign (20/21), Hobson again excelled, scoring 14 times. City were unreal in the first half of the season, hammering Bournemouth 9-0 (Hobson netted a hattrick), as well as mauling Reading (4-0), Doncaster (5-1) and Exeter City (4-1). Sadly, as has been documented, the season began to fall apart due to boardroom wrangling, and the promotion assault failed. After leading at Christmas, the Imps finished sixth. Hobson did net in our cup runs too, scoring in either leg of the Milk Cup tie against York which set us up to defeat Leicester and eventually (narrowly) lose to West Ham.

Late in 82/83 v Oxford

Colin Murphy remained at the club for two more seasons, something often forgotten as the performances dwindled. In 83/84, the Imps finished 14th, then tumbled to 19th the following season. Big name players, such as Trevor Peake, Glenn Cockerill and George Shipley left, but Hobson remained. He scored six league goals in 83/84, then chipped in with seven the following season. He also bagged three in our run to the Freight Rover Trophy Northern Semi-Final in 1985 and made the final appearance of his first stint on that tragic day in Bradford.

Murphy left at the start of the 85/86 season, as did Hobson. He secured a £35,000 move to Grimsby Town, then of the Second Division, and finished leading scorer with 15 goals in his first season. The Mariners ended up 15th but were relegated the following campaign. However, Hobson was not relegated with them, just three months into the season he moved to top-flight outfit Southampton for £120,000. It was there he linked up with Glenn Cockerill once again, as well as players such as Jimmy Case and Mark Wright.

Panini ’88

Hobson had a dream start on his top-flight debut, scoring in a 3-1 win over Watford after their keeper Tony Coton failed to hold on to Cockerill’s stinging effort. He later bagged a hat-trick at Maine Road, home of Manchester City, becoming the first Southampton player to score three away from home in 20 years. The Saints won 4-2 and Hobson netted a header, a penalty and a tap in.

Sadly, early in the 1987/88 season, Hobson suffered an ankle injury and lost his place to Graham Baker. When he regained fitness, he found himself pitted against emerging stars such as Danny Wallace, Matt Le Tissier and a young Alan Shearer, and his days at the Dell were numbered.

Hobson in his first season back with the Imps

Within 14 months of that top-flight hattrick, Hobson made a hero’s return to Sincil Bank. Fresh off the back of our GMVC title win, win Colin Murphy in the hot seat, the club paid a record £60,000 for his services. Rather ironically, he scored the first goal of his second Imps stay against Cambridge United, and faced off against his former employers Southampton in the Littlewoods Cup within a month. City held the top-flight side 1-1 in the first leg, a game in which Jimmy Case was sent off for kicking out at Hobson.

The Imps finished tenth in his first season back, but Hobson led the scoring charts with 15 from 32 outings. A hattrick away at Burnley was a highlight for supporters, City winning 4-1, whilst he also got the customary goal against Cambridge as we beat them 3-0 in February.

Hobson’s final season in the red and white of Lincoln once again saw us finish tenth, and once again he left when Colin Murphy did at the end of the season. 89/90 promised so much, the Imps started in wonderful form, but sadly Hobson sat much of that out injured. He started his first game in December, predictably scoring his first goal back from injury as we beat Cambridge 4-3 at the Bank on Boxing Day.

Lormor and Hobson played 21 times together, sharing 13 goals

He bagged eight in the league, a figure matched by new signing Tony Lormor, and was last seen scoring on the final day of the season as we lost 5-1 at home to Champions Exeter City. He once again moved down south, this time joining Terry Cooper’s Grecians in the Third Division. He netted for them on his debut as they met Reading, and eventually scored seven goals in 37 games. He left when, according to this source, he expressed disappointment that Steve Neville was overlooked for the job vacated by Cooper in 1991, and his contract was cancelled not long afterwards.

He then had a brief spell with Walsall, appearing in three matches, before finishing his career in non-League football with Farnborough Town and Salisbury City. He was later assistant manager of Salisbury, in 1995 and 997.

Gordon Hobson hit 96 League goals for the Imps, 105 in all competitions, which puts him third in the list of all-time Lincoln City scorers behind Andy Graver and Johnny Campbell.