OBITUARY: Bobby Langton

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The Independent Online
With Tom Finney and the incomparable Stan Matthews bestriding English football so majestically in the immediate post-war years, international prospects for wing men of less rarefied talents were limited. All credit, then, to Bobby Langton for collecting 11 caps and doing enough to suggest that he might have won many more.

The forthright Lancastrian, who was always ready to stand up for his employment rights during an era when clubs believed that players should be seen and not heard, was a powerful outside-left with a rasping shot. In his early days, he relished cutting in from the flank to create havoc with his direct running, though many maintained he was more effective in later years, when wily tactical acumen compensated for reduced pace.

Langton turned professional with Blackburn Rovers, having been signed for pounds 50 from the non-League Burscough Victoria as a teenager in 1937. Within a year he was in the senior side, becoming top marksman with 14 strikes in 37 games as Rovers won the second division title in 1938-9. Then came the war, much of which he spent as an infantryman in India, though some of it he was a guest with Glentoran, helping them to reach the Irish Cup Final.

With Finney preferred fleetingly to Matthews on the right flank, England gave Langton his first cap in their opening peacetime international, against Northern Ireland at Belfast in 1946, and he scored in a 7-2 victory. He retained his place for several matches, thereafter playing intermittently until winning his last honour in 1950.

By then he had changed clubs, having left Blackburn when they were relegated in 1948 and joined Preston North End in a pounds 16,000 deal. Langton scored a goal after only seven seconds of an early game for his new employers, but did not settle at Deepdale, Bolton Wanderers paying a club record pounds 20,000 for his services in 1949. He served the Trotters well, picking up an FA Cup losers' medal against Blackpool in the famous "Matthews final" of 1953, only for a dispute to result in his return to Blackburn that autumn. Though 34, he proved a sound acquisition, contributing fruitfully for three years before a brief spell in Ulster with Ards. There followed service to a succession of non-League clubs, culminating with a stint as boss of his home club Burscough Rangers in 1968.

Langton epitomised the finest traditional qualities of Lancashire football - down-to-earth realism, spiced with a certain flair.

Ivan Ponting

Robert Langton, footballer: born Burscough, Lancashire 8 September 1918; died Burscough 13 January 1996.

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