WHERE ARE THEY NOW? : BOBBY STOKES

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The Independent Online
Whenever Southampton get a sniff of an FA Cup run, business takes a turn for the better at a quayside caf in Portsmouth, next to the rail- ferry station known locally as the Hard Interchange. The attraction is a cup of tea served by the man whose 83rd-minute goal in the 1976 final against Manchester United brought the Saints their only notable silverware in 110 years of trying.

But while Wembley glory won Bobby Stokes a permanent place in Southampton folklore, it did not bring lasting security. Two years on, after 11 years at The Dell, he was an ex-player. Four seasons with Washington Diplomats followed, then an unsuccessful venture into pub management in Portsmouth, his home town, before, eight years ago, he found permanence of a different kind, working behind the counter for his cousin, Maria.

Now 44 and recently divorced, Stokes has been granted a benefit year by Southampton. "After being there more than 10 years I was disappointed at the time not to get a testimonial," he said. "Then one day last year I thought I'd just brassneck it and ask. In the end all it cost me was a 20p phone call.''

A Cup run, then, could not be better timed. "I don't wear my medal around my neck but I'll happily recall every detail of the match with anyone who has 90 minutes to spare. It was the best day of my life," he said.

A regular at The Dell and Fratton Park, he maintains a link with football by coaching at holiday camps with his former team-mate Peter Osgood. He strongly approves of Alan Ball - "a great motivator" - and rates Matthew Le Tissier as "with the exception of Terry Paine, the best Southampton have ever had".

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