Joining Gabbie for another one of his “Back Seat” chats today, is Robert Hopkins.
Hoppy played for us 205 times and scored 33 goals in two spells between 1983 and 1991. He played under five different managers and three owners. While at Blues, he was relegated three times and also promoted. Hoppy has also recently been inducted into the Birmingham City Hall of Fame.
Gabs: Alrite Hoppy, don’t know about a legend, you’re a bit of a jinx? Seriously mate, you are a top Bluenose. Let’s start at the beginning, where are you from?
Hoppy: Thanks for that Gabs!! I’m from Hall Green, although I was born in Medina Road, Sparkhill.
Gabs: Where were you educated mate?
Hoppy: You havin’ a laff? I went to Pitmaston School but I didn’t achieve much as I left before my exams and joined the Villa. In fact, while I was at school I used to go up to Bolton as they had a tie up with my Sunday league team, Hall Green St. Michael’s.
Gabs: How about the Blues mate, did you have any trials for us?
Hoppy: Yes, but they didn’t fancy me. I was heartbroken Gabs.
Gabs: So was that the first and only time they broke your heart Rob?
Hoppy: You’re joking ‘ent ya!! The Blues are worse than women, and they have been bad enough, but the Blues have taken the p**s. The first time they broke my heart was at Maine Road against Fulham in 1975. It was the first time I saw my Dad cry. So I guess being rejected by Blues made it a little bit easier to join the Villa as I wanted to stay local.
Gabs: So tell me about your Villa days mate?
Hoppy: Well, I used to go into training always wearing something Blue. The lads got used to it as they all knew I was a Bluenose.
Gabs: Did you always play with a Blues badge on Rob?
Hoppy: Yes, I always played with it under my Villa shirt. I only played one first team game away at Notts County. I was taking a corner and my shirt had been pulled in a tussle. The Villa fans saw my badge and tried to get onto the pitch to get at me. I nearly caused a riot but luckily it was in the last minute. Shortly after they sold me to the Blues.
Gabs: Your Dad was a big part of your foot-balling life. I remember when I worked in the ‘D’ Club, your family were really supportive weren’t they Rob?
Hoppy: Yes they were and my Dad loved it in there. He even used to come and watch me when I played for Villa reserves in a Blues scarf. When I did make my debut for Villa he went to watch Birmingham. He was a massive Blues fan, guess that’s where I get it from.
Gabs: So, the move to Blues was your dream move mate?
Hoppy: Yes it was. I went the one way and Alan Curbishley went the other. We used to have a great team with a fantastic spirit. It was also the second time Ron Saunders signed me. He also went on to sign me again for the Albion. He had a tremendous sense of humour. I really liked him, in fact I loved Ron Saunders, he was brilliant in training, he played and got involved all the time. He’d kick you, back into you and it was really hands on training – a great bloke.
Gabs: So what was that team like mate?
Hoppy: We were a good, hard, battling side who could also play a bit. We had Tony Coton, Blakey, Big Mick, Gayley. We played together, drank together and we had a bond like I’ve never seen anywhere else. Do you remember Mick Harford when he signed for Wimbledon? He said ‘You lot are like pussycats compared to Birmingham’. He was right.
Gabs: Your first Blues v Villa game was a bit of a ding dong derby wasn’t it Rob?
Hoppy: Yes it was. They won 1-0 at their place, but it will always be remembered for that horrendous challenge on Kevan Broadhurst by Steve McMahon.
Gabs: I remember it well mate. On the final whistle McMahon went to shake Blakey’s hand and he dropped the nut on him, right in front of us at the Witton end. Another nightmare for you came in 1986 against Altrincham didn’t it Rob?
Hoppy: That was another time Blues broke my heart Gabs, although this time it was self inflicted. I always said that keeper would never make it!! The cheeky bastards had a 25th Anniversary of that giant killing act last year and they sent me an invite!!
Gabs: Did you go?
Hoppy: Did I ****! Although I did have a laugh about it. It just shows you they’ve got a good sense of humour.
Gabs: You left Blues in September 1986 for Manchester City, but shortly after joined W.B.A. Why did you celebrate scoring against us mate?
Hoppy: I’ll tell you the truth Gabs. I was getting dogs abuse and one fan spat at me. That really hurt and wound me up. So when I scored I went over to him to celebrate, I shouldn’t have done it but he gobbed at me.
Gabs: How come you’ve never said that before Rob?
Hoppy: To be honest, I’ve never wanted to say that a Blues fan spat at me, but I do always get asked that question. Fans always say ‘you can’t be much of a Blues fan’ but now they know, perhaps they’ll accept it. I nearly scored some years later whilst playing for Shrewsbury. I held my head in my hands, and Bondy took me to one side at half-time, he tore a strip off me and said my heart wasn’t in it. He was right!!
Gabs: Garry Pendrey bought you back in 1988 didn’t he?
Hoppy: Yes he did and I signed for less money than I was on at the Albion. My first training session was on the car-park and we had to move some cars before we could start to train. It was a nightmare time. Ken Wheldon was the chairman and then the Kumar’s took over. We couldn’t even have sugar in our tea, and light bulbs were taken out to save costs! It was nothing like the club I used to play for. Those were dark days Gabs.
Gabs: Your career with Blues was blighted by suspensions wasn’t it?
Hoppy: Yes it was and I’ve kept all my bookings. It’s fair to say that by Christmas, I always had more points than the team!! I wasn’t a dirty player, I was a grafter. I never hurt anyone on the pitch, and I even broke my leg twice. In fact, I broke it once at St Andrew’s against Bournemouth and there was no Ambulance, so I had to get my mate to run me up to the hospital. Can you imagine that today?
Gabs: Your last game was against Tranmere in the Leyland Daf final 1991 wasn’t it Rob?
Hoppy: Yes, I was an unused substitute. I remember we stayed at Reading University the night before the final and we never even had a TV in the room. The area final against Brentford was a great night Gabs. All the lads were on the pitch and I was in my tracksuit. The players were throwing their shirts into the crowd, so I chucked my track suit top but forgot that my bloody car keys and money were in it. Never saw either again!! Then after we won the Cup we had a open top bus parade, mind you, I nearly missed it!
Gabs: How come mate?
Hoppy: I was in the Watering Hole having a pint and the bus went past and I had to run out to catch it.
Gabs: Don’t you remember someone telling you to “quit running for that runaway bus” in 1982 mate?
Hoppy: Well anyhow, I did and I got on it. We had a great day and Kumar gave me a lift home after. I remember him telling me about his vision for the club. I’ll be honest, it was bloody good. Then the day after I got a telegram saying that my contract would not be renewed. Another time Blues broke my heart Gabs!!
Gabs: What makes you tick Hoppy?
Hoppy: Family, the Blues and my daughter mate.
Gabs: Who were your heroes?
Hoppy: Kenny Burns, Francis, Hatton, Latchford, that 1970’s era
Gabs: If you could jump into anyone’s body and play any role in any game, whose body would you jump into and in what game Rob?
Hoppy: I would jump into my own body, on my debut against Notts County in 1983. Not particularly for the way I played but because I was playing for the club I love. I remember walking out onto the pitch, it was fantastic, easily the best day I’ve ever had in football. For me, it was never about the name on the back, it was the badge on the front I played for Gabs.
Gabs: What a top answer from a top man. Finally Rob, what are you doing now?
Hoppy: Looking after my family, following the Blues and playing for Birmingham City Allstars. You can check out our website mate, just google our name and hit that button. Gabs, do you fancy a beer?
Gabs: Ain’t gonna say no mate. Cheers Hoppy, it’s been a joy. Till the next time KRO!!