PO Box 306, Glasgow, G21 2AE, Scotland

so farewell then...

bobby petta

So farewell then Bobby Dazzler,
You've had three years of a large wage,
For doing nothing,
But some people might think,
It was worth it
For 6:2 alone.

EJ Thribb

The ultimate story of someone almost intentionally wasting their talent, how could this player let his game slip away so badly after being so effective?

Bobby Petta was capable of ripping Juventus to shreds in their own stadium. He was also the man who obviously hid against Motherwell during the catastrophic 99-2000 season (his marker didn't have to go looking for him, Petta was actually following him around as close as a skin graft to ensure the ball came nowhere near him).

Signed in the summer of 1999 by John Barnes, first impressions were reasonably favourable; quick, the odd trick on him and he could cross the ball. He scored against Leeds during pre-season, but when things kicked off for real he was nowhere. The whole season was an obvious disaster and possibly the most damning thing you could say about John Barnes was that he couldn't even get a game out of his left winger, possibly the one position he should have been able to coach fairly well. It's safe to say that there would not have been a riot in the Walfrid car park if Petta had been quietly sold off that summer.

Enter MON and enter, wing left, the new improved Bobby Petta! Having been given a chance under a new manager he suddenly sprang to life. A couple of not-rubbish showings against Jeunnese d'Esch in Europe (I know they only came from Luxembourg, but it's BP we're talking about here) saw him picked for the first team on league duty. Again he was effective, setting up Sutton for the opener against Hearts at Tynecastle. But obviously the real test would be against the Dutchmen of Ibrox.

The game - the legend - that is 6:2 wouldn't have happened if it hadn't been for Bobby Petta. He set the tone with a direct run against Rangers' new 'combative' (a polite euphemism for 'head case') right back Ricksen, immediately winning a corner form which we scored. His superiority over Ricksen was such that the new boy was subbed after only 25 minutes and Petta's influence on the game continued into the last minute when he played Mahe down the wing to cross for Sutton to score the sixth.

The tone for the season was set. His play continued to flourish and he was a constant menace, a most unexpected and welcome surprise. Then the Mafia kiss arrived; Bobby was selected for the Dutch national team. This happened twice and twice he picked up a serious injury that forced him to withdraw from the squad and struggle to come back. He had been selected after another decent showing against Ricksen (again Fernando failed to make it through the first half - he was sent off in 41 minutes), but injury hobbled him and he was struggling to make the first big day of the season.

Historians of Kilmarnock will not take a great deal of pride in noting that their primary tactic in the League Cup final of 2001 was to kick Bobby Petta out of the game. They did succeed in that - he was replaced by Crainey after only 10 minutes - but Celtic won 3:0 all the same. Petta's season, however, was crumbling and he never really came back.

He started the next season in decent form, but the coming of age of Alan Thompson had put his place under severe pressure. Petta seemed to have staked his claim in Turin. Thompson had a nightmare, failing to even get free kicks beyond the first man. Petta came on and turned that game, giving their full backs a torrid time. Again a national call up arrived, again an injury arrived and Bobby sunk out of view almost for good.

In the last few seasons we've occasionally seen him on the bench or warming up or standing near Hoopy the Huddle Hound, but he rarely got a run out. Last season ex-Celt Stevie Kean (now Fulham assistant Manager) took him on loan but he was anonymous, at best, in the EPL. The contract extension he signed during 2000-01 now looks like an act of sheer folly, but who could predict then that he would simply vanish. At the time he was a key part in the success.

The reasons for his demise are many and libellous; the least scandalous is that he simply doesn't like Glasgow. Well he won't have to worry about that now.

We wish him well while bemoaning the fact that he really did throw it all away.

AB MURDOCH