After getting stabbed by rival supporters and leaving the club you support, the last thing you’d want are injuries, relegation and bust-ups with the boss. But that was the way of things for Robert ‘Bob’ Isaac, a promising defender who helped the Seagulls return to the Second Division in 1988.
As a Chelsea apprentice, he appeared on The Sun front page after he was hurt by Millwall hooligans going to a match. However, there was much better news on the pitch. The Hackney-born youngster played for the reserves aged 15 and broke into the first team in March 1985. It was doubly sweet as he supports the Blues:
‘We lived in Chelsea and my great grandfather went to the first ever match at Stamford Bridge. My family have been going to matches home and away since. I went to see Chelsea play Stoke in the League Cup Final aged six. The hairs on my neck stood up just walking up Wembley Way. I went with my granddad and stood on a wooden stool. Shame about the result!’
By contrast, he tasted victory on his Chelsea debut in the First Division some thirteen years later. His speed and aerial ability helped secure a 3-1 victory at Watford: ‘It sounds soppy but I was welling up in the warm up.’
He did fine but all was not well at Stamford Bridge: ‘The management was losing support of the players. I asked for a transfer as I wanted regular first team football. When I joined Brighton in February 1987 they were in freefall. The dressing room was even more at odds with the manager than at Chelsea. Barry Lloyd dropped Dean Saunders, our only hope of surviving the drop. I found Barry rather rude. He’d blank me in the corridor and make me train on my own.’
Robert missed his team’s two victories at the end of the miserable 1986/87 season and was injured for much of the following campaign when Garry Nelson’s goals lifted the side. Indeed, it took fourteen months for Robert to experience his first victory in an Albion shirt, against Notts County in April 1988. Sensationally, captain Doug Rougvie had been dropped in March in favour of Isaac: ‘I don’t think big Dougie took it well but we’ve seen each other since and he holds no grudges.’
Isaac played in the final six matches, with Albion winning five times to win promotion on the last day against Bristol Rovers to euphoric scenes: ‘The run-in was something else. We felt unbeatable. It was such a contrast from the previous season.’
The following 1988/89 campaign, back in Division Two, Albion got a rude awakening, losing their first eight matches.
This was stemmed with a welcome 2-1 victory over Leeds United but then disaster struck: “I got injured at Leicester. I didn’t feel it until the next day and then it really hit me. My knee just blew up. Come Monday morning I couldn’t even walk.’
In August 1990, Robert was forced to call it a day. Since retiring, he has worked as a chauffeur for the Maktoums, the ruling family in Dubai, before becoming self-employed with his own vehicles.