Following on from Grant Hanley and continuing the Dumfries related football good news this week, we today offer our congratulations to Stephen Dobbie.
Dobbie played for Swansea City today in what is often described as the richest game in football, the play off game to decide the third and last team to be promoted into England’s Premier League. Dobbie scored one and set up one for Scott Sinclair in a pulsating 4-2 win against Reading. Sinclair included two penalties in his tally to notch a hat trick.
Dobbie’s first critical contribution was when ruthlessly exposing the shortage of pace in Reading’s Ian Harte. Conceding yards in a foot race to the ball, Dobbie steamed past Harte and from his centre, Adam Federici was only able to divert the ball to Sinclair. The Swansea forward made no mistake from close range to make it 2-0 at that point.
Dobbie’s goal came in the 40th minute when an attack down the right resulted in the ball being deflected to Dobbie by Zurab Khizanishvili. From 16 yards out, Dobbie did the business to give his team a seemingly uncatchable 3–0 half time lead.
Swansea fans looking back on the game will no doubt remember the goals. They would though do well to remember the contribution of Garry Monk. Reading roared back into the game after half time to pull the game back to 3–2. With the momentum firmly with them and cheered on by their now dementedly raucous fans, a Jem Karacan shot was deflected on to the post. Noel Hunt followed up with the keeper now less then ideally placed. Monk’s block of Hunt’s shot kept his side ahead to prevent the Reading come back reaching tipping point.
For Dobbie of course this is the second straight victory in the play off final from England’s second tier.
Dobbie started his career at Rangers but was unable to break into the first team there. After a loan spell in Australia a transfer followed to Hibs in which the high point was the equaliser in the 2004 League Cup semi final against Rangers at Hampden – Hibs then went through on penalties. Hibs were widely fancied going into the final with a squad featuring many talented youngsters – Scott Brown, Steven Whittaker, Kevin Thomson, Gary Caldwell, Derek Riordan & Garry O’Connor. Dobbie ended up collecting a runners up medal with ex QoS, Jamie McAllister, scoring the second goal in Livingston’s 2–0 win. Livi`s cup winning side has since been something of a feeder for QoS with Stuart Lovell, Marvin Andrews and Roddy McKenzie joining McAllister as now having played for both Queens and Livi.
The next move for Dobbie was an undistinguished spell at St Johnstone leading to a loan move to Dumbarton. This proved the turning point in his career as the first team goals finally started to flow – 11 in 18 appearances.
This was enough to persuade then manager Ian McCall to bring Dobbie to Palmerston. Again the goals continued with Dobbie becoming the most prolific goal scorer at Palmerston since Andy Thomson in the early 90s. Quickly establishing himself as a fans favourite, Dobbie’s abilities were plain to see; superb footwork with either foot, the lethal Dobbie was able to carve out goals with a trade mark low finish into either corner with the composure of a syndicate assassin. Also apparent was the probable reason for his inability to make a success of things at a higher level so far; his less than athletic appearing physique raising question to his attitude to diet and training.
This perhaps is the root of the greatest mystery of Dobbie’s time at Palmerston. Following the improbable 2008 Scottish Cup run with Dobbie scoring well en route to the final (his quarter final opener against Dundee however was to be out shone by the clincher by Ryan McCann, a player deadly at any distance up to 84 yards), next was the once in a millennium opportunity to play in the UEFA Cup against FC Nordsjælland. With Dobbie’s omnipotent talent plainly refulgent to all at Palmerston, manager Gordon Chisholm elected to start both ties against the Danes with Dobbie on the bench. Preferred instead of Dobbie was Stewart Kean, a hard working Scottish First Division player but with footballing ability that Kean himself would be big enough to admit does not make comparison to the instinctive magnificence in Dobbie’s boots.
(Left to right, Neil MacFarlane, Stephen Dobbie, Barry Ferguson and Davie Weir in the 2008 Scottish Cup final against Rangers)
For the start of his last season at Palmerston, Dobbie pitched up looking something of a different man. Seemingly recognising that if he was to make the big time, he would have to make and take his opportunity now. Gone was the paunch and instead was a player now looking a lean and mean pro footballing machine.
Sure enough at the season’s end, it was fond farewells for Dobbie at Palmerston as he was on his way to Swansea. Dobbie’s time in South Wales hasn’t always been plain sailing though. The man who signed Dobbie, Roberto Martinez left for Wigan a month later. His replacement, Paulo Sousa, seemed to prefer other players. After three league Cup goals giving a taste of what Dobbie was about, Dobbie lost his place to injury and played in only two further games for Swansea in 2009.
Next came Ian Holloway and Blackpool signing Dobbie on loan. A surging run of form carried The Seasiders into a play off spot. Dobbie made a crucial contribution in the play off semi final win against Nottingham Forest including the scoring of a vital goal. Dobbie then made a sub’s appearance in the 3-2 play off final win against another South Wales club, Cardiff City.
The question at this point would be where would Dobbie be in the season to follow? Joining Holloway and Charlie Adam in the Premier League with Blackpool? Dobbie returned to Swansea for a second season in England’s second tier. However Sousa departed in July 2010 being replaced by Brendan Rodgers.
Rodgers gave Dobbie his chance, a chance initially at least that Dobbie took with four goals in his first 10 games of the season. This was followed by a dry spell before scoring again in February this year. However it has been Dobbie’s late season form that has caught the eye. Today’s fifth goal in as many games is impressive enough but doesn’t tell the entire story. In the first leg of this year’s play off semi final, ironically again against Nottingham Forest, left back Neil Taylor was sent off a minute into the contest. Looking to fight another day, Rodgers sacrificed a striker in favour of defensive stability. Dobbie was the player to be subbed as his team mates secured a 0-0 draw to take into the second leg. Dobbie scored in the 3-1 second leg victory to take his side into today’s contest.
Things can of course change quickly so the following is by no means a done deal. With today’s success under his belt, Dobbie seems set to become the first ex QoS player to go on to play in England’s top flight with some sort of regularity or other since the days of Ted McMinn and Bernie Slaven in the late 80s and early 90s. However there has been an ex QoS player to go on to play in England`s Premier League more recently as suggested by ex QoS programme editor, Bruce Wright. That player is Chris Doig, confirmed by independent stats guru and friend of qosfc.com, Neil Brown. Doig featured in two games for Nottingham Forest in 98/99.
Should the goals keep coming for Dobbie in the top flight (and to stress once again, that still remains to be seen), we wait to see if there is a response by Craig Levein. For now this is all only speculation.
Congratulations for today Dobbs and all the best for continued success in the future.