In 1961, Manchester United scout Bob Bishop discovered 15 year old George Best. Captivated by George’s raw talent and skilful trickery, Bishop sent club manager Matt Busby a life-changing eight worded telegram.
The message read, “I think I’ve found you a genius”…and the rest is history. If their paths hadn’t intertwined, the world may never have known the name of the Belfast Boy.
And with that in mind, join us as we take a look back at the fascinating life of the late football scout, Bob Bishop.
Remembering Bob Bishop
Robert “Bob” Bishop was born in East Belfast. Prior to his career in the football industry, Bishop worked in an industrial Belfast shipyard as a riveter. The strenuous nature of the job certainly affected Bishop’s health and well-being, leaving him partially deaf.
Football was one of his great loves in life, alongside budgies and Border Collies. Easing the pressures of work, the Beautiful Game was a comforting consistent. He took on extra work for the fun of it, coaching teams made up of his workmates and later, Boyland Youth Club.
Bishop’s passion, experience and contacts took the unassuming football fan in an exciting new direction. In 1950, Bishop began work as a football scout for Manchester United, paid just 2 pounds a week alongside travel expenses.
Becoming “The Bishop”
Bob became well known in the area, affectionately nicknamed “The Bishop”. He was best recognised for his V-neck jumper during the colder months, crisp white shirt in summer, and cigarette in hand all year round.
The football scout had an eye for spotting moments of magic on the pitch. He travelled around Ulster six days a week, visiting various football pitches.
On Sundays, work didn’t stop. He spent the day of rest watching children play football in local parks and streets. Bishop said, “you never now where you might come across something precious”.
He would offer his advice and test players by hosting small football camps in Helen’s Bay, a quaint village in Down County. Bishop would also take time to speak to their families. Blessed with a way with words, he managed to convince the majority of parents of their son’s potential.
An icon of football scouting, Bishop is remembered for his ability to help players overcome their flaws. His discoveries often showcased the kind of unrefined talent that requires someone to take a chance, and offer a nudge in the right direction.
Alongside Normal Whiteside, Bishop’s most memorable find was of course, George Best. A humble boy from Cregagh Estate, Best was signed to Manchester United in 1963.
By the time he passed away, Best’s legacy was certain. Inspiring generations of football fans, it’s safe to say that Bob Bishop got it right.
The George Best Hotel in Belfast
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