I left Loftus Road with Rob on Saturday after the game against QPR. As we walked to the car park in the pouring rain we were discussing the game and as usual sharing our views. I decided to change direction and jump on the tube to skip the heavy traffic, and we gave a high five and said goodbye. I had never imagined it was the last time I was going to see him.
Since I received the shocking phone call about his death on Monday morning those last minutes with Rob have played over and over in my mind. During the last three years Rob became an increasingly significant voice at Brentford FC. His contribution to the scouting department cannot be underestimated. He was a rare breed; not only was he highly respected by the traditional football people. He also won the trust of even the most nerdy data analysts. They all felt he spoke their language, and he understood how to combine objective and subjective information in an effective way.
At the same time, he was the social glue at the Training Ground. Someone trusted by everyone. Even though Rob hadn’t even turned 30, he was a guy people felt comfortable turning to when they wanted to share their ideas as well as their frustrations. This is a main reason why so many people at Brentford won’t just call Rob a colleague but also a friend.
At the same time Rob was incredibly ambitious. He had big dreams for his career, and he backed them with a strong work ethic. It was easy to feel that he wasn’t someone who had his success served with a silver spoon. A couple of weeks ago we met for lunch on a Sunday, and for the first time he shared with me his way into football; how he as a teenager drafted a scouting report and opportunistically walked to Celtic Park to present it. He got the job.
What Rob achieved in his short life had come through relentless dedication and a courage to go all-in. I experienced that mentality first hand. When we travelled together in our pursuit to convince new players to come to Brentford he was always prepared down to the smallest detail. Players immediately felt that, and many of them often said “You know me better than I know myself”.
Rob was also a joker. He gave us all nick names, and he was a master at breaking the ice with a funny comment, often armed with a good portion of self-depreciating humour. When we travelled together he was eager to teach me how to speak with proper Scottish accent and he guaranteed me it would increase my probability of success in life. In return I was trying to teach him how to drink proper black coffee, but eventually he remained loyal to his much-loved decaf latte.
In many ways Rob leaves a story that is worth telling. First and foremost he is an inspiration to many young people in football who don’t believe they can get a career without having played professional football themselves. Rob proved that it doesn’t have to be a limitation if you approach your dreams with the same dedication and courage as he did. On a more personal note, Rob will live on in our memories as a great friend. Right now it is very difficult to accept that he won’t be with us anymore. There is no doubt that I will miss him terribly, but I am sure that he would want us all to crack on and keep developing this special football club he was such a big part of. And we will. RIP Rob.