It is with great sadness that we have learned of the death of “Bobby” Prentice, a dashing and skillful winger, and a real personality player. During the late 1970s, his creative play was always a positive feature of some difficult seasons for Hearts, and songs were sung about his prowess on the wing.
Bobby, sometimes Rab, was born on 27 September 1953 at the Lanark Maternity Hospital, but his father was a coal miner and the family moved around, living at Lesmahagow, Douglas Water and Dalkeith. Nevertheless, he was a lifelong Hearts supporter who cheered the team at Hampden Park when the maroons won the Scottish League Cup in October 1962.
As a teenager, the elusive 5’9” attacker was outstanding with the juvenile side, Edina Hibs. Accordingly, in August 1970, Dundee gave Bobby an early chance in the senior game. However, he was not able to make a quick breakthrough and joined the junior club, Newtongrange Star in July 1971. Two months later, Bobby was taken onto the Celtic ground staff, but was still able to play at Newtongrange where his form earned two Junior International caps in the spring of 1972.
Bobby was released by Celtic and was immediately signed by Hearts in August 1973. The dazzling winger went on to score 26 goals in 240 appearances for Hearts with 20 of his goals coming in 210 competitive matches. His crosses were brilliant and he created many more goals for his colleagues.
Bobby certainly made an early impression and he earned four U23 International caps between 1974 and 1976. He also played for the Scottish League against the Football League in March 1974.
In 1974-75, the dynamic wide-man helped Hearts to qualify for the new 10-club Premier Division and the following season, his match-winning flair was a vital element in the team that reached the Scottish Cup Final in May 1976. Sadly, Hearts lost by 3-1 against Rangers, but Bobby and his team-mates were rewarded by a world-wide tour in which they represented the club in style.
In 1976-77, he assisted Hearts to reach the Semi-Finals of the League Cup and the Scottish Cup, and played in the European Cup Winners Cup against Lokomotive Leipzig and Hamburger SV. Incredibly, Hearts were also relegated for the first time in the club’s history at the end of that campaign.
His creative play was a feature of the team that gained immediate promotion in 1977-78, but when Hearts were again relegated in 1978-79, Bobby was a victim of change and signed for Toronto Blizzard in May 1979 for a fee of £8,000. He was two seasons in Toronto and then played for Baltimore Blast and Buffalo Stallions in the six-a-side Indoor Soccer League. Bobby then returned to Scotland in 1984 and lived at Dalkeith.
During some hard times for Hearts, Bobby Prentice brightened up a Saturday at Tynecastle and our sincere condolences are extended to his family and friends.
By David Speed - Club Historian