Robert Victor 'Bobby' Tambling (born 18th September 1941) is a retired English footballer, who played most notably for Chelsea and Crystal Palace in the 1960s and 1970s. He is Chelsea's all-time top scorer, netting 202 goals for them.
A prolific goalscoring winger and striker, Tambling was signed by Chelsea as a junior in 1957 and made his debut for the club two years later against West Ham United as a 17-year-old, in which he scored the winning goal in a 3-2 victory. With the departure of the club's principal goalscorer, Jimmy greaves, for AC Milan in 1961, Tambling got his chance to establish himself in the side. He scored 22 league goals in the following season, and struck up a prolific strike partnership with fellow youth product, Barry Bridges. In spite of this, however, the club were still relegated to the Second Division at the end of the 1961-62 season.
The club's relegation saw the arrival of new manager Tommy Docherty, who made Tambling captain of the side and introduced other talented young players, such as Terry Venables, Peter Bonetti and Eddie McCreadie. Tambling scored 35 league goals - almost half the club's total for that season - as Chelsea returned to the First Division at the first attempt. In doing so, he became the youngest captain to lead a side to promotion. His scoring feats also earned him an England call-up, and he made his debut against Wales on 21 October 1962.
Upon Chelsea's return to the top division, Tambling continued his prolific scoring run, netting 18 times in all competitions that season as the side finished 5th in the league. In 1964-65, with Chelsea challenging for a domestic treble, he scored 25 goals, including one in the first leg of Chelsea's 3-2 League Cup final win over Leicester City, which would prove to be his only major trophy as the club faltered in the other two competitions. Two years later, Tambling finally reached the FA Cup final with Chelsea, having endured two consecutive semi-final defeats, but despite scoring a late goal, his team lost 2-1 to Tottenham Hotspur at Wembley. In the same season, he scored a record-equalling five goals in one game, against Aston Villa in a 6-2 win at Villa Park in September.
Tambling continued his impressive scoring feats in the following seasons, though found his opportunities more limited in his later years at Chelsea, owing to injuries and the emergence of younger strikers at the club, such as Peter Osgood and Tommy Baldwin, and made just seven appearances in his final season.
Having scored a - still unbeaten - club record 202 goals in 370 games for Chelsea, he moved to Crystal Palace in January 1970. He also won a total of 3 international caps for England and scored one goal, which came in a European Championship qualifier against France. His time at Palace was less successful, with the club consistently struggling near the bottom of the First Division. Palace were eventually relegated at the end of the 1972-73 season. Tambling scored 12 goals in 68 league games for the club between 1970 and 1973.
Tambling left Palace in October 1973 for Ireland, where he was signed by Cork Celtic. In his first season he helped the team win its first (and only) League of Ireland championship. He then took over as player-manager, with limited success, before leaving in 1977.
After one season at Waterford, where he represented the League of Ireland against Argentina on the 19th of April 1978, he signed for Shamrock Rovers during the 1978/79 season. He made his Rovers debut on the 30th of August 1978 in a President's Cup Final while he scored his only goal on his Miltown debut in a 1-0 League of Ireland Cup win over St. Patrick's Athletic on the 3rd of September. He made a total of 9 appearances for the Hoops including 2 appearances in the UEFA Cup Winners' Cup.
He was released by Johnny Giles at the end of October where he signed for Cork Alberts F.C. His last game in the League of Ireland was on Sunday the 4th of February 1979 in a 3-0 loss against Rovers at Flower Lodge.
He later became the first manager of fellow Irish club, Cork City, in 1984, but his reign lasted only 13 games.
Tambling has a suite named after him at Stamford Bridge in honour of his status at Chelsea and was recently named in the club's greatest ever XI, selected to mark the club's centenary.