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jimmy robson 300x500It’s Happy Birthday today to Jimmy Robson who is celebrating his 80th birthday, and it was no surprise to learn that he had his birthday party over the weekend at Turf Moor.

It was Burnley Football Club that brought Jimmy from his native North East back in the 1950s. I’m not sure he could have realised then that over 60 years later he’d still live in the town but he’s made Burnley his home where he lived with his wife Beryl, who sadly passed away some years ago, and his family.

He would have found some familiar voices when he first arrived in Burnley with so many of our players at the time coming in from the same part of the country. Jimmy was from Pelton, a village close to Chester-le-Street in County Durham. He was spotted by scout Charlie Ferguson along with his mate Ian Lawson while playing in a schools cup final. Both were offered trials, but did well, and both signed amateur forms on the same day.

I was speaking to Jimmy on one occasion a few years ago at Gawthorpe and he told me that he initially went into the colts team which played their games at Towneley. It wasn’t until he reached the B team that he was in a team playing their games at the training ground. From there he moved up to the A team and then the reserves and so impressive was he that on his 17th birthday in January 1956 he signed his first professional terms. By then he was only nine months away from a first team debut.

That came against Blackpool at home in October. Jimmy McIlroy was away on international duty with Northern Ireland and Robson took his number eight shirt. We twice went behind and with only 11 minutes gone the score was 2-1 to Blackpool and it remained that way until ten minutes from the end when the debutant hammered home an equaliser to earn us a point.

He’d played really well but it didn’t win him a first team place on a regular basis. He played just three more games that season and added only another four in the following season. Things changed, however, in the 1958/59 season when he won himself a regular place in the team, one he would hold for over four seasons and they were four seasons he, and everyone connected with the club, will always remember and cherish.

His form was such that he came to the attention of the England selectors during the 1958/59 season and he was called up to play for England under-23s against West Germany in Bochum at the end of that season. He scored one of England’s goals in a 2-2 draw but it proved to be his only appearance for his country at any level.

At Burnley, he scored 18 league goals in the title winning season, incredibly finishing only as the third highest scorer behind John Connelly (20) and Ray Pointer (19). He scored five of those goals in one game, an 8-0 demolition of Nottingham Forest.

Scoring in the FA Cup Final at Wembley in 1962
Scoring in the FA Cup Final at Wembley in 1962

His best season in terms of goalscoring was 1960/61. He netted 25 in 36 league appearances; add the cups and it became 37 goal in 54 appearances. There were more goals to come. he scored 19 times in the next season, the last of which was honoured in every boardroom in the country.

He scored our goal in the 3-1 defeat to Spurs in the FA Cup Final and became the first Burnley player ever to score at Wembley. Significantly it became the 100th Wembley FA Cup Final goal which was depicted in a painting presented to all 92 Football League clubs.

It was also one of exactly 100 goals he scored for Burnley before moving on to Blackpool. With the emergence of Andy Lochhead and Willie Irvine, he was no longer a regular and signed for the Seasiders in a £10,000 deal in March 1965.

It wasn’t the end for him at Burnley though. He moved to Barnsley and Bury before returning in the summer of 1972, signed by Jimmy Adamson to play in the reserves and work with the younger players. It was for just one year but he didn’t leave the game and worked as a coach for a number of teams including Rochdale and Huddersfield. He also had a spell as Bacup manager.

His last club, however, was his first. He came back to Burnley as part of San Ternent’s team in 1998, working on the youth side of the club. He held that position until retiring in the summer of 2004.

Receiving the Burnley FC Supporters Groups award from Paul Fletcher in 2012
Receiving the Burnley FC Supporters Groups award from Paul Fletcher in 2012

That’s certainly not been the end for him as far as Burnley Football Club is concerned. Back in 2012, he was presented with the Special Achievement Award by Burnley FC Supporters’ Groups on the 50th anniversary of his Wembley goal and today he doesn’t miss many home games as he continues to support the club. At the start of last season I saw him at Stamford Bridge for the opening game of the season and wondered whether he’d ever scored there. When I checked, he’d not just scored there but hit hat tricks at Stamford Bridge on two occasions, all three in a 3-1 win in January 1959 and three of our six in a 6-2 win there in October of the following year.

He’ll be remembered as a key member of one of our finest ever teams and Jimmy Mac would always tell you that he knew Robbo would be there, just in the right place, to score when the ball was played into the box. Jimmy Mac would always tell you that having Jimmy Robson playing in that team was vital.

My first dealings with Jimmy Robson came during that era when, during the school holidays, we would stand outside the Turf to collect autographs after training. He was always the most obliging and one day, with it raining, told us to come inside onto the corridor so as not to get wet. He received a telling off from the club secretary but it didn’t stop him from beckoning more of us into the dry.

In more recent years, he attended two dinners I arranged. He enthusiastically took part in Play Your Cards Right during our Bad Beat Banquet in 2009 and a year later was alongside some of his former team mates to celebrate the 50th anniversary of that title win at our Golden Jubilee Jamboree.

You really couldn’t wish to meet a nicer man than Jimmy Robson and I’d like to wish him a very happy 80th birthday.

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