Newcastle United Change
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Newcastle United David Kemp

The Prime Minister's Challenge on Dementia

As a lad, one of my childhood footballing heroes was George Robledo. Not only was he a wonderful inside forward and goal scorer for the Toon, but he was an incredibly exotic addition to a team of all-stars, who would win the FA cup three times in five years in the 1950’s. Our idea of ‘foreign’ in those days was very limited and to have a Chilean playing for us was a rare treat. Not only that but he looked the part - dark and handsome. His mother was from Yorkshire and I think brought him home to Bradford at the outbreak of World War II. In any case his promise was spotted by Stan Seymour and he was signed from Bradford City. His younger brother Ted was a decent half back and George only agreed to come if we bought his brother as well, which we duly did. He was a hit from the start and went on to score 99 goals, including the winner against the Arsenal in the Cup Final of 1952.

Later he went back to his native Chile where he proved to be the greatest player the country ever produced.

Many lifetimes later my elder son James married Anna whose mother is Chilean, although married to a Swede and living in Sweden in those days. When they were courting, James and Anna paid a visit to Chile to see all the relatives. I asked James to do me a favour, whilst he was out there. The astounding thing was that as soon as I asked him to do me a favour, he told me what it was even before I had spelled it out. ‘Find George Robledo’s grave’. Spot on son.

On arriving in Santiago he asked the relatives for assistance. Although they didn’t know where he was buried, they suggested that as he had played for Chile’s leading club Colo-Colo, there was a strong possibility that he was buried in the Colo-Colo club Mausoleum located in the ‘Cimiterio General’.

Sure enough they tracked this down and there easily visible through the gate on the mausoleum was the grave of George or Jorge Robledo, James and Anna bought some flowers to put on his grave and Anna wrote in Spanish, ‘In memory of George Robledo, never forgotten in Newcastle’. I have a photograph of James in his Toon top at the grave.

When they were married in Sweden in 2005, in my speech (the Groom’s father gives a speech as well in Sweden) to make a link with the Chilean side of the family present at the wedding, I mentioned this Chilean childhood hero of mine. Afterwards a Chilean friend of the family came up to me absolutely overcome with emotion. He gave me a great bear hug and told me in halting English that Jorge Robledo had been his childhood hero too after he had returned from the Toon to Santiago. Never had he expected to hear his hero mentioned by an Englishman in the depths of the Swedish countryside. Football is indeed a universal language, except in North America.

When Sir Bobby Robson was manager of NUFC he invited George’s widow to an unveiling of a plaque in his memory at the Shrine of St James. I wrote to her c/o NUFC and received a lovely reply from her home in Valparaiso, She was delighted with my recollections of her late husband and also with James and Anna’s visit to his grave in Santiago.

My latest retro club top from TOFFS, which I wear is the 1950’s FA cup winning top. I have ‘Robledo’ and the number ‘10’ printed on it. In 2012, as I was walking back to the car after a match, a lady stopped me and said, ‘Eeh, Robledo. Ye must be a canny age’.

(Whey mebbies aa am, but aa divvn’t feel it.)

Aye happy days!

David Kemp

 

 

Newcastle United Foundation have a heritage project for fans of all ages called Toon Times.

Toon Times will culminate with a major Newcastle United exhibition at the Discovery Museum, Newcastle, although in the lead up to this event Toon Times wishes to reach out to all Newcastle United fans across the North East and further afield to get involved and share their memories, experiences, photos and memorabilia what people have collected over the years.

We are supporting the project by helping to collect NUFC memories online - fans can share their memories on the Replay Football website, simply select the Toon Times tag when submitting yours.

For more info contact the Toon Times Heritage Project Coordinator, Newcastle United Foundation, gavin.ferry@nufc.co.uk

 

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