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Newcastle United The Chronicle

Pop Robson was like a homing pigeon. He kept flying back from whence he came.

Robson, born in Sunderland but brought up in Prudhoe, played for his hometown club on three separate occasions and went back twice more as a coach and then chief scout under Steve Bruce.

He also had two spells at West Ham where he played with such luminaries as Bobby Moore, Geoff Hurst, Frank Lampard Snr, Billy Bonds, Trevor Brooking, Harry Redknapp and Jimmy Greaves.

And Pop did another double stint with Carlisle United performing alongside a young Peter Beardsley. He played on until he was 40 years old, an incredible achievement.

Yet Robson’s longest stay – nine years no less – and his most successful time in terms of trophies was with his first club Newcastle United.

A Magpie from 1962 until 1971, Robson was in Joe Harvey’s team crowned Second Division champions and went on to famously win the European Fairs Cup, the last major trophy to arrive at St James’ Park.

Pop embraced two very different cultures. At Newcastle he and Wyn Davies were the focal point of a very direct approach – get the ball up to Big Wyn as quickly as possible and let Pop feed off him in a little and large partnership.

However, when transferred to West Ham for a then record fee of £120,000 he entered Ron Greenwood’s soccer academy, where slick one-touch passing was the preferred way to play.

“Sure, winning the Fairs Cup was a highlight in my career,” Pop told me. “That was very much a team effort but from a personal point of view I enjoyed a lot of success. I scored 30 goals in all competitions in our Fairs Cup season of 1969 and 25 next time around. To hit 55 goals in two seasons was very satisfying.

“Wyn was good for me. He didn’t score a lot of goals himself but he was terrifying in the air and a tough lad. I could play off him picking up the bits and pieces.

“We were very direct. The idea was to hump the ball up to Davies as quickly as possible and there was nothing wrong with that. We also had a very sound defence that didn’t let in a lot of goals.

“However above all we had a terrific team spirit. There was a strong bond between the players and we worked hard for each other.”

If the Fairs Cup was naturally the ultimate prize gathered in a young Robson, who was signed from Clara Vale Juniors, made his mark with the Second Division champions of 1965 who in April will be reunited in Newcastle to celebrate the 50th anniversary of their success.

His senior debut as a teenager came that season at Charlton and he went on to make 20 appearances scoring seven goals. Pop was then a right winger before being moved to central striker but those goals were a taste of things to come.

United’s champions were built round the feted half-back line of Stan Anderson, John McGrath and Jim Iley despite the fact that Anderson and Iley didn’t get on.

However Robson credits Anderson with being a huge influence in his development.

“Stan had been my boyhood hero when he was playing at Sunderland,” revealed Pop. “I would go to Roker Park one week and St James’ Park the next. It was always the same – play for the school in the morning, go to the match, have a pie, and sit on the wall surrounding the pitch.

“Anderson passed the ball so brilliantly, long and short. He would switch play with diagonal balls that were inch perfect. I think he liked me playing outside-right because I was in front of him and could do his running!

“Seriously though he did so much for me and the other young lads. He looked after us.

“Stan was skipper and he would always come down the carriage on the train after a game and talk to each one of us, either doling out praise or telling us where we had gone wrong.

“Anderson was a Sunderland legend but he was really happy at Newcastle. He loved the comedians like Ron McGarry and John McGrath, who went on to make a living at it as an after dinner speaker.”

Despite the fact that Stan looked after the kids Robson felt in later years that United didn’t appreciate their home grown talent.

It led to a sad, acrimonious split and his transfer to West Ham.

“My contract was being re-negotiated,” explained Pop. “I had been with the club for eight years and I asked if I could have a testimonial on completing 10 years service.

“Joe Harvey said I would have to ask the chairman but Lord Westwood knocked it on the head. I never got a testimonial and neither did Bob Moncur though Frank Clark and David Craig were awarded benefit matches.

“I just felt that United never appreciated the kids who came through. They were all about big signings like Wyn Davies.

“Yet Newcastle had won the FA Youth Cup with the likes of Monc, David Craig and Alan Suddick so they had good kids. However the attitude seemed to be that you could shout down a pit shaft and two players would come up. We were taken for granted.

“It was such a shame because we had some smashing players. However they sold me to West Ham and Wyn Davies went off to Manchester City a few months later and a new strike partnership of Malcolm Macdonald and John Tudor was brought in.”

Pop Robson was 25 years of age and had notched 97 goals in 243 starts with black and white stripes on his back.

He had been recognised by England Under 23s and represented the Football League against the League of Ireland but he never won a full England cap despite his West Ham manager Ron Greenwood becoming the national boss.

One of the greatest goal poachers of all time Jimmy Greaves, a team mate at Upton Park, called Robson “the best uncapped player ever” and Greavsie knew a thing or two!

 

This article first appeared at http://www.chroniclelive.co.uk/sport/football/football-news/newcastle-united-hero-bryan-pop-8610762

Our thanks to @NostalgiaEditor and @EveningChron

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