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FAIRS CLUB: BRYAN ‘POP’ ROBSON Peter Mann ‘POP’ ROBSON IS ONE OF THE ANOMALIES IF YOU WILL, IN THE HISTORY OF NEWCASTLE UNITED Born in Sunderland, playing for and coaching Sunderland over five separate spells, he was to become a Newcastle legend during his spell on Tyneside. Bryan Stanley Robson joined the Magpies in the November of 1962 for the princely sum of £75 from local side, Clara Vale. In leaving just short of an impressive decade later, the striker would have netted nearly a century of goals in near 250 appearances, won the Second Division championship, fired the Magpies to European glory, and capped by England at under23 level. Not bad for a Wearsider plying his trade on Geordie soil. It would however take the number seven some time, not only to make his first debut, but make a significant impact. Two years in fact, after arriving at the club as a raw seventeen year old, the debut for Robson would arrive, but it was worth waiting for. Away to Charlton Athletic and in front of some 22,939 spectators, Robson would net the only goal of the game in a 1-0 win. However, he would only score four more in his debut season, totalling five in twenty. It was enough however for him to claim a championship medal as the Magpies edged the Second Division title, by a point, from runnersup Northampton Town. A further twenty-five goals over the next three seasons would be a poor return though as the Magpies struggled to adapt to First Division football. In fact it would not be until the arrival of a certain Wyn Davies that Robson’s, and United’s fortunes, would begin to change. That defining moment would come midway through the 1967-68 season as both a shot-shy Robson (with four) and Newcastle (with fifty-five) finished the season with a surprise, back-door entry, into Europe. The reason for United’s qualification, a tenth placed league finish and the continental ruling of one city – one club being in effect. With Davies and Robson now leading the frontline though United were a visibly changed side and, over the ensuing three seasons, the duo plundered nearly a century of goals between them. But first there was to be the small matter of 1969, a season that would become Robson’s best in United’s colours, and what a season was had. Seven goals were to be scored by Robson in the opening nine league fixtures including an early double in the 3-2 home win over Chelsea in mid-August. Further braces from United’s number seven were witnessed in the league games away to Ipswich Town in October and at home to Southampton in November, both in a 4-1 United win. The club though would only pick up seven victories in the opening half of the season, Robson netting a dozen times of his sides thirty-three goals at the time. B e i n g a n e v e rpresent this glorious season would pay dividends though as a further ten goals in the league were added to his tally, including consecutive doubles in late April against Wolves and Stoke. They were victories that would lead United into a ninth place finish, their highest for a decade. Robson would also be at it in the cups as well, registering three times in the national competitions. He would though, excel on the continent, top scoring with six goals as United roared across Europe claiming the Fairs Cup at the first attempt. In this trailblazing season Robson would score in the opening match with Feyenoord, the home leg of the tie with Sporting Lisbon, both legs of the games with Real Zaragoza, and a brace in the 5-1 home win over Vitoria Setubal in front of nearly 58,000 spectators. 31 Continental glory was to be the kick-start Robson required for his United career and he went on to become the clubs top scorer in the following two seasons. None though would be better than the thirty hit during the 1968-69 season. Although Robson was to become a Fairs Cup everpresent for United, along with Davies, Gibb and McFaul, he would only score twice more in Europe, the home brace against Anderlecht in March 1970 as Davies, slowly but surely, began taking the scorers mantle. The only hat-trick of Robson’s United career arrived at the end of the 1970 season when, in the penultimate game, he would score three times in a 5-1 rout of Manchester United in front of a 43,000 plus home crowd. Robson’s last season would see him again become top scorer, with just ten strikes, and scoring in his last appearance for the club, winning 1-0 at home to Tottenham in the February. He would also take spells at West Ham, Carlisle, Manchester United, Hartlepool and several non-league sides upon leaving United for £120,000 in 1971. !