Tuesday, March 9, 2021

George and Ted Robledo: The Unlikely Chileans That Conquered Tyneside

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In the early 1950s, Newcastle United and the FA Cup went hand in hand. The Magpies’ stripes were synonymous with the old trophy; three victories in five seasons making their way to Tyneside. The first two of these, in 1951 and 1952, were achieved with an unlikely dose of exoticism. Northern grit, exemplified by the Ashington stock of Jackie Milburn, was embellished with a measure of Chilean flair.

Jorge and Eduardo Robledo were born in Iquique, a mining town in northern Chile. The brothers were still infants when they moved to England, leaving behind both an unstable country and their Chilean father. Moving with their English mother, and baby younger brother, they ended up in Brampton Bierlow, another mining community, located between Barnsley and Rotherham in South Yorkshire.

Having grown up in England, Jorge and Eduardo soon became George and Ted; anglicised in name as well as upbringing. They may have had exotic origins, but the Robledo brothers were carved out of Yorkshire grit.

George, two years Ted’s elder, spent some of his formative years working in the local coal mines while also playing as an amateur for Huddersfield during the war. He went on to sign professionally for Barnsley in 1943, aged 16. He was no flamboyant South American footballing prodigy, however. Rather, he was a robust, hard-working combative forward, with a fierce shot, strong heading ability, and a liking for the aggressive physicality of the English game.

On the opening day of the first post-war season, his league debut, George scored a hat-trick in a 3-1 Second Division victory over Nottingham Forest. His prolific opening would continue, his inelegant but effective style grabbing almost a goal every other game for Barnsley, scoring 45 times in 105 games.

Such a return would prompt overtures from higher up the English pyramid in January 1949, from a Newcastle side that were flying high in the top tier. It was only the one Robledo that Newcastle were after, but George refused to move unless Ted came too.

Ted Robledo had followed his brother in joining Barnsley in 1947, playing predominantly at left-half. A far less outgoing character than George, he was certainly the less imposing both on and off the pitch. At the time of Newcastle’s approach, Ted had made only five appearances for Barnsley, but such was Newcastle’s desire to sign his elder brother that they agreed to sign Ted too, with their mother and younger brother also moving to Tyneside.  

George settled straight into the Newcastle team, quickly forming a strong bond with the great centre-forward Milburn. He quickly developed as a player too, with his goalscoring feats hitting even more impressive heights in the famous black and white stripes, paying back what was at the time a record transfer fee in fine style.

His first goal for his new club came in a narrow victory . . .

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