The Media has covered most of George’s public life: most of it is true, so my ramblings are purely personal.
His Mum died when he was three, leaving his Dad with a brood of six children – George the baby of the family – a fact he continually bragged about – and the only boast he ever made. Nell, the eldest girl, brought the family up, without any aid from Social Security, which didn’t exist.
He captained the Pooles Park Junior Boys’ invincible soccer team of scruffs, and a London Evening paper got wind and sent a reporter and photographer. We all got our ‘photos took’.
A London County Council scholarship followed, aided by a brilliant English essay, which was taken round the school and fed into the awestruck ears of both boy and girl sections.
The four months difference in age, meant that I joined Holloway a year later, so didn’t reconnect with George until we were evacuated to Towcester at the out-break of war.
Stan Heritage – another Holloway legend – was once heard to declare that the years of evacuation were the happiest days of his life. Amen to that!
A born leader, George didn’t realise his own potential until Rex King, that shrewdest of schoolmasters and second in command of the school A.T.C. unit, promoted him to Corporal. He never really liked giving orders, and although responsibility changed him, he never lost his charisma. He became focused, got his head down, and for Matriculation produced a Distinction in English Literature; a rare enough event:- but surely not from Remove B!?
After the last school summer forestry camp in Burnham Beeches, near Slough, we returned to London, ready for the 1943 Winter term. George and I joined the 6th form, he captaining an unbeaten 1st X1, and me an unbeaten 2nd X1.
During the Christmas break, we became temporary postmen, delivering parcels around the Caledonian Road, from a horse and cart, in freezing weather. I decided to volunteer for the Royal Navy, left school, but always kept in touch throughout our Service careers; he as a Navy P.T.I. and me as an A.B. (Radar).
After demobilisation, our families having moved into the Haringey area, mine as a result of bombing, made it easy for him to drag me out on Sunday mornings and train in Finsbury Park. He injured his knee once, so we spent an entire Sunday morning practising penalty kicks. I have recently learned from his wife Kate, that he became the ‘Spurs stand-by goal-keeper: substitutes weren’t then permitted.
Living at home, while attending Borough Road Teachers Training College, enabled him to carry on playing for Finchley F.C., in the Athenian League, and play cricket for the O.C.’s, frightening the life out of Dennis Steel behind the stumps, with his hostile bowling, and thumping the ball to all parts with the bat.
His first game with Spurs was, as an amateur, on Christmas Day 1951 away to Charlton Athletic. When George scored in the three nil victory, the Holloway ‘Yell’ of ‘Orney-Okey’ floated across the Valley, and to say that he looked startled would be an understatement. The cry was our Towcestrian adaptation of a London street cry, but never really understood what it meant.
Somewhere along the way he managed to accumulate about eighteen England Amateur caps, including the 1952 Helsinki Olympics.
I usually did my pre-season training with Finchley, and one of the committee members sponsored a Youth football team on a nearby Council housing estate, and needed someone to coach them. George persuaded him – and me – that I could do it, opening up a new challenge in my life.
In June 1953 he signed a contract as a professional with Spurs, but insisted on a clause allowing him to continue with his full time teaching. Kate, his wife, told me that the Headmaster of Christ’s College, Finchley, would allow him the Friday afternoon off, if he had an away match on Saturday.
On Monday, November 23rd 1953, Tom Finney, the England outside-left, pulled out of the team with a groin injury. George was picked to play against the Hungarian Amateur X1 at the Wembley Stadium with barely two days notice. The rest is history!
He once confided in me that he would never allow himself to slide down the football ladder once his first team career was finished. As good as his word, he saw out his contract with Spurs before moving to Ardingly, spending the rest of his career teaching at Ardingly College.
I stayed a couple of times with Kate and George when working in the Crawley area and Pam, my wife, and I visited them when George was well into his Vascular Dementia.
died on Christmas Day 2011, exactly 60 years after his first game for Spurs as an amateur, but still the last of the Gentlemen Footballers.
Sorry to have to inform you that we lost George over Xmas. Further details to follow.
The Funeral for George will take place at 2:30 on Friday 13th January at St. Peters Parish Church, Ardingly, Sussex.
Obituary (posted on the Spurs website)
We regret to announce the passing of our former player George Robb who died on Christmas Day, aged 85.
George was one of the last of the ‘gentleman footballer’s’ who combined his football with a career in teaching.
He started out with Finchley as an inside right and was switched to outside left whilst serving with the Royal Navy.
George first signed amateur forms for us during August, 1944 and re-signed seven years later. He made a goalscoring Football League debut on Christmas Day, 1951 in our 3-0 win at Charlton Athletic and signed part-time professional forms for us 18 months later.
George went on to score 53 goals in 182 First Division appearances in our colours until October, 1958, plus five in 18 FA Cup games. An injury sustained in the London 5-a-side tournament ended his playing career.
He gained a single Full England cap versus Hungary during 1953 having previously played 18 matches for the England Amateur XI. George also played in three England ‘B’ games and gained representative honours for the Football League XI, Great Britain Olympic XI, London FA, Middlesex FA and the Athenian League XI.
George combined his football with a teaching career which spanned nearly 40 years. He was sports master at Christ’s College, Finchley from 1952 until 1964 and then spent 22 years at Ardingly public school, Sussex until retiring during 1986.
George, who suffered from Vascular Dementia in recent years, had lived at Ardingly, near Haywards Heath, for 47 years. He is survived by Kate, his wife of 51 years.
Our thoughts are with his family and friends at this sad time.
A biography can be found on Wikipedia.