Today would have been the 87th birthday of one of Newcastle United’s all-time legends.
He may not be with us to celebrate it anymore, but it would be foolish for us NUFC fans to let today pass without some form of tribute to the late, great Jackie Milburn. Wor Jackie was way before my time, so I’m going out on a limb here and hope I can do the great man justice with this article and hope that my research has paid off and that you all enjoy this little tribute to a true great.
It used to be the case that if Newcastle were looking for a new number nine then all they would have to do is whistle down a mineshaft and one would pop up, or something like that anyway. With Jackie employed as a fitter at a coal mine in Ashington you could say that the legend has some truth behind it.
Jackie signed on at Newcastle when he was just 21-years-old after replying to an advert in the local paper asking for players. Unfortunately this was during World War II which brought about a suspension of the Football League proper and meant that Milburn had to ply his trade in the Wartime League, which was always intended to be a ‘friendly’ league and as a result goals scored during that period are not counted.
The record book shows that Alan Shearer is Newcastle’s highest goalscorer, although he did score quite a few in Europe. Back in Milburn’s era there was no European football for Newcastle United, yet he still managed 200 ‘official’ domestic goals for the Toon. That puts him ahead of Shearer on that front. Add his wartime goals and he’s ahead of Shearer on total goals aswell.
Jackie always wanted to improve and was willing to listen to advice from others on his game. In one of his books, ‘Jackie Milburn’s Newcastle United scrapbook’, he recalls his conversations with another famous Newcastle number nine – the tragic Hughie Gallacher:
“I was fortunate enough to wear Hughie Gallacher’s shirt and virtually every Saturday he’d be waiting for me outside the main entrance, always at the same time in the same place, ten yards from the door. “Hi, Jackie, you’re doing fine,” he’d say, “but l’ve got a little tip for you…” Then he would mention something he had spotted in my play the previous game. Throughout my playing days I always listened intently to any advice the big names had to give.”
Jackie gave this club 14 years of his life. He played in 395 ‘official’ games, or 492 games if you count his appearances in the Wartime League aswell. His 1967 testimonial was attended by nearly 50,000 despite concerns from Milburn about the popularity of such a fixture. Needless to say he was taken aback by the reception he received ten years after leaving the club.
Quite simply they don’t make them like him anymore!
Wor Jackie managed to bag himself three FA Cup winners medals during his career with us. He scored twice in the 1951 final and scored the opening goal in the 1955 FA Cup final victory, which you can watch below.
A well-liked man, a modest man, a Newcastle United man. Few people epitomise the spirit of Newcastle United as much as Milburn. The word legend tends to get thrown around far too easily these days, but for Jackie it sticks, easily.
The sad thing is that I’ll never see another player like him in terms of goalscoring or loyalty. There have been exceptions of course, such as Alan Shearer, but it saddens me a little to think of all of the players we’ve had at this great club over the years and how they’ve earned a fortune for doing nothing like Milburn managed to do for us.
So happy birthday Jackie. A proper club legend.
A lifelong Newcastle fan and current webmaster of this very 'blog who has the sole aim of creating a place by Newcastle United fans, for Newcastle United fans.