Jackie Milburn is one of the most loved figures in the history of Newcastle United.
Milburn had a sensational career at Newcastle United and finished his time at St James’ Park with a staggering record of 177 goals in 353 league games.
With Newcastle, Milburn won three FA Cups in 1951, 1952 and 1955 respectively. He played a key role in their success in the competition, scoring 23 goals in 44 appearances in the FA Cup.
Despite his success with the Magpies, Milburn was known as a very shy and self-deprecating individual. However, he went on to arguably be the greatest player the Geordies have ever seen. Here I look at the decorated career of one of the most deadly marksman England have ever had.
Milburn was born in Ashington on 11 May 1924. He was a boyhood Sunderland fan and his father Alexander Milburn was a coal-cutter at the local coal mine.
He started out his football career playing as a right-winger for Horst East Senior Boys School due to his blistering pace. He was a relentless runner, winning several sprint championships in Northumberland and Durham.
His idol was Joe Hulme, who played for Arsenal. Milburn later told his son: “Arsenal’s Joe Hulme was my hero. As the commentator ranted about his terrific bursts of speed I vowed to my pals that one day I was going to be a fast winger just like him.”
At 14 years old, Milburn left school, travelling to Dorking to work as a servant for a local landowner. However, he failed to settle in and returned to Ashington to work in a shop until he was 16 when he began an apprenticeship as a fitter for the Ashington Coal.
Milburn played football for the Air Training Corps. His speed and goal scoring achievements caught the eye of a Newcastle scout named Wilf Taylor, a director of Newcastle United.
Taylor gave him a trial at Newcastle and Milburn scored twice in his first trial. In the second trial, he scored six goals, replacing the regular forward, Albert Stubbins.
In training, it became clear that Milburn was the fastest player at the club. He played outside-right against Bradford City at Valley Parade on his debut on 28 August 1943. Newcastle lost 2-1 on this day.
In a game against Stoke City, Newcastle won 9-1. After the match, the opposing outside-right, Stanley Matthews, told Milburn that “you have a bright future if you continue to play like that.” He scored 14 goals in 39 games that season in 1945-46.
By the turn of 1943, Milburn was nearing the completion of his apprenticeship and was transferred to Woodhorn Coal mine. Milburn combined his work at Woodhorn with training on two or three occasions every week, and there were some incidents when he’d have to work a double shift on the Friday, to enable him to be available to play for Newcastle United on the Saturday.
Milburn continued to develop at an accelerated pace and showed his versatility in the attacking line by being adequately adept as an inside forward or on either flank. In the 1944/45 season, Newcastle finished 35th from the 54 teams in the Wartime League, and Milburn even played twice for fierce North East rivals Sunderland due to a shortage of players.
In the 1945/46 season, Milburn was restored to his traditional right-wing position to accommodate their new signing Charlie Wayman. The pair along with Albert Stubbins formed a prolific attack and propelled Newcastle to a number of iconic victories, such as an 8-2 win over North East rivals Middlesbrough and even more emphatic 11-0 demolition of Bradford City.
He subsequently finished as the club’s second highest goal scorer with 14 goals, as Newcastle United finished sixth in the Northern War League. Overall, Milburn scored 38 goals in 95 appearances in the Wartime Leagues, but his record don’t count for official purposes as Wartime League fixtures were classed as friendlies.
Cup Run and Promotion (1946-48)
Newcastle manager Stan Seymour almost rebuilt his team entirely around the Wartime League period. When they played Barnsley at St James’ Park in the third round of the FA Cup on 5 January 1946, Milburn, Bobby Cowell, Charlie Crowe, Joe Harvey, and Wayman were five of nine players making their competitive debuts.
Milburn scored a brace during that match to help The Magpies to a 4-2 win over Barnsley in front of 60,284 spectators. This marked the beginning of an extraordinary bond between Milburn and Newcastle. The supporters immediately adored him and Milburn consolidated his growing reputation when competitive football re-commenced in the 1946/47 season.
He marked his league debut with another goal during a 4-1 win against Millwall and scored twice in a 13-0 demolition of Newport County at St James’ Park on 5 October 1946, although that game was more famous for new signing Len Shackleton scoring six times.
With Milburn supplying goal scoring opportunities for Shackleton and Wayman, United looked favourites to win the title, after losing just three games prior to Christmas Eve 1946. Unfortunately, The Magpies dipped in form after Christmas, although they were able to reach the semi-final of the FA Cup.
The Magpies upped their pursuit for promotion into the First Division when George Martin succeeded Seymour in the managerial seat. The pressure to win was mounting and Milburn finished as top goal scorer with 20 goals to help spearhead Newcastle to promotion in 1948.
FA Cup Glory (1950-52)
Milburn put aside the disappointment of the 1950 World Cup by scoring twice to beat Stoke City on the opening game of the 1950-51 season.
Turning their attention to the cup, Milburn scored one of four goals which beat Bury in the 3rd round. Bolton Wanderers led 2-1 at half-time against United in the 4th round due to two assists from Nat Lofthouse but United came back with two goals from Milburn inspiring the Magpies to a 3-2 victory.
A Robledo brace and a Milburn goal helped beat Stoke City in the fifth round and another Milburn goal defeated Bristol Rovers 3-1 in the sixth round replay.
In the Semi-final against Wolves on 10 March at Hillborough, Milburn had a goal disallowed forcing a 0-0 draw. Four days later, the replay was decided by United recovering a 1-0 deficit to win 2-1 thanks to another Milburn goal and a winner from Brennan after a Milburn assist.
However, Newcastle’s league form was on the slide. So bad in fact, they were classed as underdogs in their FA Cup final in 1951 against Blackpool when they were previously favourites. United managed to comfortably win 2-0 despite their underdog status and Milburn was the top scorer of that season with 17 league goals and 8 FA Cup goals.
The following season, United travelled to White Hart Lane in the fourth round winning 3-0 against Tottenham, before winning 1-0 against Swansea City in the fifth round.
Milburn scored a ‘stunning hat-trick’ against Portsmouth in a 4-2 win in the quarter-final. The semi-final ended 0-0 against Blackburn Rovers but the replay ended 2-1 to United inspired by an early Milburn assist, reaching their second successive FA Cup final.
With their league form collapsing once again, all eyes were on the FA Cup final as Newcastle looked to win for the second year in a row. The game began with a serious injury to Arsenal full-back Wally Barnes and with no substitutes, Arsenal were forced to play with ten men.
Milburn was quiet throughout most of the game but a goal from Robledo five minutes from time meant that Newcastle were the first ever team in the 20th century to retain the FA Cup.
Jackie Milburn was a very special player in the hearts of the Newcastle supporters and over 35 years later, the Geordie faithful paid their respects on 9 October 1988 to a man that gave the club so much success before his sad passing.
The Ashington-born pitman was one of the greatest English footballers of all time and Newcastle could sure do with a man of his talents as they look to avoid the drop this season in the Premier League.