George Robb: Footballer who played in England's historic defeat against Hungary in 1953

It was George Robb's cruel misfortune to be in at the twilight of England's footballing gods on the biggest day of his career.

The Tottenham Hotspur left-winger, a powerful, industrious and skilful performer in a top-level domestic context, earned his only full international cap on the dank Wembley afternoon in November 1953 when his country stumbled to its first defeat by foreign opposition on home soil.

In truth, it was not just a defeat. The 6-3 hammering by Hungary represented humiliation for the misguided patriots who maintained that the nation which gave football to the world still reigned supreme, and, for those with eyes to see, it signalled a forward path, a new way which involved quickfire passing allied to dazzling movement off the ball to a degree never witnessed previously within these shores.

For Robb, whose selection in the No 11 shirt ahead of the infinitely superior Tom Finney baffled just about everyone except the southern pressmen who had lobbied long and loud for the worthy Londoner to replace the magnificent "Preston Plumber", such gilded opportunity would never knock again.

However, he rendered noble service to Spurs at a time of transition from Arthur Rowe's masterful push-and-run unit which lifted the League championship in 1950-51 into the sublime combination which, under Bill Nicholson in 1960-61, became the first club in the 20th century to win the League and FA Cup double.

Robb, a young inside-forward before blossoming as a winger, first made his mark as a teenager with non-League Finchley, and his form was impressive enough to collect 18 England amateur caps. In 1944 he became associated with Spurs as an amateur, but when he was not offered full-time terms he trained as a teacher, then worked at a primary school in Crouch End.

However, it was clear that the dashing, dark-haired raider had the ability to make the grade in the Football League's top flight and in December 1951 he returned to White Hart Lane, still as an amateur. That Christmas Day he made his senior debut, scoring in Spurs' 3-0 victory over Charlton Athletic at the Valley, but it was not until he turned professional in June 1953 – by which time he had represented Great Britain in the 1952 Olympics – that he nailed down a regular first-team place.

During the campaign that followed, despite Rowe's declining side languishing in the bottom half of the First Division, Robb flourished, scoring 16 goals and missing only a handful of League games. An unfailingly vigorous and aggressive attacker, he was at his most effective when cutting inside from the flank to shoot at goal with either foot, and at his best he combined delightfully with the exuberantly loquacious and imaginative inside-left Eddie Baily.

That season, too, he played for the Football League and endured his traumatic experience at Hungarian hands, then made three appearances for England's "B" side. Thereafter Robb gave staunch service to Rowe and his successor Jimmy Anderson, and was particularly prominent in Spurs' run to the last four of the FA Cup in 1956. After scoring against Boston United, Middlesbrough and West Ham, he was on the point of pushing the ball into the net of Manchester City for a late equaliser in the semi-final at Villa Park when the great German 'keeper Bert Trautmann appeared to drag him down by grabbing his legs. However, no penalty was given, Spurs were out of the competition and Robb was never to win a major professional honour.

He came close again in 1956-57, when Spurs were runners-up to Manchester United in the title race, but then lost his place in the spring of 1958 to the brilliant young Welshman Cliff Jones, who had been signed from Swansea Town. Shortly after Anderson was replaced as White Hart Lane manager by Bill Nicholson the following autumn, Robb suffered a serious knee injury from which he never recovered, and he left the game in 1960.

Having taught at Christ's College, Finchley, throughout his time at Tottenham, he retained that post until 1964, then moved to Ardingley College, near Haywards Heath in Sussex, where he remained until his retirement in 1986. George Robb died on Christmas Day, exactly 60 years after making his first competitive appearance for his only professional club.

George Robb, footballer and teacher: born London 1 June 1926; played for Tottenham Hotspur 1951-59; capped once by England, 1953; married; died 25 December 2011.

Start your day with The Independent, sign up for daily news emails
Voices
There will be a chance to bid for a rare example of the SAS Diary, collated by a former member of the regiment in the aftermath of World War II but only published – in a limited run of just 5,000 – in 2011
charity appealTime is running out to secure your favourite lot as our auction closes at 2pm tomorrow
Arts and Entertainment
Mark Wright has won The Apprentice 2014
tvThe Apprentice 2014 final
Arts and Entertainment
X Factor winner Ben Haenow has scored his first Christmas number one
music
News
i100
PROMOTED VIDEO
Have you tried new the Independent Digital Edition apps?
ebooks
ebooksA year of political gossip, levity and intrigue from the sharpest pen in Westminster
News
news
News
Elton John and David Furnish will marry on 21 December 2014
peopleSinger posts pictures of nuptials throughout the day
Arts and Entertainment
James May, Jeremy Clarkson and Richard Hammond in the Top Gear Patagonia Special
tv
News
File: James Woods attends the 52nd New York Film Festival at Walter Reade Theater on September 27, 2014
peopleActor was tweeting in wake of NYPD police shooting
News
Claudia Winkleman and co-host Tess Daly at the Strictly Come Dancing final
people
Extras
indybest
News
peopleLiam Williams posted photo of himself dressed as Wilfried Bony
Sport
Martin Skrtel heads in the dramatic equaliser
SPORTLiverpool vs Arsenal match report: Bandaged Martin Skrtel heads home in the 97th-minute
Latest stories from i100
Have you tried new the Independent Digital Edition apps?
Independent Dating
and  

By clicking 'Search' you
are agreeing to our
Terms of Use.

iJobs Job Widget
iJobs General

Recruitment Genius: Telesales & Customer Service Executives - Outbound & Inbound

£7 - £9 per hour: Recruitment Genius: Are you outgoing? Do you want to work in...

Recruitment Genius: National Account Manager / Key Account Sales

£30000 - £35000 per annum: Recruitment Genius: An opportunity has arisen for a...

Recruitment Genius: Operations Manager

£30000 - £35000 per annum: Recruitment Genius: An exciting opportunity to join...

Recruitment Genius: Recruitment Consultant

£30000 - £35000 per annum: Recruitment Genius: We have an excellent role for a...

Day In a Page

The week Hollywood got scared and had to grow up a bit

The week Hollywood got scared and had to grow up a bit

Sony suffered a chorus of disapproval after it withdrew 'The Interview', but it's not too late for it to take a stand, says Joan Smith
From Widow Twankey to Mother Goose, how do the men who play panto dames get themselves ready for the performance of a lifetime?

Panto dames: before and after

From Widow Twankey to Mother Goose, how do the men who play panto dames get themselves ready for the performance of a lifetime?
Thirties murder mystery novel is surprise runaway Christmas hit

Thirties murder mystery novel is surprise runaway Christmas hit

Booksellers say readers are turning away from dark modern thrillers and back to the golden age of crime writing
Anne-Marie Huby: 'Charities deserve the best,' says founder of JustGiving

Anne-Marie Huby: 'Charities deserve the best'

Ten million of us have used the JustGiving website to donate to good causes. Its co-founder says that being dynamic is as important as being kind
The botanist who hunts for giant trees at Kew Gardens

The man who hunts giants

A Kew Gardens botanist has found 25 new large tree species - and he's sure there are more out there
The 12 ways of Christmas: Spare a thought for those who will be working to keep others safe during the festive season

The 12 ways of Christmas

We speak to a dozen people who will be working to keep others safe, happy and healthy over the holidays
Birdwatching men have a lot in common with their feathered friends, new study shows

The male exhibits strange behaviour

A new study shows that birdwatching men have a lot in common with their feathered friends...
Diaries of Evelyn Waugh, Virginia Woolf and Noël Coward reveal how they coped with the December blues

Famous diaries: Christmas week in history

Noël Coward parties into the night, Alan Clark bemoans the cost of servants, Evelyn Waugh ponders his drinking…
From noble to narky, the fall of the open letter

From noble to narky, the fall of the open letter

The great tradition of St Paul and Zola reached its nadir with a hungry worker's rant to Russell Brand, says DJ Taylor
A Christmas ghost story by Alison Moore: A prodigal daughter has a breakthrough

A Christmas ghost story by Alison Moore

The story was published earlier this month in 'Poor Souls' Light: Seven Curious Tales'
Marian Keyes: The author on her pre-approved Christmas, true love's parking implications and living in the moment

Marian Keyes

The author on her pre-approved Christmas, true love's parking implications and living in the moment
Bill Granger recipes: Our chef creates an Italian-inspired fish feast for Christmas Eve

Bill Granger's Christmas Eve fish feast

Bill's Italian friends introduced him to the Roman Catholic custom of a lavish fish supper on Christmas Eve. Here, he gives the tradition his own spin…
Liverpool vs Arsenal: Brendan Rodgers is fighting for his reputation

Rodgers fights for his reputation

Liverpool manager tries to stay on his feet despite waves of criticism
Amir Khan: 'The Taliban can threaten me but I must speak out... innocent kids, killed over nothing. It’s sick in the mind'

Amir Khan attacks the Taliban

'They can threaten me but I must speak out... innocent kids, killed over nothing. It’s sick in the mind'
Michael Calvin: Sepp Blatter is my man of the year in sport. Bring on 2015, quick

Michael Calvin's Last Word

Sepp Blatter is my man of the year in sport. Bring on 2015, quick