George and Ted Robledo: the unlikely Chileans that conquered Tyneside

George and Ted Robledo: the unlikely Chileans that conquered Tyneside

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 over Sunderland at St James’ Park- a sure way to endear yourself to the locals. He became a regular scorer over the following two seasons, culminating in becoming the first South American to play in the FA Cup final, as he helped Newcastle beat Stanley Matthews’ Blackpool at Wembley.

Original Series  |  Brothers in Arms

It was the following season that he would be most remembered for, however. George’s most prolific spell came in the 1951/52 season, when he scored an incredible 39 goals for Newcastle. Becoming the first foreign top scorer in England, it was a scoring record that has only ever been bettered in a season in black and white by Andy Cole’s phenomenal 41 goals in 1993/94.

George’s magnificent season was rounded off to perfection when he scored the only goal as Newcastle secured a second successive FA Cup victory, this time beating Arsenal, having also scored twice in a famous victory at Spurs in an earlier round. George’s exploits had also earned him a place in the 1950 World Cup, representing the country of his birth against the country he called home.  

Where his brother was capturing the attention and becoming a hero to the Gallowgate faithful, Ted was much slower to develop. More affected by the absence of a father, Ted was less suited to the tough nature of quickly settling into a new environment and forcing himself into the team.

The same season that George was breaking scoring records would also be the pinnacle of Ted’s career. The majority of his 37 Newcastle appearances came in that 1951/52 campaign, and he joined his brother George in the side on that Wembley day in 1952. Chilean siblings with Yorkshire accents joining forces to push Newcastle to silverware.

By the end of 1953, Ted had moved to Chilean giants Colo-Colo, this time with George taking his turn to follow his brother. Both men were heroes in Chile for their successes in England, nurtured in Yorkshire and refined on Tyneside. Together they won two league titles with Colo-Colo, playing regularly for their country and appearing together in the South American championship played in Chile in 1955, where the hosts were edged out by Argentina.

The Robledo story is one of family hardship and personal trauma, but most of all it is one of brotherly love; their careers matching each other’s in location if not quite in deeds. The Robledo name is revered on Tyneside, symbolic as they are of a golden period in Newcastle’s history. In Chile too, for their international success in an age when such exoticism was not merely unusual but unheard of.

The heroic status of George in particular resonated with many, including a young John Lennon, whose drawing of his cup final goal eventually turned up on the cover of his 1974 album Walls and Bridges.

Despite this, neither brother was fully comfortable without the other being at their side. Their individual achievements secured thanks to the reassuring presence of each other, not always in the same line-up, but always at the same club. Careers and lives mirrored, these Chilean Yorkshiremen lifted each other to the summit in Tyneside black and white, bringing an early sparkle of the far off and exotic to the English game.

By Aidan Williams @yad_williams

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