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Extract: Minutes of Board Meeting held on Tuesday 1st December 1959
Bill Robinson is one of the unsung hero’s from the 1950s. Joining West Ham in January 1949 he served the club for 11 years, first as centre forward followed by a coaching role and finally as the club’s assistant manager. As a player he made 109 competitive first team games scoring a highly credible 64 goals.
Charlie Paynter signed Bill for £7,000 from Charlton Athletic. At the Valley he will forever be remembered as a member of their 1947 Wembley FA Cup Final XI who beat Burnley. Bill contributed the pass for Charlton’s Duffy to score the game’s only goal.
Going back to the start of Bill’s footballing career, he signed as an apprentice with pre-war Sunderland at the age of 15. Robinson’s strike rate with the Roker Park club was better than a goal every two games with 14 goals in 26 league appearances. A month short of his 20th birthday he scored 4 goals in a 5-2 win against Manchester United, on March 4, 1939. The four goals included one of the fastest hat-tricks on record, timed at four minutes. The fastest is 90 seconds, a record set by Tommy Ross playing for Ross County against Nairn County in November 1964.
Born: Whitburn, County Durham April 4, 1919, Bill died October 7, 1992 aged 73.
West Ham Playing Career
His claret and blue first team career stretched over four seasons from 1948-49 to early 1951-52. He certainly left his mark as his sterling efforts contributed 60 Division Two goals in 101 league appearances. To put this goal tally in perspective, in 1951 it rocketed Bill to fourth place in West Ham’s all-time list of top league goal scorers. Only the illustrious names of Vic Watson (298 goals), Jimmy Ruffell (159) and Syd Puddefoot (67) had scored more. Sixty years on and Bill stills ranks a high 12th in the all-time rankings.
Auspicious Start with Debut Goal
After playing at Upton Park for Charlton Athletic Reserves on Saturday January 8, 1949 Bill joined the Hammers in time to make his claret and blue league debut the following weekend. On Saturday January 15, 1949 away at The Hawthorns he marked his debut with a goal but couldn’t stop the Hammers from losing 2-1.
To prove the debut goal was no fluke, Bill scored on his second appearance a week later when fortunes reversed in a 2-1 home victory over Bury. In his first 11 games he netted 10 goals. This included the first of his two hat-tricks for the Hammers, on April 15, 1949 in the 4-1 home win over Leicester City.
With Bill at centre forward the team also enjoyed a six match winning sequence from March 19, to April 16. By the end of his first season he had scored a respectable 10 goals in 17 appearances which made him the club’s second highest league scorer for the season behind Ken Wright’s 11.
Tops 20 League Goals
In Robinson’s second season he continued where he had left off the previous season with more sterling efforts in the number nine shirt. His 23 league goals represented 43% of the team’s league total. The first nine of these strikes arrived in the season’s first nine games. Despite registering five goal doubles, he was unable to clinch another West Ham hat-trick. Five of the 23 goals were from the penalty spot. Despite Bill’s scoring efforts the team floundered and were only four points away from relegation to Division Three (South).
This season Bill played his first West Ham FA Cup game in the 3rd round 5-1 demolition of Ipswich Town. This turned out to be the team’s highest score of the season and included a goal from Bill. In the following round the Hammers narrowly lost to First Division Everton.
Post-war League Scoring Record as Team Improves
This season turned out to be Bill’s best ever for the club. His 26 goals was a significant factor in the team’s improvement. The 26 topped his own club post-war scoring record. Bill went on to hold this record until 1958-59 when John Dick managed 27. Though Dick did equal Bill’s 26 in 1954-55. Thanks in no small part to Bill’s scoring boots the team finished a more credible 13th which was a step up from the previous season’s disastrous 19th position.
His 26 goals included another 5 doubles, a hat-trick and mixed fortunes from the penalty spot. Bill scored one penalty but missed two. Strangely enough the hat-trick was in the 5-3 home defeat to Sheffield United on September 30, 1950. Twice in the season Bill managed to score in five consecutive games.
Final League Appearance and Goal
By the end of August 1951 Robinson’s first team career had come to an abrupt end. He played in the first four Division Two matches and scored a solitary goal in what turned out to be his final West Ham first team games before injury forced him to the sidelines. Unfortunatley he missed the rest of the season's first team games though he did return for a few reserve team outings.
Bert Hawkins who was bought in from Bath City as a replacement centre forward had settled into the number nine shirt and took over Bill’s mantle as the Hammers’ top goal scorer with 15 goals.
It was around the time of Robinson initial injury that West Ham Manager Ted Fenton had seen coaching potential in the striker who was in the twilight of his career, having just turned 32. Bill was duly despatched to various parts of the country and given the responsibility of reporting back to the Hammers' management on the opposition's style of play for their up-coming Second Division fixtures. The first venture in this new role turned out to be a success but probably not the second. Bill’s first report may well have contributed to the team’s 2-1 December victory over Southampton. However, a week later the opponents he had given feedback on, Sheffield Wednesday, thrashed the Hammers 6-0 at Upton Park!
FA Cup & Essex Professional Cup
Over the course of four seasons with the Hammers Bill made a handful of appearances in two Cup competitions.
These included four in both in the FA Cup and the Essex Professional Cup (EPC). His goal contribution was a solitary net in the FA Cup at home to Ipswich Town in a 5-1 victory on January 7, 1950, and three strikes on the way towards an Essex Professional Cup winners medal in 1950-51 season. The first came against Colchester United in Round 1, and his second was scored in the replayed tie versus Leyton Orient at the Semi-Final stage. Robinson was in the XI which beat Southend United 2-0 in the final on Monday May 7, 1951. In front of the Upton Park fans Bill scored the first goal and Tommy Moroney the second. The team for the final was:
West Ham team v. Southend United:
George Taylor, Ernie Devlin, Steve Forde, Tommy Moroney, Malcolm Allison, Frank O’Farrell, Harry Hooper, Jim Barrett Jnr, Bill Robinson, Gerry Gazzard, Terry Woodgate.
With the League Cup over 10 years away West Ham complemented their fixture list with several friendly games. Bill appeared in many of these and some of the more notable games are mentioned below.
A lesson from First Division Huddersfield Town
In his first month at the club Bill was in the team which drew 1-1 at home with Millwall (January 29, 1949), and in the following month he was in the XI which suffered a 5-1 home defeat to First Division Huddersfield Town.
An Inspired Performance v Glasgow Celtic
Early in the following season fortunes changed when the first XI faced Glasgow Celtic in a “charity match” to raise funds for a local Catholic school. According to the match report in the Stratford Express West Ham were inspired and convincingly won the contest 5-2 on Monday October 17, 1949. Bill contributed two of the goals. As this game was before the advent of floodlights, the kick-off was unusually at 3.00pm.
On Saturday February 11, 1950 Bill was in the team which faced his former club, Charlton Athletic, at Upton Park. Bill scored one of the goals in a 2-2 draw.
Charlie Paynter’s Testimonial
A highlight of the season would have been Charlie Paynter’s testimonial game against the FA Cup holders, Arsenal, on Monday September 18, 1950. West Ham rose to the occasion to record a 3-1 victory with Robinson adding the second goal.
Five months later the team was bought back down to earth in a resounding 5-1 defeat to another First Division team. This time it was Robinson’s former club Charlton Athletic. Future team mate Malcolm Allison was in the Charlton team that Saturday afternoon (February 10). At the close of the season Bill played in a couple of contrasting friendly fixtures. The first was a visit to the West Country to play Penzance on May 1st, 1951 where the Hammers enjoyed a 6-1 victory including a net from Bill. Eleven days later after the league season had finished, West Ham beat the Belgium side Royal Standard Club Liegeois (3-1) in a Festival of Britain game.
West Ham Reserve Team Appearances
In his four playing seasons Robinson made a sprinkling of reserve team appearances and as to be expected scored his fair share of goals. In his last season of first team action, 1951-52, he played eight reserve league games netting six times, plus three more games in the cup with another solitary goal. His final season was 1952-53 when he made eight reserve league appearances scoring three goals, and another three games in the cup. Over the five seasons wearing claret and blue, Bill made 25 reserve team outings and scored 10.
Coaching the West Ham Youth Section
Soon after hanging up his boots at the end of the 1952-53 season he took up the reigns as the coach of the juniors and it was in this new role that he continued to make a significant input to the club’s fortunes. He successfully managed the under 18s to make their mark in the FA Youth Cup. First he took the under 18s to the semi-final in 1954, and then improved on this with the 1957 cohort reaching the final. To take the juniors to the semi-final and final, and arguably a top four and two placing in the country was impressive as at the time the club was a mediocre Division Two side. To Bill’s credit many of these junior players progressed to first team debuts, international honours and some contributed to the club’s cup triumphs in the 1960s.
Promotion to Assistant Manager - 1957
After proving himself with the juniors, in November 1957 Robinson was promoted to the position of the club’s assistant manger. In this new role Bill’s most notable achievement was in providing support to Ted Fenton during the 1957-58 season when the club clinched promotion to Division One.
Distinguished West Ham Career
Including his spells with Sunderland and Charlton Athletic, Bill clocked up 180 football league appearances and netted 90 goals. This represents an impressive strike rate of a goal every two games. Though his best strike rate was achieved with the Hammers, three goals every five games.
For the record Bill played 26 league games (14 goals) for the Black Cats prior to the intervention of World War II, and after the war, 53 games (16) for the Addicks. But for the hostilities, like so many players of that era, his playing career could have included up to another 200 league games and a doubling of his goal account.
During his claret and blue tenure Bill was privileged to have joined and played alongside many of West Ham’s stars from the 1950s. Amongst others this included Ernie Gregory, Norman Corbett, Dick Walker, Eric Parsons, Terry Woodgate, Malcolm Allison, Harry Hooper and Frank O’Farrell. But Robinson had something no Hammer achieved in the 1950s – a FA Cup winners medal.
LIFE BEFORE THE HAMMERS
West Ham United team:
“October 7, 1950 West Ham 4 - 1 Queens Park Rangers.
Scorers: Parsons 2, Woodgate & Robinson”
Bury FC played a significant part in Bill’s final first team matches for the Hammers. The last of his 60 league goals was at home to Bury on August 23 in a 1-1 draw and a week later he played his final game in the return fixture against Bury at their Gigg Lane enclosure on August 29, 1951, a forgettable 4-0 defeat in front of 10,442.
The West Ham team for Bill’s final first team outing was:
George Taylor, Steve Forde, Harry Kinsell, Derek Parker, Malcolm Allison, Frank O’Farrell, Tommy Southren, Jim Barrett Jnr, Bill Robinson, Gerry Gazzard, Terry Woodgate.
“January 7, 1950 West Ham 5 - 1 Ipswich Town.
Scorers: Woodgate 2, Gazzard, Wade & Robinson”
Paynter shakes hands with Richard Wallker as Robinson far right looks on
George Fenn, John Lyall, Terry McDonald, Malcolm Pyke and John Smith watch intently as Robinson conducts a training session
Eddie Chapman, Bill Robinson and John Lyall
Bill Robinson and Chief Scout Wally St Pier
Bill receiving treatment from Harry Hooper Snr.
International Voetbaltornooi (Belgium)
1st - 3rd May 1958
Managing the Youth and Reserves sides of the late 1950s
Inevitably Bill’s coaching and managerial success attracted attention from other football league clubs. So it was no surprise when in November 1959 Bill decided to accept an offer to manage football league club, Hartlepools United in the Fourth Division. After the club had to apply for re-election to the football league in each of the three seasons he managed them, this proved to be the end of his career in football due to being relieved of his duties due to the failure of the club. Subsequently it was revealed that several members of that team were taking bribes to lose. This had a devastating effect on him and he never returned to football despite many offers. Bill left football in June 1962.
Hartlepools United come calling...
In 1968 the "s" and the "United" were dropped from the team name of "Hartlepools United". This was in connection with West Hartlepool being absorbed along with the old smaller town of Hartlepool and the village of Hart into one new borough named "Hartlepool". The appendage of "United" was restored in 1977
DID YOU KNOW ...
Robinson does the Soft-Shoe Shuffle
Vic Keeble, John Dick, Bobby Moore and John Bond are put through their paces
Charlton Athletic 1947 FA Cup Final Winners
Like so many professional footballers of his generation Robinson was conscripted for National Service. Bill enlisted into the Army and by the looks of it seems to adjusted to regimental life quite well, joined the khaki football team and being chosen to represent the Combined Service C.M.F. side against the (B.A.O.R.) British Army of the Rhine side at the Arena Milan December 13, 1945 whist on the books with Charlton Athletic.
8 (6 gls)
8 (3 gls)
Cup: 1 (0 gls)
Cup: 2 (0 gls)
Cup: 3 (1 gls)
Cup: 3 (0 gls)
Away at Bury FC on October 14, 1950
Bill Robinson, Danny McGowan and Ron Cater
West Ham striker Vic Keeble looks on as Robinson does the paperwork
Bill clears his desk before departing north to Hartlepools United
April 4, 1919
4 FA Cup
4 Essex Professional Cup
1 FA Cup
3 Essex Professional Cup
Date of Birth: