jimmy robertson ... flying scotsman

This article first appeared in MEHSTG Vol. 2 Issue 22 (September 2001)


When Bill Nicholson signed Jimmy Robertson from St. Mirren in 1964, he knew that he had found a precocious talent in the speedy Scot who was an outside left.  With Cliff Jones in fine form at outside right, Bill now had really fast wingers on both flanks.  

In Jimmy's first full season, 1964-65, Bill tried him on both flanks and eventually settled on Jimmy becoming an outside right, the position he was to win his first full cap for Scotland against Wales.  He was already an under 23 international when he signed and he looked really young with a baby face and short dark hair, only being 5 feet 8 inches tall.  Jimmy's main assets were his speed and directness.  He was really quick and he was an electrifying sight when he took on defenders and tore straight down the wing.  The ability to deliver accurate crosses was a real handful for opponents. 

Jimmy had joined Spurs in a period of transition (aren't we always?), just after the great Double side.  The winger had a lot to live up to with the fans expecting a great deal and having to suffer comparisons with legends such as Jones and Terry Dyson, who were both still at the club and who were first choices when he arrived.  In 1964 and 1965, Spurs finished 6th and 8th the following season when Cliff suffered injuries and Jimmy established himself at number 7.  He scored seven and six goals respectively in his first two full seasons, although he was more a provider for others than an out and out goalscorer. 

During season 1966-67, Spurs really began to gel and were unbeaten from 21 January to the end of the season and finished third and won the FA Cup beating Chelsea 2-1 in the final.  Jimmy had a good game in a disappointing match and when the ball arrived at his feet on the edge of the box, he hit a hard drive on the half volley and scored.  This win meant Spurs were in Europe the following season and in Jimmy's first game in the European Cup Winners' Cup, he scored the first goal in a 2-0 away win against Hadjuk Split.  The Yugoslav side were frightened of Jimmy and he terrorised them in the second leg, scoring the first goal as Spurs went 3-0 up at half- time.  When Split came back in the second half, Jimmy rounded off Spurs scoring in a 4-3 win.  The next round, saw Spurs play Olympique Lyonnais and the French side won the first leg 1-0 in France in a torrid affair with Alan Mullery being sent off.  Jimmy was bowled over five times in quick succession in the second half, but got up to play on with restraint, despite the fact that he had to have ten stitches for a deep cut in his left shin after the game.  Robertson gave everything in the second leg and created a goal each for Jones and Gilzean.  It was not enough, however, as although Spurs won the match 4-3, but Lyonnais went through on away goals with the aggregate scores level at 4-4. 

Spurs were left to rue the defensive errors in the second leg and their missed chances in the first match, it was a shame as Jimmy had done well in Europe with three goals from four games.  Spurs went on to finish seventh in the League in 1967-68 with Jimmy scoring five League goals from 34 starts.  The next season was to be Jimmy's last at Spurs and he made 11 starts scoring one goal.  Bill Nick was frustrated with him as he thought the winger should have been more effective, particularly in front of goal.  He sold him to Arsenal in exchange for David Jenkins.  This turned out to be a big mistake, perhaps Bill's biggest faux pas, as Jenkins made lots of errors and the crowd got on his back and the former Gooner's confidence drained away so much that he only made thirteen starts in two seasons, scoring only twice.  This only goes to show that moves between Spurs and the Gooners are not always successful ... S. Cumball better watch out ! 

Jimmy was an exciting winger.  Bill had signed him at nineteen and he made 177 appearances for Spurs scoring 31 times.  Nicholson thought that he had not developed as he would have hoped, but Jimmy was the player for the big occasion as his goals and performances in Europe and the FA Cup final would testify.  He was an all out direct winger who had breathtaking pace and was capable of putting in good, accurate crosses when challenged and under pressure.  However, Robertson was prone to making mistakes when he was given time on the ball and he frustrated Bill with some of his crosses which wasted opportunities, when he had time to deliver accurately.  

The memories of Jimmy are of a fast direct winger with incredible pace who gave all-out effort and who did not shirk a challenge.  He was good to watch as his speed and play was exciting and he was capable of so much, including a hard shot and mazy runs.  It is incredible to think that we once had both Jimmy and Cliff Jones In the same team.  Were there ever a faster pair of wingmen ?

RICHARD PORTER

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