Nostalgia

On this day 45 years ago, 15th February 1975, West Ham United recorded a 2-1 FA Cup fifth round victory over Queens Park Rangers at the Boleyn Ground in front of 39,193. Steve Harley & Cockney Rebel were number one with ‘Make Me Smile (Come Up And See Me)’, The Towering Inferno was in UK cinemas and Margaret Thatcher had become the Conservative Party’s first female leader four days earlier.

The visitors took a first-half lead through Dave Clement – the Battersea-born right-back won five England caps before sadly committing suicide at the age of 34. His sons, Paul and Neil, have both had careers in the game. Pat Holland equalised for the Hammers before, prompted by Trevor Brooking, the Irons booked their quarter-final place when Keith Robson scored a 46th-minute winner past future Hammer Phil Parkes.

West Ham would go on to beat Arsenal and Ipswich before beating Fulham in the 1975 FA Cup Final at Wembley. In the absence of much recent Hammers action, I thought we’d take a look back at the career of the Hammers’ matchwinner on this day 45 years ago.

Keith Robson was born on the 15th November 1953 in Hetton-le-Hole, County Durham, and began his career with Newcastle before moving to Ron Greenwood’s West Ham United in 1974 for £60,000. His arrival, alongside that of Billy Jennings from Watford, sparked an extraordinary scoring spree with the Hammers netting a remarkable 20 goals in just four games during a ten-day period. The 20-year-old Robson made his debut against Tranmere on 18th September 1974 in a 6-0 League Cup second round replay win at the Boleyn Ground. He scored his first Hammers goal in his next match just three days later, a 6-2 home victory over Leicester and notched another in a 3-0 win over Birmingham in the following game. His first goals away from Upton Park soon arrived as he bagged a brace in a 5-3 win at Burnley. Robson made it five goals in four games with another in a 2-2 home draw with Derby on 5th October 1974.

The aggressive forward also scored with a header in a 3-0 win over Middlesbrough at the Boleyn on 2nd November 1974 and followed that with a point-earning strike in a 1-1 draw at Liverpool three weeks later. A Boxing Day goal secured a 1-1 draw with Tottenham at Upton Park before he scored in a 2-1 defeat at Leeds on 11th January 1975. Two more goals followed before the end of the season, one in the aforementioned 2-1 home win over QPR which secured a quarter-final place in the FA Cup and another in a 2-1 home win over Burnley. A thigh injury sustained in March was to end Robson’s season however, keeping him out of the FA Cup semi-final and the Wembley victory over Fulham in the Final. Robson had scored 11 goals in 30 appearances for the Hammers in the 1974/75 season, none more important than that FA Cup fifth round winner over QPR, a looping header over future Hammers goalkeeper Phil Parkes.

Robson (pictured), a skilful but temperamental player who had his fair share of flare-ups with opponents and referees, put that disappointment behind him early the following season – he did make a belated Wembley appearance, as a substitute in the 2-0 Charity Shield defeat against Derby, and scored the winner in a 1-0 home victory over Tottenham on 25th August 1975. He scored in a 3-0 European Cup Winners’ Cup first round second leg triumph over Finnish side Lahden Reipas at Upton Park on 1st October 1975 and continued his 1975/76 cup exploits by bagging another goal in a 3-0 League Cup third round home win over Darlington a week later. The following round of the Cup Winners’ Cup saw the Hammers paired with Soviet side Ararat Erevan and Robson was on the scoresheet again, converting a back-post header in a 3-1 home win in the second leg on 5th November 1975. His goal against Coventry, again at the Boleyn, secured a 1-1 draw three days later and lifted the Hammers to the top of the First Division table.

Robson was sent off two days after Christmas 1975 in a 2-1 home defeat to Ipswich; already booked for a vicious sliding tackle on Clive Woods, he punched George Burley after being fouled from behind and was dismissed. He went over five months without a goal as the Hammers plummeted in the league but arguably his finest hour in claret and blue was to come on 14th April 1976 – in one of the great Upton Park nights under the lights, Robson’s scorcher from distance was crucial in helping the Irons to a 3-1 European Cup Winners’ Cup semi-final second leg victory over Eintracht Frankfurt, overturning a 2-1 first leg deficit to win 4-3 on aggregate. Still on a high, Robson made it two goals in two games three days later in a 2-2 home draw with Aston Villa.

Robson’s final goal for West Ham was scored in the Cup Winners’ Cup Final against Anderlecht at the Heysel Stadium on 5th May 1976 – his first goal away from Upton Park for 16 months. His near-post header levelled the match at 2-2 but the Belgians, inspired by future Hammer Francois Van der Elst, would go on to win 4-2. It was Robson’s eighth goal in his 49th appearance of the season.

Robson’s 1976/77 campaign was disrupted by injury as he made only ten appearances, without scoring. His disciplinary record again came under the spotlight as he was publicly criticised by chairman Reg Pratt after being booked in a League Cup loss to QPR in October 1976. He played his last game for the Hammers in a 6-0 defeat at Sunderland on 5th March 1977, a game later described by manager John Lyall as one of the worst team performances in his time at the club. Following a loan spell with Team Hawaii, and after scoring 19 goals in 89 appearances for West Ham United, Robson was sold to Second Division Cardiff in August 1977. Six of these 19 goals can be viewed in my video below.

After just six months at Cardiff, the 24-year-old Robson returned to the top flight, signing for John Bond’s Norwich in February 1978 for £25,000. Reunited with former Hammers team-mate Graham Paddon, Robson was also later joined by familiar faces in the shape of John McDowell and Alan Taylor, while West Ham legend Martin Peters was also already at Carrow Road when Robson signed. Three mid-table finishes (13th, 16th and 12th) were recorded under Bond’s management after Robson’s arrival but, after another former Hammer Ken Brown took over in October 1980, the Canaries were relegated at the end of the 1980/81 season, swapping places with the Hammers who stormed to the Second Division title that season. Robson scored 14 goals in 71 appearances for Norwich but left the club in September 1981, signing for Second Division Leicester.

After a spell on loan to Carlisle, Robson moved to Hong Kong to play for the South China Athletic Association. He returned to Norfolk in 1983, playing for Norwich Busmen, Corinthian-Casuals and Wroxham, where he became assistant manager in 1993/94. He also worked as a machinist at Impress Metal Packing Co. Now 66, Robson is a visitor to London Stadium and has also guested at events run by Any Old Irons, the West Ham United Foundation programme providing free events for over-65s.