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Bob Milne

Name: Robert George Milne
Born: 1 October 1870, Inverarity, Forfarshire (Scotland)
Died: 2 November 1953, Belfast
Height: 5.09 ft
Weight: 12.00 st
Position: Centre-Half

Representative Honours: Ireland: 28 Full Caps / 2 Goals (1894-1906); Irish League: 10 Caps (1893-1905).
Club Honours: (with Gordon Highlanders) Irish Cup Winner 1889/90; (with Linfield) Irish League Champion 1890/91, 1891/92, 1892/93, 1894/95, 1897/98, 1901/02, 1903/04, 1906/07, 1907/08, 1908/09, Runner-Up 1893/94, 1898/99, 1899/1900, 1902/03; Irish Cup Winner 1890/91, 1891/92, 1892/93, 1894/95, 1897/98, 1898/99, 1901/02, 1903/04, Runner-Up 1893/94; City Cup Winner 1894/95, 1895/96, 1897/98, 1899/1900, 1900/01, 1901/02, 1902/03, 1903/04, 1907/08, Runner-Up 1898/99; Co. Antrim Shield Winner 1898/99, 1903/04, 1905/06, 1906/07; Runner-Up 1895/96, 1896/97, 1897/98, 1902/03, 1904/05; Charity Cup Winner 1890/91, 1891/92, 1892/93, 1894/95, 1898/99, 1900/01, 1902/03, 1904/05, Runner-Up 1899/90, 1899/1900, 1901/02, 1906/07, 1907/08.

Club Career:
FA Cup
East End (Forfar)
Gordon Highlanders
7/ 0
5/ 0

A career soldier, Scottish-born Bob Milne served in Guernsey before being posted to Belfast. He captained the regimental team to an Irish Cup semi-final win over Linfield in February 1890, and then to a Final success against Cliftonville. Also in February he played against Linfield in the County Antrim Shield semi-final. Obviously impressed, Linfield bought Milne out of the army in March 1890, and so began an association that would last twenty years. An excellent all-round sportsman, Milne’s tough military training gave him a distinct fitness advantage and he was Ulster half-mile champion for two successive years.

Moustachioed, well-built and of rotund face, Milne was noted by a contemporary as “one of the finest footballers I have ever watched”. Capable of playing right across the half-back line, his primary position was centre-half though his first two International appearances were at left-half. A good header of the ball and excellent at taking free kicks, he possessed a powerful shot and could often be found among the goals. He was Linfield’s regular penalty taker – in a 7-1 win over Glentoran in October 1891 he became the first ever Irish League player to convert two penalties in one match. He was a regular as the Blues claimed the first three Irish League titles and by the time he’d retired in 1910 he had lifted the Gibson Cup ten times. Those first three League Titles coincided with three Irish Cup wins and three Charity Cup wins – a “Treble-Treble”.

In addition to those League successes were nine in the City Cup and then there was the Irish Cup. Milne maintained a superb record in the Irish game’s Blue Riband trophy, claiming nine winner’s medals (including that one with Gordon Highlanders) and scoring eight goals in those big matches. Those goals included a brace in a 5-1 win over Cliftonville in 1893 and a hattrick in a record 10-1 win over Bohemians in 1895. Inevitably Milne became much sought after by Football League clubs. He remained loyal to Linfield – rejecting overtures from Birmingham, Accrington, Sheffield United, Nottingham Forest and others. He did play in a trial for Nottingham Forest v Notts County on 26th December 1892 but decided to remain in Belfast and became club captain of Linfield in 1903.

Representative honours were also in plentiful during Milne’s long and glorious career. In March 1893 he took to the field for the Irish League’s first ever match, a 3-0 win over the Scottish League. In 1894 Milne, a Scot, was selected for Ireland as he had become “Irish” after five years residency. In all Milne won 27 caps and had the honour of scoring the first ever penalty at international level, giving Ireland a 3-2 lead in the 43rd minute against Scotland in March 1896 – the match finished 3-3. Eleven months later he missed from the spot against England, though it was largely inconsequential in a 6-0 defeat. The English goalkeeper was Jack Robinson, on his debut. He repeated this feat again in March 1898 by shooting wide of Jack Robinson’s post in a 3-2 defeat. Much more telling was the penalty against England in March 1902, which English goalkeeper Bill George saved. A goal would have given Ireland the lead, and possibly set them up for a first ever win over the English – the match finished in a 1-0 defeat. Milne is thus the only player in the World to fail to score with a penalty against England on three occasions!

In a twenty-year plus playing career, Milne claimed a remarkable host of honours. He claimed 27 caps – in the days when Ireland played only three matches a season – and over thirty winner’s medals. He captained both club and country and was honoured with a benefit that earned him the startling sum of £113. His name was mentioned in the same breath as international contemporaries Steve Bloomer, G.O. Smith, Billy Meredith and Olphie Stanfield.

Ireland Cap Details:

24-02-1894 Wales... A L 1- 4 BC
03-03-1894 England. H D 2- 2 BC
31-03-1894 Scotland H L 1- 2 BC
09-03-1895 England. A L 0- 9 BC
16-03-1895 Wales... H D 2- 2 BC
29-02-1896 Wales... A L 1- 6 BC
07-03-1896 England. H L 0- 2 BC
28-03-1896 Scotland H D 3- 3 BC 1 Goal
20-02-1897 England. A L 0- 6 BC
27-03-1897 Scotland A L 1- 5 BC
18-02-1898 Wales... A W 1- 0 BC
05-03-1898 England. H L 2- 3 BC
26-03-1898 Scotland H L 0- 3 BC
18-02-1899 England. A L 2-13 BC
04-03-1899 Wales... H W 1- 0 BC
23-03-1901 Wales... H L 0- 1 BC
22-02-1902 Wales... A W 3- 0 BC
01-03-1902 Scotland H L 1- 3 BC
1 Goal

22-03-1902 England. H L 0- 1 BC
09-08-1902 Scotland H L 0- 3 FR

14-02-1903 England. A L 0- 4 BC
21-03-1903 Scotland A W 2- 0 BC
12-03-1904 England. H L 1- 3 BC
21-03-1904 Wales... A W 1- 0 BC
26-03-1904 Scotland H D 1- 1 BC
17-02-1906 England. H L 0- 5 BC
17-03-1906 Scotland H L 0- 1 BC
02-04-1906 Wales... A D 4- 4 BC

Summary: 28/2. Won 5, Drew 5, Lost 17.

Additions and corrections by George Glass.


hnisc said…
A player who is never mentioned when suggesting (Northern) Ireland's greatest ever Centre-Backs.
jcd said…
Indeed B! Any pre-WW2 player is going to struggle for recognition. Recentism and no TV footage.