Robinson, John (Jack)
Goalkeeper Jack Robinson rejoined the professional ranks late in his career when he signed for Southern League Exeter from Green Waves of Plymouth in 1908. He had earlier enjoyed a long career with Derby County, New Brighton Tower, Plymouth Argyle and Millwall in addition to representing England on eleven occasions. Missing the opening ten games of City’s first professional season, he was first-choice for the remainder of the campaign before leaving to play for Stoke beyond the age of forty. He had also briefly appeared for the Grecians during the Plymouth and District League era between leaving Argyle and signing for Millwall.
The son of a Derby publican, he started with Derby Midland before joining Lincoln City on a part-time basis whilst also working as a joiner. Becoming a full professional with Derby County in 1891 he made 163 appearances for his local club ahead of joining New Brighton Tower in August 1897. During his time at Derby he had already won his first England caps against Ireland at Trent Bridge on February 20 1897 and Scotland at the Crystal Palace on 3 April 1897.
Now known as the “Prince of Goalkeepers", he spent a single season with New Brighton prior to playing for Southampton between 1898 and 1903 for whom he appeared in two FA Cup finals and won the Southern League three times as well as taking his final tally of England caps to eleven. Making his final England appearance against Ireland at the Dell on 9 March 1901 he played two more seasons for Southampton before, at the age of thirty-three, becoming Plymouth Argyle’s first professional keeper in 1903.
With Argyle starting out in the Southern League, the same path as followed by Exeter City five years later, he made his debut against West Ham United in September 1903 and went on to play fifty league games for the Pilgrims until he lost his place towards the end of 1904.
He then appears to have been out of football for several months before joining the still-amateur Exeter City during the autumn of 1905. Whether or not he was paid for his services is unclear although, aside from playing in friendlies, his sole Plymouth and District League appearance was against Plymouth Argyle reserves on 2 December 1905. He subsequently joined Southern League Millwall before returning to Plymouth and turning out for Green Waves then playing in the same league as Exeter City.
With the Grecians turning professional in 1908, and under the management of Arthur Chadwick who had played alongside Jack for Southampton, the supposedly-retired international goalkeeper - handily living not so far away - was drafted into City’s Southern League team in place of James Fletcher who had appeared in the first ten games. Making his debut in the win against Plymouth Argyle on 11 November 1908, he appeared in 29 of the remaining thirty matches before moving to Stoke ahead of the 1909/10 season.
After three seasons in the Potteries, where he made 55 league appearances, he moved to America and played professionally in Rochester, New York. Returning to his roots Jack Robinson died in Derby on 28 October 1931.[As an historical footnote the Baseball Ground, Derby County’s former home, had earlier been used for baseball games promoted by Sir Francis Ley, a local industrialist. Setting up a ‘national’ baseball league - Aston Villa, Derby, Preston North End and Stoke - were members - Jack Robinson was one of the Derby players and, as a third base, he was a member of the team that twice won the competition. Photograph courtesy of Neale Raleigh].