MUCH as I liked Lammie Robertson as a player at Brighton, I never expected that one day he would share a football pitch with Pelé.
I imagine fans of Leicester City would say the same: some of them consider the Scot to have been one of the worst players ever to play for their club!
Mind you, during his days at Halifax Town he competed against George Best, so perhaps it was his destiny to play amongst the stars.
Let’s unravel the story a little more.
Born on 27 September 1947 in Paisley, Scotland, he was christened Archibald. Lamond – after a family name – was his middle name and, in the way names often evolve in football, that became Lammie.
Football was clearly in his genes; his maternal grandfather played for Sunderland before the war. Lammie was one of several budding footballers at Camphill Senior Secondary School in Paisley who reached two finals of a Scottish schools’ national competition.
In 1961, they were runners-up in the Scottish Schools Junior Shield, and the following year they won the Scottish Schools Intermediate Shield.
Lammie’s footballing ability took him to junior Scottish side Benburb FC, based in Govan, Glasgow, and Eastercraigs, from where, at the age of 19 in 1966, Burnley signed him.
At the time, Burnley were riding high in English football’s top tier. Their Northern Irish international centre-forward Willie Irvine (more of whom later) was the First Division’s top scorer for the 1965-66 season with 29 goals.
Robertson didn’t make the grade at Burnley and it was only when he switched to Bury, in 1968, that he made his professional debut. Bury’s squad (above) at the time had former Man Utd and Preston North End centre-forward Alex Dawson up front (it would not be long before he moved to Brighton), the legendary ex Leeds skipper Bobby Collins in midfield (circled in picture) and an emerging full back called Alec Lindsay, who went on to play for Liverpool and England.
Robertson, though, only made five appearances for the Shakers before moving to Halifax Town in February 1969.
It was at The Shay that his career finally took off. He won a regular place in the side and scored 20 goals in 150 league games, including being part of a side promoted from the old Fourth Division to the Third.
That encounter with George Best (pictured below) happened while he was at Halifax. It was in 1971, in an early season competition called the Watney Cup, and the Fourth Division side shocked Frank O’Farrell’s mighty United, beating them 2-1 (the televised game can still be seen on YouTube).
After Brighton went up to the old Second Division in 1972, manager Pat Saward was determined to bring in better quality players and there was no question of sentiment as he decided to discard two of the strikers who scored the goals that earned promotion.
First to go was Kit Napier (to Blackburn), replaced by Barry Bridges for what at the time was a record £28,000 fee.
Tranmere’s Ken Beamish had joined Brighton to aid the final promotion push in the spring of 1972, and in the opening months of the Second Division season, he played alongside Bridges and Willie Irvine.
Although both had played at the highest level earlier in their careers, Saward felt Irvine’s days were numbered – although he was only 29 – and, come December, Saward swapped him for the 25-year-old Robertson.
The deal involved a fee of £15,000 plus Irvine, who was a reluctant participant in the arrangement. The popular Irishman later wrote particularly unfavourably about the move in his autobiography, Together Again, feeling Saward rather unceremoniously dumped him.
At the time, Halifax manager George Mulhall admitted it was a gamble and told Shoot! magazine: “I didn’t want to sell Lammie. He was very much a part of my future plans. But £15,000 plus Willie Irvine was a generous offer and to instill fresh interest I feel I must introduce new faces.
“We have only a small pool of players here and no money to give any breathing space – so obviously this cash, plus an Irish international centre-forward who can score goals, is very welcome.”
Robertson quickly settled and bought himself a flat on Shoreham Beach, with his fiancée Maureen, but on the field he joined a team descending into one of the longest losing streaks in the club’s history.
He signed during that infamous period when Saward’s side lost 13 successive matches, heading to Hove just days after a 5-1 drubbing at Carlisle and making his debut at home to QPR, a 2-1 defeat.
In the division below, he had already scored 11 goals (nearly half Halifax’s total!) up to the time of his move, but it was to be three months before Robertson scored for his new club.
Eventually he got off the mark in a 2-1 home win over Huddersfield and got three more before the end of the season. Saward eventually lost patience with Bridges, who was relegated to the subs bench, and Robertson was paired up front with Beamish, with teenager Tony Towner out on the wing providing inviting crosses.
One such (as can be seen in the picture above) came against Preston on 31 March 1973 when Robertson headed in Towner’s inch perfect cross in injury time to clinch a 2-0 win. It was all too little, too late and Albion duly returned to the Third Division.
As the season got underway, Bridges and Beamish were back in tandem and Robertson on the bench but in some games Saward played all three as he battled without success to revive Albion’s fortunes.
After an eight-game spell out of the side, during which time Saward lost his job, Robertson was back in the frame for the first game of the Brian Clough-Peter Taylor era.
Robertson told The Sunday Post (Dundee) in 2016: “Things hadn’t been going too well for me at Brighton when Clough arrived. The previous manager, Pat Saward, wasn’t my favourite person and he’d left me out of the team. Then Clough arrived, having just won the League Championship with Derby County.
“He brought me straight back in and took us away to a hotel to prepare for his first game.
“The first thing he did was to go round the lads and ask them what they wanted to drink.
“They started asking for orange juice or a soft drink, but he said, ‘No, a proper drink’.
“He was always testing people and coming up with the unexpected. But I couldn’t help thinking that he was a bit half-hearted about the Brighton job. He didn’t want to move down from Derby and so we’d sometimes be training at 5pm just to fit in with his movements.”
In his third game under the pair, on 13 November 1973, Robertson’s cross for Pat Hilton produced a headed winner away to Walsall to give Clough his first win as Brighton manager.
Fans who go back that far will remember the terrible lambasting the management pair dished out about the players they inherited. Robertson, though, retained his place for most of the season and scored in the final game of the campaign, a 1-1 draw at Bristol Rovers that only marginally avenged the home 8-2 hammering that had been dished out in Clough’s seventh game in charge.
However, it was to be Robertson’s last goal and last appearance in Albion’s colours because, within a matter of days, he and John Templeman were used as makeweights in the recruitment of goalscorer Fred Binney from Exeter City.
Robertson and Templeman (in an Exeter line-up above) were only part of what became known as “the Clough clear-out” – a total of 12 players were released – but it marked the beginning of a period which was transformational in the history of the club.
The move to Devon actually suited Robertson just fine. He went on to attain cult status amongst the City fans and over three years played in 133 league matches, scoring 25 goals.
grecianarchive.exeter.ac.uk says Robertson was “regarded as one of the finest ball and creative players to have worn the City shirt” although it also adds he had his fair share of run-ins with referees, leading to a few sendings off.
During the Seventies, the United States was trying to get football off the ground as an alternative to baseball and American football and there were loads of opportunities for English-based players to travel across the Atlantic to play for these fledgling teams in the North American Soccer League.
In the summer of 1976, Robertson joined a team called Chicago Sting and played 14 games, including a memorable 4-1 win over the big-money New York Cosmos in front of a crowd of 28,000.
Cosmos included the immortal Pelé up front alongside Italian international Giorgio Chinaglia and Germany’s Franz Beckenbauer.
Beeholeclaret on uptheclarets.com found a YouTube clip of the players being introduced before the game, and mentions Burnley’s “Eddie Cliff who played in our 1968 FA Youth Cup win alongside the likes of Mick Docherty, Dave Thomas, Steve Kindon and Alan West” and “ex Claret Lammie Robertson, who was a teammate of Eddie for Chicago”.
There are some great memories of that era to be found online courtesy of nasljerseys.com and there are pictures (above) of Robertson in action against ex-Newcastle and Middlesbrough player Alan Foggon, (who was playing for Hartford), in a 7-1 win for Sting. Another shows him avoiding a clearance by San Jose Earthquakes’ Laurie Calloway (who played for York in England and who Jimmy Melia later wanted as a coach at Brighton, but chairman Mike Bamber appointed Chris Cattlin instead).
Back at Exeter, the 1976-77 season saw player-manager Bobby Saxton’s team earn promotion from the Fourth to the Third Division as runners up and Robertson’s form obviously caught people’s attention.
Frank McLintock was only a couple of months into a brief reign as Leicester City’s manager at the start of the 1977-78 season, and eyebrows were raised when he bought Robertson for an £8,000 fee.
Robertson, at 30, was one of several ageing players McLintock recruited in what was to be a fairly disastrous 10 months as Leicester’s manager; the others were Dave Webb, George Armstrong, Eddie Kelly and Geoff Salmons. Two more signings, Alan Waddle and Roger Davies, were also flops.
In an online debate about the worst players ever to play for Leicester, three of those mentioned all played for Brighton at some stage!!
Trevor Benjamin and Junior Lewis were listed by more than one fan but Lesterlad1 was quite certain it was Robertson.
“Lammie Robertson has to be the all time worst City player,” he said. “Made Junior Lewis look like Messi.”
On talkingballs.uk, Redditch Fox said: “He sort of played towards the right wing position – but was not a winger and neither a midfielder nor a forward. Considering he usually played wide – he was incredibly slow moving.
“He was dire – out of his depth – but to be fair was probably past his best when he came here. People were just astonished that we had signed him.”
When Leicester were on the brink of their famous Premier League win two years ago, The Sunday Post (Dundee), on 1 May 2016, found Robertson and asked about the time he lined up for Leicester at Old Trafford in 1977.
He said: “Frank McLintock signed me from Exeter, where I’d just won promotion to Divison Three. I believe Frank’s old Leicester teammate Davie Gibson had recommended me.
“Having spent my entire career in the lower leagues, it was a great thrill to be facing Manchester United.
“I normally played in midfield but that day I was the main striker. I thought I did quite well but we lost 3-1. We had a decent collection of players at Leicester but the results just didn’t come.
“Frank McLintock lost his job but I couldn’t help feeling that things might have turned round if he’d been given a little bit longer.”
Jock Wallace took over and Robertson’s year-long stay at Filbert Street came to an end in October 1978 when he moved on to Peterborough United, where his teammates included midfielder Billy McEwan and striker Barry Butlin, who had played for Brighton. However, his stay at London Road was even shorter than his time at Leicester, moving on again after just 15 league games in which he scored once, to join Bradford City in January 1979.
City were his last League club as a player. By the end of the 1980-81 season, he’d clocked up 43 league games and three goals for the Bantams.
Robertson was appointed player-manager at Northwich Victoria in July 1981 and one of his signings was the former West Ham, Everton and Man City winger Mark Ward.
Ward wrote in his autobiography, Hammered: “The team didn’t make a good start to the 1981-82 season and poor old Lammie Robertson was sacked after just six matches.”
According to grecianarchive, Robertson then became an independent financial advisor but kept in touch with football as a scout for Sheffield United.
Eight years ago, he was living in Goostrey, Cheshire, and, in March of that year, was appointed caretaker at the Goostrey Village Hall.
In 2016, Halifax fans spotted him at one of their games and were pleased to report he was looking in good health for a man who is now 70.