John Edward Thompson Milburn was nationally and internationally known as ‘Wor Jackie’. A Geordie idol for over a decade as well as for many a year after he ceased to wear the black and white shirt, and in an era of wonderful centre-forwards, Milburn was widely recognised as one of the best.
He had devastating pace – a former pro sprinter with the apt initials of JET – and a lethal shot in either foot. Jackie was especially remembered for his ability to swivel in tight situations to power a drive towards the net.
Noted for his many spectacular goals, he relished the big match atmosphere and created headlines over and over again with breathtaking efforts, notably in the 1951 and 1955 FA Cup finals, his latter first minute header being one of the quickest ever in a final.
No other United player has scored more goals in all competitions for the Magpies, while he also netted in every round of the 1951 FA Cup run to Wembley. Joining United as a youngster during the war, Jackie worked as a pit apprentice and started his St James Park career on the right wing.
He also played in all other forward roles during his long career with United, equally as well as in the famous Number 9 shirt. Milburn could join expertly in approach play, and possessed tremendous ball control running at speed, as well as a marvellous sliding tackle that took the ball from opponents.
Always in the reckoning for an England place, it was though to Tyneside’s anger that he won only half of the caps he should have done. Appearing in the ill-fated 1950 World Cup finals, Jackie grabbed three for his country against Wales and two hat-tricks for the Football League eleven.
On leaving United, he became as popular in Northern Ireland, appearing for Linfield in European Cup football and scoring over 100 goals in only two seasons. Jackie sampled management at Portman Road, but was never cut out for that ruthless world.
Always a genuine person, a gentleman of the highest order, he returned to Tyneside becoming a respected journalist for the News of the World, covering United’s fortunes for over 20 years.
A member of the famous Milburn and Charlton footballing family, Jackie was a modest individual and perhaps never quite realised how huge his standing was in the north east. Given a belated testimonial at St James Park in 1967, an astonishing crowd of 45,404 welcomed him home.
And his death, due to cancer, was much lamented and was given nationwide media coverage when the whole of Newcastle came to a standstill for his funeral. Jackie Milburn was the working man’s hero, Tyneside’s favourite son and a character who always had time for his fellow Geordie on the street.
He left an impression on everyone who saw him as a player, and everyone who met him as a man. Jackie was made a Freeman of the City, and a statue on Newcastle’s main thoroughfare recognises his achievement to the region.