How Newcastle's team of the 50s influenced an 11-year-old John Lennon

By Matthew Ketchell

It's a striking image. Almost Lowery-esq in colour and style, and overall an impressive effort for an 11-year-old boy. Even if that boy would go on to have one of the biggest cultural impacts ever seen in the 20th century.

On this week's episode of Chronicled we somehow found ourselves discussing The Beatles again, specifically John Lennon. Episode 15 covers the 1951-52 season, Newcastle are about to retain the FA Cup (something that hadn't happened since 1891) and the impact the team had on the country would be felt for decades.

There's proof - 22 years on from George Robledo's 84th minute header in the final v Arsenal, English singer, songwriter, musician and peace activist John Lennon was preparing the artwork for his eighth studio album, Walls and Bridges. It would reach No.1 in the US charts with its front cover a composite of childhood drawings by Lennon, one of which is this take on George Robledo winning the cup for Newcastle in 1952.

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It's unclear why Lennon painted Robledo. Like the other Beatles he never showed significant affiliation to any particular team or player. Though as discussed in Episode 12 of Chronicled, Paul McCartney and his family were fans of Wallsend-born Albert Stubbins.

But as Newcastle United's historian Paul Joannou points out on this week's episode, perhaps the impressionable Lennon was simply caught up in the magic of Robledo, Milburn et al. "It shows how big Newcastle United were, that every young lad in the country could associate themselves with the club which is the way it was back then."

It's likely the 11-year-old Lennon has recreated the the image from newspapers. Perhaps it was a classroom task, or maybe something he did at home in June 1952, one month after Robledo had won the cup for Newcastle. Jackie Milburn has his back to the camera in the original image and his large number 9 has been captured by Lennon in black which suggests the 11-year-old was working with a black and white shot as Newcastle famously wore (and still do to this day) red numbers.

Left: George Robledo nods in the winner in the 1952 FA Cup Final. Right: John Lennon's 1974 solo album Walls and Bridges which featured a sketch of the goal drawn by Lennon aged 11 (Getty)

The number 9 in general held huge significance for Lennon in adult life. Six years prior to drawing Jackie Milburn's No.9, Lennon had been living at 9 Newcastle Road in Wavertree, Liverpool. His Walls and Bridges album featured a track called #9 Dream, he recorded Revolution #9 for The Beatles and was born on 9 October, as was his son Sean. He spoke publicly about the number obsession saying that it was something that "followed him around".

The full episode of Chronicled is available to listen for free online, via Spotify, Google, Apple, and most other podcast platforms.


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