Shiremoor, Northumberland born inside right Jackie Robinson earned a county schoolboy cap in 1930 at the age of 13. As a youth he played for West Wylam Colliery in 1932, a junior team affiliated to a coal mine in the small town of Prudhoe to the west of Newcastle upon Tyne, also playing for Shiremoor. Despite being one of the youngest members of the West Wylam team he began to make a name for himself as a fast, tricky inside forward. In 1934, Sheffield Wednesday manager Billy Walker came to watch a wing half who was marking Robinson in a match against West Wylam. However, Robinson outplayed the wing half and Walker approached Robinson’s parents for permission to sign the 16 year old, and he duly signed for Wednesday in October 1934, making his Football League debut when he played at West Bromwich Albion in April 1935, scoring in a 1-1 draw just five days before the FA Cup Final against the same team and Robinson replaced club captain Ronnie Starling who was being rested for the Final. Robinson had not even brought his boots for the match and had to borrow Starling’s!
Conscious of his young age, Walker only used Robinson occasionally in the 1935-36 season, and he made just five appearances. He became a regular in the team the following season and his good form led to a call up for an England international trial at Burnley on 17th March 1937. Two months later having been a non playing reserve against Norway and Sweden on England’s post season tour of Scandinavia, he was selected for the full England side to play Finland in Helsinki on 20 May 1937 at the age of 19 years, 283 days, scoring in an 8-0 victory in Helsinki.
Sheffield Wednesday were relegated in 1937 and started the 1937-38 season in Division Two, several of the bigger clubs tried to sign Robinson but he stayed with Wednesday along with fellow international Ted Catlin. Robinson’s form remained good throughout that season and he was selected for the England’s three match tour of Continental Europe in May 1938. The first match was against Germany in Berlin on 14th May, the match was infamous because the England players were forced to give the Nazi salute. None of the England players wanted to do the salute but the British Ambassador insisted to keep the crowd in a good frame of mind. The game itself resulted in a fine 6-3 victory for England with Robinson scoring twice. The England tour continued with matches against Switzerland (lost 1-2) and France (won 4-2), although Robinson was rested for the France match.
The onset of the Second World War interrupted Jackie Robinson’s rising career. During the War years he was stationed at Middlesbrough and continued to play for Sheffield Wednesday in the Football League North. His goal scoring record was excellent, scoring 91 goals in 109 games although the standard of play was obviously reduced. After the War Robinson was made club captain for Wednesday for the 1946-47 season but after just seven matches that season he was sold to Sunderland for £5,000, aged 29. His last game for Wednesday was a 0–1 defeat on 25th September 1946 against Chesterfield at Hillsborough . The reason cited for the transfer was that Robinson was training at Newcastle United on weekdays and just travelling to Sheffield for matches and the board found this unacceptable for the club captain. He played 121 League and FA Cup games for Sheffield Wednesday, scoring 39 goals.
Robinson played three seasons at Sunderland, forming a fine attacking partnership with Len Shackleton. By the summer of 1949, Robinson was 32 years old and Sunderland had just signed a classy inside forward in Ivor Broadis from Carlisle United. First team opportunities seemed to be limited so he accepted the post of player-coach at Lincoln City for the 1949-50 season after 34 goals in 85 appearances for The Wearsiders. Robinson only played in nine games (eight League and one FA Cup) for Lincoln, scoring five goals. His ninth game was on Christmas Eve 1949, a home Division Three (North) match against Wrexham. Robinson scored two goals in the game but broke his leg when scoring the second goal. The x-ray in Lincoln Hospital revealed a complicated break and he never played competitive football again.