For twelve seasons from 1894 and twenty-seven caps Robert George "Bob" Milne was the fulcrum, around which Ireland's national football team would revolve. And from half-back, sometime centre-half, he saw it in that same period go from an almost perennial last place in the Home Championship, but with a first point against England, to in 1903 a three-way share of top slot and beating Scotland for the first time.
Born in 1870 he was by then well into his thirties and coming towards the end of a playing-career that had seen him make almost two hundred appearances for Linfield, nine Irish Cup wins and would see a total of ten Irish Leagues. But his first Irish Cup, with him as captain, had not been for the Belfast or even an Irish club but his first senior team, The Gordon Highlanders.
A teenage soldier the regiment, his regiment had been posted via Guernsey from its base in Scotland and it was there that Bob was born, in Inverarity in rural Forfarshire, now Angus. His father was a farmer. However, Bob's mother seems to have died young, which may explain his taking the Queen's shilling and result in a complete change in the direction of his life. His performance in a Scots team winning the premier Irish trophy of the time led to him probably being bought out of service and spending the rest of his days in Belfast. He was said to be a good header of the ball, have a strong shot, be a free-kick specialist and the penalty-taker and as such he had plenty of suitors from the English game. But all were knocked back. Instead he married in 1900 and remained living in Belfast, working officially as a clerk in 1901, as a Mill Clerk in 1911 and presumably continuing until retirement. And he died still in his adopted city in 1953 just past his eighty-third birthday, is buried in a newly-restored grave in Knockbreda Cemetery, with his wife, Armagh-born Mary Ann "Minnie" Flannigan, and two others but seemingly childless.
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