Former Everton midfielder Neil Robinson dies

25/11/2022 6comments  |  Jump to last

Boyhood Evertonian Neil Robinson, who played 23 games in all competitions for the Blues in the late 1970s before making his name at Swansea City and Grimsby Town in the 80s, passed away suddenly this week it has been announced.

Neil, who was the first professional footballer in the world to declare himself an ethical vegan, suffered a heart attack at his home in Widnes on Thursday. He leaves behind his wife Pauline and three children Neil David, Alison and Kathryn.

Born a stone's throw from Goodison Park on Spellow Lane, he came through Everton's youth ranks and represented the club at first-team level before moving to South Wales where he made 137 league appearances for Swansea.

He played over 100 times for Grimsby Town and finished his career at Darlington.

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He has long since declared his commitment to vegetarianism and then veganism, describing how a TV documentary about an Amazonian tribe who sacrificed a cow had turned him off eating meat.

“I was shocked by this sudden and stark realisation that meat was actually the flesh of a once living animal," he had said. “I thought to myself that this just was not right for humans to do this to another species and I decided that I no longer wanted eat any meat. Ten years later, in 1980, I decided to become vegan.

“This meant that I was vegetarian for the first seven years of my professional playing career and vegan for the last ten years. My fitness was never ever in question at any football club I played for. In fact, I would say that I was always one of the top three fittest players at all my clubs.”


Reader Comments (6)

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Andy Meighan
1 Posted 25/11/2022 at 21:25:12
Sad news about Neil Robinson. My wife knew him well for years from the school she worked for. She said he was an absolutely lovely fella. And when he found out that I went the games and had brought my lad up the same he couldn't believe it. Really really sad. Remember scoring in that 6 0 win against Chelsea. Latch’s 30th.
Paul Washington
2 Posted 25/11/2022 at 22:24:41
I got to know him when he had his gym in Widnes, he was a nice bloke with time for everyone, a real shame.

He was a vegetarian from a very young age never smoked or touched alcohol. God bless lad

Mike Gaynes
3 Posted 26/11/2022 at 16:01:04
In Brian Viner's book "Looking for the Toffees", Robinson amusingly tells the story of that goal against Chelsea and Peter Bonetti, the only one he ever scored for Everton. His teammates actually disputed it and the fans were booing -- because he scored seconds after a foul that could have been a penalty for Latchford's 30th.

"I was ecstatic... but no one congratulated me for it. No one. There's me tearing around the pitch, waving to my family and all that. I just kept on running -- I virtually had to get a bus back into the ground -- but eventually I turned round to see all the other players remonstrating with the ref to try and get a penalty instead, so Bob could take it."

Of all the players Viner interviewed for the book about that game, he found Robinson and Dave Thomas the most engaging.

Tim Barford
4 Posted 28/11/2022 at 08:05:52
I was fortunate to know Neil and family this last decade or so.

Neil was the UK's first vegan professional footballer and as such was a big influence on the UK vegan scene, especially a decade ago when he went on a tour of UK vegan festivals to promote veganism, and was splashed across the media regularly.

An ethical vegan, Neil was a defender of vulnerable animals most of his adult life and always stood up for the most exploited and commodified. He understood the intersectional framework that links all oppression before the word or concept was popularised, had a very strong environmental stance, genuinely cared for people, planet and animals and was way ahead of his time as an evolved adult.

Neil's picture was on my wall as a 13-year-old along with the rest of the beloved faithful from the ‘70s and I idolised him along with Latchford, Dobson and the rest. But it was his conduct as a post-professional footballer that has left its mark even stronger than taking the ball off Kenny Dalglish in front of 40,000.

I will miss Neil immensely; he was kind, calm and gentle and a fabulous dad and grandad but he had that strength and tenacity about him that marked him as a player and made him the adult he was – a truly fantastic role model for those to come.

In years gone by, it will be his contribution to the growth of veganism that will be remembered for as much as his aplomb on the playing field. Rise in power, Neil, and warmest wishes and love to family and friends at this most sad time.

Peter Carpenter
5 Posted 01/12/2022 at 08:42:10
Sad news. I remember him well, even though he only played a few games.
Paul Washington
6 Posted 12/12/2022 at 17:34:13
I went to Neil Robinson's funeral at Widnes crematorium before, a very good turnout, indeed quite a few of us couldn't get in.

The hearse was royal blue with holy trinity pictures on doors and EFC badges on it and an EFC plate. I'm guessing it has to be the club's, nice touch.

God bless Neil, a thoroughly decent bloke gone far too early.

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