Robbie Cooke, one of the greatest Grantham Town’s favourite strikers, has died after losing his battle against cancer. He was 64.
Rotherham-born ‘Cookie’ was a former Mansfield Town apprentice who joined Grantham at the start of the 1978/79 season, making his debut in the County Cup game against Boston United and perhaps surprisingly only netting his first goal in his sixth game at Stourbridge.
But his scoring rate in the second half of the season, was phenomenal, achieving 31 goals after Christmas, including hat-tricks against King’s Lynn, Corby Town and most importantly at home to Merthyr Tydfil in the closing fixture to secure the Southern League title for Grantham.
He easily finished as both the club’s and the Southern League’s highest scorer, with a tally of 43 goals.
As Grantham entered into the Northern Premier League, Robbie played in every match of the season and notched up another 39 goals for Grantham, four of which came in the February 1980 thrashing of Tamworth and another hat-trick the following month as the club ventured into Sunday football with a game at home to Gateshead.
He joined Peterborough United on a £12,000 transfer, at the time a record fee for The Gingerbreads.
He was soon playing in one of the biggest games for his new club, an FA Cup Fifth Round tie against Manchester City and he finished his first two seasons there as Peterborough’s highest scorer.
Cooke’s speed, touch and lethal one-on-one finishing meant he emerged as a star man for Posh in the sides of 1980-81 and 1981-82 that just missed out on promotion from Division Four.
Cooke scored 29 goals in all competitions in his first season at the club and 28 in his second, but after 68 goals in 137 appearances for Posh he joined arch rivals Cambridge United, who were then in Division Two, for £12,000. He made 53 appearances for the club.
But despite this success, Robbie was then transferred to Cambridge United, before moving to Brentford mid-way through the season.
By the end of that campaign Robbie had finished as both Brentford’s and Cambridge top scorer, only the third time in history a striker had finished a season in the top spot for two different clubs.
As well as this near unique achievement, he also scored his club’s consolation goal in the Final of the Freight Rover Trophy at Wembley in 1985 and after a Â£30,000 fee was paid, Robbie then moved to Millwall, where he won a Second Division Championship medal.
This was his final transfer in The Football League and at the end of his professional career he had 155 goals to his name in 386 senior League and Cup appearances.
Robbie then signed for Kettering Town and while there was soon awarded England Semi-Professional honours, playing for a club that finished runners-up in the GM Vauxhall Conference, with Robbie himself finishing as the top goalscorer in the league.
He rejoined Grantham at the start of the 1991/92 season as Player/Coach, playing in the club’s first ever match at The Meres, against Ilkeston Town in the FA Cup, although it was to be a short spell back with the team.
His last goal for Grantham came in the November 1991 league fixture against Newport AFC, with his final appearance in the same month, at home to Sutton Coldfield Town.
Robbie went on to play for Northampton Spencer, where he won a United Counties League winners medal and Bourne Town.
After the end of his playing career he became manager of Warboys Town, then assistant manager at Kettering Town,
He also worked for several years at the Thomas Cook headquarters and Travelex at Peterborough
Then came his off-field breakthrough. In 2002 he was appointed chief scout at Premier League Everton by the then manager David Moyes.
Instead of arranging other people’s travels, he was jetting off across the world watching the finest players.
This came to an end in 2013 when new boss Roberto Martinez brought chief scout Kevin Reeves with him from Wigan. But Robbie wasn’t too concerned. Moyes was soon on the phone, and the pair are teamed up again at Manchester United.
He was currently chief scout for West Ham United.