'The ball would disappear up in the sky and when it came down I’d head it,’ says Jimmy Robson, who pauses and adds: ‘There’s more than me that’s got this problem, you know?’
We know all too well, sadly.
This Burnley great is speaking to Sportsmail in a chat kindly arranged by his daughter, Dany, and today is a good day. Today, Jimmy remembers he was a footballer. He even remembers he has dementia.
Jimmy is explaining how for every goal-kick it was his job to flick the ball on, no matter how much it rattled his brain. ‘I’d do what needed to be done,’ he says in his softly-spoken North-East accent.
Seven players from Burnley's 1960 First Division winning team being have been diagnosed with dementia, including Jimmy Robson (second left from back row)
Former striker Robson was diagnosed five years ago and has recalled how it was his duty to flick balls on with his head
It is 60 years since Burnley won the First Division and Dany suspects her father’s ability to recall details here is because of a trip to Turf Moor days ago.
‘There was a big picture of the title-winning team in the Burnley Express newspaper in May,’ Dany explains. ‘Dad was asking us, “Am I on that?” There was no recognition there. But when we took him to Turf Moor and showed him a picture of the team, he could name all of them. Being there brought it all back for him. It was amazing.’
That is the power of reminiscence and why the PFA should be helping to fund and arrange social events where former professional players can come together, perhaps at their old stomping grounds. It triggers memories and days after his visit to Turf Moor it is heart-warming to hear Jimmy discuss his old friends — men he clearly held in high regard and misses.
Robson said he did 'what needed to be done' and believes dementia is a 'football disease'
Notably, he does not mind saying of Alzheimer’s: ‘It is a football disease.’ The numbers back him up, too.
Of the Burnley team who won the 1959-60 title, seven have been diagnosed with dementia, Jimmy included. Six have passed away, including Jimmy McIlroy and Ray Pointer. Mention of their names sets Dany’s dad on a trip down memory lane.
‘Jimmy McIlroy was the best player we had,’ says this wonderfully warm 81-year-old. ‘He was top notch. He took our penalties and he’d score goals. Him and Jimmy Adamson used to work wonderfully in the midfield.
‘My job was to score goals. I used to play up front with Ray Pointer and we scored lots of goals between us. John Connelly, too. Burnley were a good side.’
He started to forget where he parked his car in Burnley town centre before his diagnosis
Sometimes with dementia you either have to laugh or cry and one remark from her dad had Dany chuckling recently. Jimmy was asked about Sir Bobby Charlton’s diagnosis, the death of Nobby Stiles and the fact that many of his old Burnley team-mates had it. To which he replied: ‘It makes me very sad because I might end up getting it, too.’
Unfortunately, it is too late for that. Jimmy was diagnosed with dementia almost five years ago. It started with forgetting where he parked his car in Burnley town centre and escalated from there.
Thankfully, Dany adds, her father is a