Bobby Atherton

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Bobby Atherton
Personal information
Full name Robert Atherton
Date of birth (1876-07-29)29 July 1876[1]
Place of birth Bethesda, Gwynedd, Wales[2]
Date of death 19 October 1917(1917-10-19) (aged 41)[3]
Playing position Midfielder
Youth career
Dalry Primrose[3]
Senior career*
Years Team Apps (Gls)
1897 Heart of Midlothian
1897–1903 Hibernian[3] 75 (25)
1903–1906 Middlesbrough 60 (13)
1906 Chelsea 0 (0)
National team
1899–1905 Wales[1] 9 (2)
* Senior club appearances and goals counted for the domestic league only.

Robert "Bobby" Atherton (29 July 1876 – 19 October 1917) was a Welsh international association football player, who played as a midfielder and forward for Heart of Midlothian, Hibernian, Middlesbrough and Chelsea in the late 1890s and early 1900s.


Although he was born in north Wales, Atherton grew up in Scotland.[3] After spells with Dalry Primrose and Hearts, Atherton signed for Hibs at the start of the 1897–98 season.[3] Atherton was a versatile player who could play in a number of positions in midfield and the forward line.[3] He won his first cap for Wales in a 1899 British Home Championship match against Ireland, and he also played against England that year.[3]

Atherton captained the Hibs side that won the 1902 Scottish Cup,[3] the last time Hibs have won that competition until 2016.[4] Hibs' 1–0 win against Celtic in the Cup Final was thanks in part to Atherton deceiving the Celtic defence by shouting for them to "leave the ball" in a Glasgow accent.[4][5] The Celtic defence duly complied, which allowed Andy McGeachen to score the only goal of the game.[4][5] He then captained the Hibs side that won the 1903 league championship, the first in the club's history. He also played in all of Wales' matches in the 1903 British Home Championship.[3]


Atherton was transferred to Middlesbrough in 1903, and he became the first Middlesbrough player to win international honours.[3] He also scored his two international goals while with Middlesbrough. The first was in a 1–1 draw with Scotland at Dens Park,[6][7] and the second was in a 2–2 draw against Ireland during his ninth and last international appearance.[8] Atherton made 66 appearances in all for Middlesbrough and became club captain.[9]

Later life and death[edit]

Atherton retired from playing football after a short spell with Chelsea and he subsequently moved back to Edinburgh, becoming a steward in the Merchant Navy.[3] Atherton was presumed dead in October 1917 after his ship disappeared without trace,[2] either due to a mine or enemy action.[3]


  • Lugton, Alan (1999). The Making of Hibernian 1. John Donald Publishers Ltd. ISBN 0-85976-509-1.