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West Bromwich FC

West Bromwich FC Information

Address:   The Hawthorns, WEST BROMWICH. B71 4LF
Telephone: (0121) 525 8888
Fax: (0121) 553 6634
Founded: 1878
Stadium: The Hawthorns
Website: www.wba.co.uk
   
 

West Bromwich FC History

West Bromwich Albion Football Club is an English football club formed by workers from Salter's Spring Works in West Bromwich, West Midlands in 1878.

This famous football club was one of the original founder members of the English Football League. Although not as fashionable as some other English football teams, over the years 'The Albion' has made a great contribution to football. It was the first English team to play in Russia and then a couple of decades later the first English team to play in China. During the Chinese tour, one player was asked what he thought of the Great Wall, his famous reply was "You've seen one wall, you've seen them all". Their original nickname,'The Throstles' originated because they had a thrush on their shirt badges. The more colloquial nickname and the more popular one is 'the Baggies'. There are several theories for how this name may have originated, a popular one being that the team wore unfashionably long shorts at one stage.

Inter-war and the championship (1919 - 1939)

The war-time diaspora of a promising young team did not stop individuals from remaining active footballers in charity matches, amateur teams and regional leagues. When normal competition resumed in 1919, the team was prepared and ready for the new start and achieved the club's only league title in 1920. However, subsequent seasons were a disappointment as Pennington retired and the side started to break up. The mediocity was only alleviated by a second place in the league in the season 1925/1925 when they were narrowly beaten to the title by Herbert Chapman's phenomenal Huddersfield Town F.C..

The year 1926 saw relegation to the second division. Ironically, relegation enabled an achievement which is, as of 2004, unique in English football. In 1931 the club won both the FA Cup and promotion back to the top flight. The club were only deprived of the second division championship by the goal-scoring exploits of Dixie Dean of Everton F.C..

Though the same players who had won promotion performed creditably in the first division during the 1930s, the death of Billy Bassett in 1937 marked the end of a footballing era. As the team again entered a period of reconstruction, Albion were relegated in 1938. With the 1939/1940 season only a few games old, World War II broke out and football was suspended.

Post-war renaissance (1945 - 1963)

Once normal league competition was resumed in 1946 (the 1945/46 season had been organised on a regional basis) Albion remained stuck in the Second Division. The turning point arrived with the retirement of Everiss in 1948. Unlike most other contemporary clubs, Albion had yet to implement the modern role of a coach or manager. Everiss was the club's principle commercial administrator and delivered the pre-match talk. The board selected the team. Kicking a football played no part in training which was for fitness alone. Albion's first modern manager was Jack Smith who took the team back to the First Division in 1949. As England emerged into an era of post-war prosperity, a talented new squad started to develop, marked by the arrival of Ronnie Allen in 1950, scoring against Wolverhampton Wanderers F.C. on his home debut in front of a crowd of 60,000.

However, the board were frustrated by the lack of trophies and Smith was dismissed in 1952. Radically, Smith was replaced by Juventus coach Jesse Carver who introduced football into training. Though Carver was soon to be seduced back to Italy by S.S. Lazio, his eight months in charge were a defining moment for the club. His replacement, Vic Buckingham, recruited from the amateur leagues, inherited an intelligent well-co-ordinated team, playing a flowing syle of attacking football that he was to build upon. The season 1953/1954 saw Albion win the FA Cup and finish second in the league, behind Wolverhampton Wanderers F.C., narrowly missing out on the first English double of the 20th century.

The next couple of seasons were, in football terms, an anticlimax for the club. However, they also saw the arrival of players Don Howe, Derek Kevan and Bobby Robson. From 1957 to 1961, the team played an attractive, imaginative and stylish brand of attacking football that never quite materialised into a trophy. In the season 1957/1958, Allen, Kevan and Robson scored 78 goals between them. With Buckingham's departure to Ajax in 1959, the club saw another decline, Jimmy Hagan being recruited to arrest the slide in 1963.

Astle and after (1964 - 1977)

September 1964 saw the arrival of striker Jeff Astle from Notts County F.C.. Over the next decade, Astle was to become the club's most iconic player ever. The club was already feeling the dramatic social changes of the 1960s, tangibly through falling attendancies and the end of the players' maximum wage. Hagan was, despite the spirit of the times, a martinet on the training ground and frequently bred conflict with a playing squad beginning to enjoy the decade's economic and social freedoms. However, he shrewdly built the team in personnel and skill, leading them to a League Cup triumph in 1966.

The following season was a hollow disappointment with Albion losing in the final of the League Cup to Third Division Queens Park Rangers F.C., making an early exit from their first European campaign and struggling to maintain their place in the First Division. Had Hagan had more friends at the Hawthorns, he might have been given time to fix the problems but, in 1967, he was replaced by Alan Ashman. Ashman led Albion to FA Cup victory in 1968, Astle becoming the first player to score in every round, but subsequently, despite some exciting cup runs, the manager could not deliver the trophies the club craved.

Don Howe seemed the perfect replacement for Ashman when he arrived as manager in 1971. A former Albion player, he had just coached Arsenal FC to their league and cup double and was regarded as one of the games foremost theoreticians. However, theory proved no match for practice, the club being relegated to the Second Division in 1973. Failure to achieve promotion back the following season and the departure of Astle in 1974 seemed to presage a gloomy future. Fortuitiously, Albion was gifted by the short leaderships of Johnny Giles and Ronnie Allen who began the work of rebuilding the team. Sadly, the club was insuffucently ambitious and prescient to work hard at securing either's long term-services.

The Atkinson era (1978 - 1981)

When unknown young manager Ron Atkinson arrived at the club in 1978, he inherited a team that already included youth-team graduate Bryan Robson and the young, gifted and black pair of Laurie Cunningham and Cyrille Regis, both acquired inexpensively from lower divisions.

Aware that he had the makings of a great team, he augmented it by bringing Brendan Batson from his former club Cambridge United F.C.. Never before had an English team simultaneously fielded three black players and the Three Degrees, as they became known in reference to the contemporary vocal trio of the same name, challenged the established racism of English football and marked a watershed that allowed a generation of footballers to enter the game who would previously have been excluded by their ethnic background.

Atkinson's team played some of the most exciting football in England during his term at the club but, as early as 1978, the board allowed the playing talent to start slipping away, Cunningham's move to Real Madrid marking the start of the trend. The club managed 3rd and 4th places in the First Division and, more than once, reached the semi-finals of the FA Cup but trophies narrowly eluded them.

Following the tragic death of director Tom Silk in a plane crash, the club fell again under the conservative leadership of Bert Millichip and Atkinson, despairing of the support he needed to build and maintain a winning team, took the vacant manager's post at Manchester United F.C. in the summer of 1981.

Decline and fall (1982 - 1999)

Ronnie Allen returned to The Hawthorns in the summer of 1981, a surprise choice to replace Atkinson. Immediately he was encouraged by the board to sell two of his prize assets, Bryan Robson and Remi Moses, who departed for Manchester United in a new British transfer record deal of 2.5m. Their replacements were Martin Jol and Andy King, and for a while, things looked rosy, as Albion reached the semi-finals of both domestic cups. However, the usual post-Christmas slump saw the side needing to win its final home game, against Leeds United, to stop up. The game was won 2-0, and Leeds were relegated instead. At the end of the season, Allen was 'kicked upstairs' and Coventry City coach Ron Wylie took over. He stopped the slide, for a while, but a falling out between his head coach, Mick Kelly, and his players, led to his resignation in 1985. In came the 'A Team' - Johnny Giles, Norman Hunter and Nobby Stiles. They reversed the sinking trend in the 1983-84 season - although, disastrously, they lost their first game, at home to Third Division Plymouth, in the FA Cup - and things improved the following year.

The seeds of collapse were being sown however. Financial difficulties at the club forced Giles to sell Cyrille Regis to lighten the wage bill. Other players followed for the same reason and were generally inadequately replaced. By October 1985, it was looking grim for the club and Giles was replaced by his assistant Nobby Stiles. Stiles lasted only a few months before being replaced by Ron Saunders. By this time, Albion were finished, bottom of the table and certain to be relegated.

Saunders was instructed to cut costs so the club could survive in Division 2. As a result, he sold off all of the experienced Division 1 players and replaced them with players from Divisions 2 and 3. This was a disastrous policy, and Albion soon found themselves struggling to avoid relegation from Division 2. These poor results, combined with the unattractive style of football that Saunders favoured, meant that another managerial change was not far away.

Atkinson returned to Albion in the summer of 1987 and halfway through his second season at the club they led the Second Division table, looking all set from promotion. But Atkinson was lured away to Athletico Madrid and his successor Brian Talbot was unable to secure even a playoff place in the final table. And from then on things went from bad to worse, and Talbot was dismissed in January 1991 after Albion lost 4-2 at home to non league Woking in the F.A Cup Third Round. He was replaced by Bobby Gould, who three seasons earlier had won the F.A Cup with Wimbledon, but the managerial change was not enough to prevent Albion from being relegated to the Third Division for the first time in their history. After Albion failed to qualify for the Third Division playoffs in 1991-92, Gould moved to Coventry City and was replaced by the former Swindon Town and Newcastle United manager Osvaldo Ardiles.

Ardiles was in charge at Albion for one season before becoming manager of Tottenham, but he guided them to victory over Port Vale in the 1992-93 playoff final of the new Division Two.

Albion turned to the former Tottenham manager Keith Burkenshaw as replacement for Ardiles. He had won the F.A Cup two years in a row with Tottenham in the early 1980's but his spell at the Hawthorns was a huge disappointment. Albion only survived relegation back to Division Two at the end of 1993-94 because they had scored more goals than their nearest rivals, Birmingham City. Burkenshaw was sacked soon after that, and replaced by the Grimsby manager Alan Buckley.

Under Alan Buckley, Albion's league form was consistently well below average - but just enough to keep them safe from relegation. In October 1995 they were second in Division One and hopeful of automatic promotion. But then came a drastic loss of form over the next 14 games which saw them lose 13 games, draw one and win none. One point out of a possible 42. They looked set to be relegated to Division Two, but a big improvement in form during the final four months of the 1995-96 season saw them climb to mid table. It was also the first time in seven years that they had finished lower than their deadly rivals Wolverhampton Wanderers (who finished 20th).

Buckley was sacked in January 1997 and replaced by Ray Harford. Harford had previously been manager or assistant manager of Fulham, Luton Town, Wimbledon and Blackburn Rovers. He had won the League Cup while manager of Luton Town, and was assistant manager of the Blackburn side which won the 1995 Premiership title. But he failed to mount a promotion challenge at the Hawthorns and after less than a year in charge moved to QPR, making way for Dennis Smith.

Smith, a former manager of York City, Sunderland and Oxford United, helped Albion avoid the drop two seasons in a row but it was not enough for the Albion board and he was sacked in the summer of 1999. They appointed Brian Little as manager. Little had achieved promotion success with Darlington (twice) and Leicester City (once) as well as winning the League Cup with Aston Villa. But he was sacked the following March with Albion in real danger of relegation.

The Megson era (2000 - 2004)

Gary Megson was named as the new West Bromwich Albion manager in March 2000. He had previously been in charge at Norwich City, Blackpool, Stockport County and Stoke City, but had never achieved any real success. Many Albion fans were disappointed with the new chairman Paul Thompson because they wanted a more proven manager.

Megson's first objective was to keep Albion in Division One. A last-day win over champions Charlton Athletic meant that Albion were safe and their neighbours Walsall would be going down to Division Two. Megson then rejuvenated the side by discarding several players and bringing in a host of new signings. The transition paid off in 2000-01, when Albion qualified for the Division One promotion playoffs - their highest league finish since relegation in 1986. They lost to eventual winners Bolton Wanderers in the playoff semi finals but the fans had plenty of hope for the 2001-02 season.

With 10 games to go before the end of the 2001-02 season, Albion were 10 points behind neighbours Wolves in the Division One table. But while Wolves lost five vital games during the run-in, Albion won seven out of 10 fixtures and secured automatic promotion on the final day of the season by beating Crystal Palace at home, while Wolves could only manage a draw away to Sheffield Wednesday.

But the promotion dream which came true quickly turned into a nightmare. Chairman Paul Thompson quit the club after falling out with manager Gary Megson and new owner Jeremy Peace was unable to provide adequate transfer funds. So Albion began the 2002-03 season without any significant new squad members. They lost their first three games of the Premiership campaign and then won three in a row to occupy eighth place in the table by mid September. This gave Albion fans hope of Premiership survival. But they only won three of their next 32 Premiership fixtures and were relegated in 19th place with just 26 points, which left them 18 points adrift of safety.

2003-04 saw Albion return to the Premiership as runners-up to Norwich City, and this time everyone involved with the club was hopeful of staying up this time round. But Albion won just one of their first 11 games of the 2004-05 Premiership campaign, and Gary Megson announced he would not be renewing his contract when it expired at the end of the season. The club's board reacted by immediately terminating the remainder of his contract, and they hired former player Bryan Robson as his replacement.

Before the 2004-05 season began, West Bromwich Albion striker Lee Hughes - the club's top scorer in the promotion campaign - was jailed for six years after being convicted of causing death by dangerous driving. Nine months earlier, he had been speeding along a road near Coventry when his Mercedes was involved in a head-on collision with a Renault. Hughes and his passenger suffered minor injuries but one of the people travelled in the Renault was killed and three others were injured. Hughes fled the scene before turning himself in the next day.

As well as being sentenced to six years in prison (a sentence which he is currenly appealing to have reduced), Lee Hughes was also sacked by West Bromwich Albion. When he comes out of prison his chances of returning to top division football are slim. If he does make a return to professional football, it is likely to be in lower regions of the English football league system.

Bryan Robson began his footballing career with West Bromwich Albion in the 1970's and was a key player in their qualification for the 1980-81 UEFA Cup. He was then sold to Manchester United for a British record fee of 1.5million in the autumn of 1981 and captained the club to a host of major trophies before becoming player manager of Middlesbrough in May 1994. In seven years at Middlesbrough, he had guided them to promotion to the Premiership twice and also to three cup finals, although they had failed to win any of them. Robson had also spent the final 28 games of the 2003-04 season at Bradford City but resigned after 20 defeats saw them relegated from Division One. The big question is: can he succeed at securing West Bromwich Albion's Premiership survival and establishing them in the top flight of English football? It remains to be seen.

Recent events (2004 - )

On November 9, 2004, the appointment of Bryan Robson as manager was announced. The club's board expects him to secure West Bromwich Albion's place in the Premiership and re-establish themself as a top division team, although his task will not be easy. The ultimate priority will be to sustain Premiership survival, although it will be a difficult task.
 

West Bromwich FC Honours, Trophies & Awards

  • FA Cup Winners: 1888, 1892, 1931, 1954, 1968
  • League Cup Winners: 1966
  • League Champions: 1920
 

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