Posts Tagged ‘West Brom’

When The Three Degrees Met the Three Degrees


The Six Degrees: The guys and gals get acquainted

by Karl Hofer.

Laurie Cunningham, Brendon Batson and Cyrille Regis were three exciting and gifted footballers, and back in 1979 they were the catalyst behind West Bromich Albion challenging for major honours once more.

They also happened to be black.

It is difficult to imagine now, but three non-white players in the same team was a highly unusual sight, certainly in the UK at least.

So with a trio of black singers known as The Three Degrees enjoying a period of great success in the charts with hits like When Will I See You AgainThe Runner, it seemed perfectly natural to nickname the players after the group.

When the group toured the UK a photoshoot was hastily organised at Aston Villa striker Andy Gray’s new nightclub, the Holy City Zoo, in which players and singers posed uncomfortably together. At the time, it appeared sweet, a little staged but innocent for the most part.

But the achievements of the footballing trio eventually worked wonders in terms of race relations and their part in highlighting race issues in Britain should not be forgotten.

Former team-mate Bryan Robson said: ‘We went to the opening of Andy Gray’s nightclub and Cyrille, Brendon and Laurie were there. So were the American supergroup, The Three Degrees. It was too good a photo opportunity to miss. Albion’s black players posed with the girls and from that moment on, we had our own Three Degrees.

‘I’m convinced that stunt helped break down prejudice. At the time, I remember away supporters leaving hundreds of banana skins at the Smethwick End. We have come a long way since then.’

West Brom had qualified for the UEFA Cup that season, earning a mouth-watering tie against Valencia and Argentinian World Cup winning superstar Mario Kempes in the Mestalla Stadium.

‘It was the match that earned Laurie Cunningham his move to Real Madrid,’ recalled Tony ‘Bomber’ Brown, who scored a staggering 218 goals from midfield.

‘There was no-one to touch him at that time. He was graceful. He used to glide over the pitch. He absolutely tormented Valencia’s right back.

‘All of a sudden, we were sitting there in the second half when Laurie received the ball. Hundreds of oranges started raining down on to the pitch. Their crowd had got that fed up with Laurie, they were pelting him with fruit!

‘One of the lads pointed it out to him afterwards and he said with a wry smile, “I suppose it makes a change from bananas…”.’

West  Bromwich Albion footballers Laurie Cunningham (2nd left) and Cyrille Regis with the American singers The Three Degrees in the VIP area at the Holy City Zoo nightclub in Birmingham, 7th April 1979. Left-right: Helen Scott, Laurie Cunningham, Valerie Holiday, Cyrille Regis and Sheila Ferguson. The Holy City Zoo was owned by Aston Villa Footballer Andy Gray. (Photo by Bob Thomas/Getty Images)

West Bromwich Albion footballers Laurie Cunningham (2nd left) and Cyrille Regis with the American singers The Three Degrees in the VIP area at the Holy City Zoo nightclub in Birmingham, 7th April 1979. Left-right: Helen Scott, Laurie Cunningham, Valerie Holiday, Cyrille Regis and Sheila Ferguson. The Holy City Zoo was owned by Aston Villa Footballer Andy Gray. (Photo by Bob Thomas/Getty Images)




Goals Aplenty Between Baggies & The Red Devils
West Brom’s 3-5 Win Remembered

by Rob Shepherd.

You only have to go back to the final day of the season before last for a memorable West Brom and Manchester United encounter when they played out one of the most memorable matches between the two clubs down the years and one of the more remarkable on the Premier League era.

It was the occasion of Sir Alex Ferguson’s last game and United, already crowned champions, were strolling home 5-2 only for Albion to storm back and draw 5-5.

Older Baggies fans though will still suggest that the their best ever display against United came at Old Trafford in 1978.

Albion stunned United with a tour de force of cavalier football, Laurie Cunningham and Cyrille Regis leading the charge with some devastating play, brimming with panache and pace, as Albion won 5-3.

The mastermind was manager Ron Atkinson who would go on to manage United the following season and of course Albion’s midfield driving force that day was a certain Bryan Robson, who would follow Big Ron to Old Trafford.

Have a look at this;



West Bromich Albion v Manchester United, Monday October 20th, 8pm KO.

For those who believe lightening can strike twice then Betfair offer 400/1 for a 5-5 draw between Albion and United on Monday night. Corals offer a rather conservative 150/1 for a 5-3 Man Utd win.

PaddyPower have the draw at 3/1 and for the first scorer offer Van Persie and Falcao both at 4/1 with Di Maria at 13/2. The Baggies Berahino is well priced at 8/1 to open the scoring.

BOBBY’S BET OF THE DAY: I will have a little flutter on United winning 3-1 at 14/1.


Sir Bobby Robson: Brave Player, Great Coach… But Most of All a True Gent

sirbobbyrobsonBookCoverToday is Bobby Robson day.

It is five years since Sir Robert died.

The FA has established an annual tribute day to remember the great man and also support the Bobby Robson cancer trust.

Read below the fine tribute his official biographer Paul Hayward wrote in 2009. And for the whole story we recommend you buy the book (ISBN 978034 082 23477).

Sir Bobby Robson: Brave Player, Great Coach… But Most of All a True Gent.

by Paul Hayward, Sir Bobby Robson’s Official Biographer

One word captures the people’s view of Sir Bobby Robson. He was easily and universally recognised as a gentleman, which was no small feat in a sport with an increasingly wonky moral compass.

The two elder statesmen of our national game have been the two Sir Bobbys: Charlton for his achievements on the field and his ambassadorial aura, and Robson for his endless love of coaching and being around players.


Sir Bobby Robson and his wife Elsie.

Robson’s nirvana was a 7am alarm call and a cup of tea with his beloved wife Elsie followed by a long and intense session on the training pitch. The medical records are unavailable, but many suspect he was born in a tracksuit.

He could be profound, fierce, angry, sad, insightful and entertaining in a single answer. Often he would illustrate his point by turning the kitchen into a training pitch.

With a fine comic sense and an actor’s gift for delivery, Bobby would set off on a tale about how, on foreign trips, he would write the name of the Ipswich team hotel on the shirt cuffs of chairman John Cobbold, who was partial to a wander and a drink.

Then he would recall how the great Corinthian of the boardroom would tell him after a defeat: ‘Bobby, today it wasn’t our turn, but we’ve given the other team the pleasure of winning. That’s something.’

Robson would chuckle at that. The idea of losing charitably was anathema to him, because behind the avuncular exterior he was demonic in pursuit of success. Yet he also understood the value of civility and honour in an industry of careerists and carve-ups.

One morning I arrived at his London home to find him frantically calling a local radio station and failing to get through. He said he had been ringing for almost an hour but had succeeded only in listening to countless bars of Mozart.

‘Why?’ was the obvious question. It turned out that a stranger on a bike had stopped him in the street the day before and told him that if he (Sir Bobby) called the radio station and vouched for the celebrity sighting, a sum of money would go to charity while the cyclist would be eligible for a £1,000 prize draw.

On the back of this chance collision with a stranger, Robson was quite willing to spend the whole morning trying to report the meeting so the charity would get its money and the young man would have a chance of scooping the pot.


Bobby Robson playing for Fulham in 1953.

Walking 100 yards with him would take an hour, because builders would come down from scaffolding and taxi drivers would halt to salute him. Sure, they admired his achievements on the football field, but the deeper attraction was his decency, his consideration for others.

He had an ego like the rest of them. No manager could survive almost 40 years in the dugout without one. There was a hardness about him, too: a product, perhaps, of his early years below ground in the Durham coalfields.

He could be severe with players or journalists who crossed him. He also had a keen sense of his own market value. An initial offer of £400,000 a year in 1999 to manage Newcastle was rejected on the grounds that Alan Shearer was then earning around £3million. As the negotiations opened, Robson would not allow his love for the club to override his professional pride.

Acquisitive though he was, he would never trample on others to reach the top, or forget that manners are one of the simplest and most lasting measures of a man. In one sense, his was a career of nearmisses.

As a player he spent most of his 17 years among the rakes and rogues of Fulham: a fun-loving club where an injured player would be turfed off the treatment table to accommodate a team-mate’s greyhound who needed urgent physio for a race at the weekend.


Robson guided England to the semi-finals of the World Cup

With England, Robson was injured before the 1962 World Cup, which opened the door to a certain Bobby Moore, and looked back with anguish at his narrow failure to make the victorious 1966 squad. His 20 caps were no consolation as Moore lifted the trophy.

Robson said: ‘I confess I gritted my teeth and shook my head. I was in the top division with Fulham. I felt I could handle anyone. I could have played that day in 1966.’

As England manager he survived eight years and was denied a World Cup final appearance by a penalty shootout in the semi-finals of Italia 90.

In 1986 in Mexico, he preferred to ascribe Diego Maradona’s infamous goal to the ‘hand of a rascal’. But after tolerating vicious personal abuse with characteristic grace, he left the England job as the country’s most successful manager since Sir Alf Ramsey, by virtue of that World Cup semi-final.

The pattern was repeated in large parts of his managerial career. At Ipswich, where he worked miracles in a sleepy Suffolk town, he won the UEFA and FA Cups but missed out several times on the English league championship.

At Portman Road, he was the unofficial lord of Suffolk, running the club from top to bottom while the Cobbolds sipped their gins and tonic and upheld sporting values from a vanished age.

He won league titles in Holland and Portugal, but finished second with Barcelona in his only year at the Nou Camp (1996-97).  Typically, though, he assembled a Barca side who scored 137 times and won two cups. Another of Robson’s enduring legacies is his devotion to adventurous, attacking football.

Robson lifts the UEFA Cup

Robson lifts the UEFA Cup

For him, football had a duty to excite. His teams expressed his character: energetic, fun, indefatigable. He was too proud to admit it publicly, but his time at Newcastle United scarred him to his bones.

When chairman Freddy Shepherd sacked him four games into the 2004-05 season, it’s no exaggeration to say Robson entered a period of bereavement. Many of us wondered whether he would ever recover from being first undermined and then fired by the club he had queued to watch as a small boy with his father immediately after the war.

‘I’ve been sacked for finishing fifth,’ he would complain. ‘Fifth! In my last three seasons there we finished fourth, third and fifth!’
He left it to others to point out that Newcastle then came home in 14th place in Graeme Souness’s first season in charge.

Robson’s five years on Tyneside cast an unflattering light on the modern footballer and he was frequently bemused by the antics of Kieron Dyer and Craig Bellamy, who got into a fist fight with Sir Bobby’s No 2 in a departure lounge on the way to a European game. He was baffled by the superstar lifestyle, the egocentricity of some modern players.

Robson, after all, had travelled home by train and bus after playing for England in front of 80,000 spectators at Wembley. He vividly remembered having to take his shoes off to ease his blisters as he limped the final few yards from the bus stop after scoring for England against Scotland in 1961.

It was not that he romanticised the era of dubbin and modest wages. More that he always thought the game was more precious than any material gain it might bring. Though the Newcastle experience broke his heart, retirement was unthinkable. It would have separated him from who and what he was.

And yes, he did occasionally struggle with names, however much he objected privately to people thinking he muddled them up. Once or twice he called me Peter. But I didn’t mind. He could have called me anything. To me he represented most of what is great about football. More importantly, he was an inspiration as a man.


Sir Bobby Robson, 1933 - 2009.

Sir Bobby Robson, 1933 – 2009.

“I’m a Substitute for Another Guy”
WHO were the first substitutes to appear and score in a Cup Final?

by Richard Bowdery.

Today the use of substitutes is an integral part football and the FA Cup is no exception. Yet it wasn’t all that long ago when if you weren’t in the team on Cup Final day, you would have no chance of playing in the end of season showpiece.

First ever substitute

Dennis Clarke

Dennis Clarke

That changed in the 1968 Final played on 18 May when West Bromwich Albion faced Everton at Wembley.

The only goal of the game was scored by West Brom’s Jeff Astle in the first period of extra time which forever etched him into Baggies folklore.

But the real history making event occurred when West Brom defender Dennis Clarke came on to replace the injured John Kaye. He was the first substitute to be used in an FA Cup Final.

And you have to go almost as far back to find the first substitute to score in a Final.

First scoring substitute
On a barmy day in May 1971 Arsenal lined up against Liverpool. A win would complete a dramatic double – League and FA Cup winners – for the Gunners, the first club to achieve it since Spurs a decade earlier.

Arsenal fell behind to a Steve Heighway opener for Liverpool in extra time. But parity was restored when Arsenal substitute, Eddie Kelly, steered a George Graham shot across the line in the 101st minute.

Charlie George fired the winner past a despairing Ray Clemence. George’s siesta after scoring will be forever remembered by the Gooners at Wembley and those watching the match on TV.

Quiz organisers
If you organise quiz competitions and are stuck for a decent footballing question, this information on Cup Final substitutes should provide the answer.

Until next time
This column is taking a well-deserved rest and will be back at the start of next season (although it may feature during the World Cup next month).

So, with apologies to the late, great Brian Moore, “Goodbye and thank you for reading.”

See you next season!

Man City: League Cup Winners
A barometer of English football’s changing face

by Richard D J J Bowdery

Yesterday (2 March) Manchester City won the League Cup for the third time in four final appearances when they beat Sunderland 3-1. But if you cast your mind back to 1970 you will notice a startling difference between the City team then and now.

All England…almost
On 7 March, 44 years ago, Manchester City took to the field at Wembley against West Bromwich Albion in the 10th League Cup Final.

City won that match 2-1 with goals scored by Mike Doyle and Glyn Pardoe; West Brom’s consolation came from Jeff Astle.

But it was City’s line up that day which proved the greatest contrast to the team that took to the lush turf of Wembley for yesterday’s final.

Back in 1970 the team that lined up for the kick-off comprised off 10 Englishmen and only one ‘Johnny’ foreigner, well Scottish actually so I guess that would make him ‘Jocky’ foreigner. Even the substitute (only one per team back then) and manager were English.

The eleven who lifted the cup that day, managed by Joe Mercer, were:


Mike Doyle celebrates his equalising goal against West Brom in the 1970 League Cup final. Man City won 2 – 1 after extra time

Joe Corrigan (in goal)
Tony Book (c)
Arthur Mann (Scotland)
Mike Doyle
Tommy Booth
Alan Oakes
George Heslop
Colin Bell
Mike Summerbee
Francis Lee
Glyn Pardoe

Ian Bowyer

Interestingly there were four Scotsmen in West Brom’s side that day, with a Welshman as substitute.

Four years after their first win they faced Wolverhampton Wanderers in the final. They could not match their heroics of 1970 and went down 2-1. Hibbitt scored for Wolves in the first half. City’s Bell drew the team’s level with a goal in the 59th minute. But John Richards sealed a Wolves victory, scoring the winner five minutes from time.

This time there were three ‘foreigners’ in an otherwise all England City side. Ron Saunders from Cheshire was City’s manager.

In 1976 Manchester City once again found themselves in the final, this time up against Newcastle United with Malcolm McDonald spearheading the Magpies attack.

City won 2-1, the same final score as their previous two appearances. A goal from number 7 Barnes and a wonderful overhead effort from Dennis Tueart in the second half, sealed the match, with Gowling getting Newcastle’s solitary reply.

Only two ‘foreigners’ made the starting eleven that day.

In the boardroom
During City’s League Cup appearances in the 70’s the predominately English boardroom reflected the team on the pitch.

Albert Alexander was the chairman as the sixties turned into the seventies. Around this time the board faced a power struggle, ignited by deputy-chairman Frank Johnson’s decision to sell most of his shareholding.

The tussle that followed convinced Johnson not to sell and the status quo resumed; that is until ill-health force Albert to relinquish the reins. His son Eric replaced him as chairman.

By the time City lost at Wembley to Wolves a new face lead the business side of the club: Peter Swales. This change was brought about by Eric’s decision to step-down.

Throughout the time of these League Cup appearances the City boardroom was largely English. But it was their lack of success on the pitch under Swales tenure as chairman which led to a revolt by the fans who wanted Swales out. They duly got their wish in 1994 when former City forward Francis Lee, self-made millionaire, purchased £3 million of shares. Swales was ousted, never to return.

In hindsight that revolt could be seen as the catalyst that took Manchester City from being a British run, predominantly English team to the club that now graces the Premiership.

By September 2008 the club was bought by Sheikh Mansour, who has pumped millions into Manchester City that has seen an upturn in the club’s fortunes.

Fast-forward to 2014
Today Manchester City has undergone a massive facelift and is, in many respects, unrecognisable from the club that last reached a Wembley League Cup Final.

Not only has it relocated from its spiritual home at Maine Road, the make-up of the boardroom, dugout and team is dominated by foreign imports.

In City’s starting eleven yesterday there was not one Englishman. The team City fielded was:


City players celebrate their Cup success, achieved with no English input

Pantilimon (in goal)
Yaya Touré

Three of the six substitutes (only one allowed in the 70’s remember) were English but manager Manuel Pellegrini didn’t involve any of them in his three second half substituions.

Who benefits?
Is this good for the game? I guess it depends upon your point of view. I’m sure most City fans to a man would say it is, following their Premiership title, FA Cup win and now their third League Cup success. So, I suspect, would the fans of Chelsea, Tottenham, Arsenal, Liverpool, and Manchester United.

But those battling for Premiership survival without the millions to invest in top class players would probably disagree.

And if you are playing below the top tier of English football how can you get to the top table and stay there longer than the aperitif?

You could ask that cash-in-hand plasterer, Loadsamoney for a wad. Or find yourself a billionaire looking for a new toy to play with.

But what about the England national team. There is an argument that with so many foreign players plying their trade in the English game it hampers local talent.

Maybe, maybe not. Personally I don’t think England has ever fully recovered from the footballing lesson the Hungarians taught us at Wembley in November 1953.

Older readers may recall we were soundly beaten 6-3 even though Walter Winterbottom put out a decent side that day which included Stanley Matthews, Stan Mortensen, Alf Ramsey and Billy Wright.

The style of the Hungarians cultured play left those watching the game mesmerised.

Some say that was the day England’s dominance of the game crumbled, apart from the little matter of a tournament in 1966.

What is the solution?
I think it is too simplistic to say limit each club to a set number of foreign players. That in itself will not provide the skillful players England needs.

And don’t forget, the game is no longer about ‘bums on seats’. It’s about TV revenue, branding and global markets.

It is a world apart from the game that as it was in the 70’s.

A final thought…Just think, if Jesús Navas hadn’t scored in the 90th minute all of Manchester City’s four League Cup Final appearances would have finished with the same scoreline, 2-1.

Martin in Jol-lier times…

Martin Jol  -  West Bromwich Albion

(Photo by Bob Thomas/Getty Images)

Martin Jol joined the ever growing list of managers who have lost their jobs already this season when Fulham dismissed him earlier this month after a string of poor performances.

Our photo of him captures him in happier times; it’s November 1981 and the Dutch midfielder has just joined West Bromich Albion, and he’s posing with a ball next to a sign that bears his name (sort of).

After the astonishing sacking of Steve Clarke could the Jol-ly fella end up back at the Hawthorns as their new boss..?

It’s certainly a possibility…



Can Bale come close to the Black Prince of the Bernebau..?


Ole! Bale gives Real fans a glimpse of what they can expect

by Rob Shepherd.

Gareth Bale’s imminent move to Real Madrid elevates him to the status of Galactico, at least until the business of playing the game, rather than the transfer roulette table, starts.

Many in Spain have already cast doubt about the wisdom of the Spanish club spending so much (in the region of £86 million) on the back of just two exhilarating seasons for Tottenham.

A big fish from a small pool? Few if any see him as remotely in the class of Cristiano Ronaldo or for that matter Brazilian Neymar, a player Madrid courted but who opted to sign for Barcelona for a transfer fee of ‘just’ £49million this summer.

And off the pitch it’s difficult to imagine how Bale can match either on the commercial front especially when it comes to selling shirts, a significant factor in the mega money that has been spent on the 24 year old Welshman.

After all – and this is not Bale’s fault of course – this is a player who won’t be playing at the World Cup finals next summer.

A Lot to Prove

While there are many who will argue that David Beckham never really lived up to the billing of Galactico on the pitch, he overwhelmingly did deliver for Madrid when it came to flogging merchandise, especially in the Far East.


Beckham: Sold shirts. Oh, and he played a bit as well

So Bale has to hit the ground running if he is to win over some of the most demanding and influential fans in the world.

On that front he is hindered by the fact that he has not had a proper pre-season because of injury and the protracted transfer saga.

The pressure on Bale is not helped when the money involved in his move has been dismissed by Barcelona’s coach Gerado Martino as “A lack of respect for the world we live in.”

If he doesn’t produce magic from the off – by definition Galactico’s have to be more than just star turns – then he could suffer in the way Michael Owen did whose move from Liverpool proved a disaster.

Jonathan Woodgate is one of five British players to preceede Bale at the Bernebau but he probably remains baffled how he ever ended up there in the first place.

The Other Two ?

Well, Steve McManaman did better than most think and has two European Cup winners’ medals and a great goal in one of the finals as evidence.

And there was the first: Laurie Cunningham.

It was in the summer of 1979 that Cunningham moved from West Bromwich Albion to Real Madrid for what was then the staggering fee of £950,000.

He was an instant hit. In his first season Cunningham, who like Bale was just 24 when he joined the club, helped Madrid win a league and cup double.

Although a sequence of injuries undermined him thereafter, Cunningham remains a legend among the Madrid fans of that era.

Spain’s current national coach Vicente del Bosque puts Cunningham into huge context by comparing him favourably with Cristiano Ronaldo.

Del Bosque says: “I don’t think his qualities were any less than Cristiano Ronaldo.

“He came to Real Madrid after having played a great game against Valencia for West Bromwich Albion in the UEFA Cup, and Madrid viewed him as one of the most distinguished players in Europe.

“I think that was a period in Madrid’s history where there weren’t many international signings and the club made a big effort, financially, to sign Laurie, to sign a star because all of the rest of us were from the youth team.

“Truly, he was fast and agile, very dynamic, had a good shot and he could head well.”


Cunningham was good enough for Real Madrid but not for England apparently

Although Cunningham was the first black player to represent England when he played for the under 21 side in 1977 he was shockingly overlooked by Ron Greenwood, not just because of some injuries but because he had opted to play in Spain and made just six full international appearances.

As former England star John Barnes points out, Cunningham was not just ahead of his time in terms of breaking down racial barriers in English football but also in terms of the way he played, which despite race issues in Spain still made him so popular in Madrid.

“He was probably ahead of his time in English football in terms of the way he played, not just as a black English player” says Barnes.

“I suppose that Laurie didn’t really have the impact for England that he should have had. For a winger to have played with the flamboyance that he did, also to come in field and do what he did, he was like Cristiano Ronaldo.

“I mean, this Fancy Dan with all of these tricks and skills, everybody loves that now but Laurie was doing that back in the ’70s. He was standing on the ball, and rolling his foot over the ball, but he wasn’t appreciated because that wasn’t what the good old English players do. We just get stuck in…”

Bale does a bit more than get stuck in but it remains to be seen whether his style, based on surging runs rather than subtle chicanery, and over reliance on his left foot will come close to wooing the fans like Cunningham did or Ronaldo does.

Cunningham returned to England in the mid-Eighties but then drifted around Europe until ending his career with Wimbledon.


Laurie Cunningham: 1956-1989

Having graced the Bernebau, playing at Plough Lane really was a case of shifting from Culture Club to the Crazy Gang. But there was a bonus; Cunningham, who began his career with east London club Orient, picked up an FA Cup winners medal coming on as substitute in the 1988 final victory over Liverpool.

Tragically Laurie Cunningham, who had returned to live in Madrid, died in a car crash the following summer. He was just 33.


Coming soon; History of the Galacticos.