Albion scarf on Eric Clapton’s “Backless” LP cover [Photo: Alan Hill]Back in the late ‘70s and early ‘80s one of the bunch of lads I used to hang out with was an English lecturer called Pete. We were part of a group of guys who used to get together at the Queen’s Park Pub in Bournemouth every Friday night, the core of which was a 5-a-side football team and members of Christchurch rowing club. It was a great mix of characters from all backgrounds, from early 20s to middle aged. We used to drink and play darts until closing time and then move on to night clubs in the town centre. We would then move on to Bob’s flat until the early hours. His pretty partner and eventual wife said that I was the most polite drunk she had ever met. No violence or really bad behaviour but we knew how to enjoy ourselves. The stories from those nights could fill a book on their own, Men Behaving Badly with knobs on. Back to Pete; he was a Brummie and a member of the Bournemouth branch of the West Bromwich Albion Supporters’ Club. We were the sort that could enjoy our rival commitments to different teams and give and take stick but it was all civilised, friendly, respectful rivalry. Just how it should be. Those were the days.
I remember one year, (I’ve had to look it up in Tottenham Hotspur, the Complete Record – it was October 7, 1978) Pete invited me and fellow Spurs die-hard, Paul, to travel to the Hawthorns for a League game against Ron Atkinson’s Baggies. That was one of the most attractive and successful West Brom teams ever. They were flying high in the 1st Division and had the great Cyrille Regis at centre forward, Laurie Cunningham on the wing and Bryan Robson, the future Manchester United and England legend in midfield. They finished 3rd that year with 59 points. Spurs on the other hand were struggling by comparison and ended up 11th with 41.
We travelled to Birmingham in the West Brom supporters’ coach which was like a Ford Transit. From memory it had some transverse bench seats in the back and was stocked with crates of cans of beer for the return trip. Whilst a few of the WBA supporters didn’t seem too comfortable with the idea of two Spurs fans on the coach, it helped with costs and the atmosphere was pretty genial all the way up there.
Eric Clapton’s “Backless” LP [Photo: Alan Hill]I was having a good day well before the match kicked off. We were there to see the Spurs coach arrive and one of my abiding memories is of Steve Perryman climbing off the coach and looking straight at me, presumably because I stood out as a Spurs supporter amongst a sea of black and white. He looked me right in the eye from about 10 feet away and gave me a smile and a two fingered V for victory, or peace sign. It was definitely that, not the other sort of two fingered sign. I thought that was a good omen.
My hero the guitarist Eric Clapton, a West Brom supporter, was also at the game. Paul and I were invited into the West Brom Supporters’ Club for lunch and for me it was a perfect build up to the game.
West Brom played us off the pitch. They completely dominated the game from start to finish. Except, that is, for one move in the first 5 minutes when Peter Taylor ran down the wing and scored for Spurs. It was one of those days when our goal led a charmed life and we won 0-1. Paul and I were delighted and ever so slightly smug. The atmosphere on the return journey was not quite as genial as on the way up. We will brush over the fact that on the walk back through an industrial estate to where the van had been parked a small gang of WBA supporters launched a shower of broken bricks at us because generally, as I say everyone had been so nice up to then. Also, it was ironic that the people that they came closest to hitting were Albion fans who just happened to have driven up from down south.
Paul and I got stuck into the drinks supply when we got back to the van. Surprisingly the WBA supporters didn’t seem to fancy the drinks much. They were gutted. That’s OK, all the more for us! We polished off most of their booze and got more and more “relaxed” all the way back to Bournemouth. I think we may have treated them to some singing. I could feel the seething resentment in the air but thanks to the drink, didn’t give a monkeys.
Looking back, even the next morning, I was – and still am amazed that they did not just push us out the back of the van and leave us to hitch. It may have been something to do with the fact that in those days Paul used to say I had arms like car tyres! I was harmless enough though, honest. For us, it was a great day out with a great bunch of guys. Thanks lads. It’s good to see West Brom playing such attractive football again and having lain to rest their yo-yo club image. Thirty five years on, this time may the best team win.The Glory of Spurs by Jim Duggan
7th October, 1978 at the Hawthorns
By chance, I’ve been reading through Jim Duggan’s book, The Glory of Spurs and in the section on ‘Eight Instances of Goalkeeping Heroics’, he has included Barry Daines’ performance at the Hawthorns.
‘A struggling Spurs side were expected to get very little from the Hawthorns against a high-class Albion containing ‘the Three Degrees’, Cyrille Regis, Laurie Cunningham and Brendan Batson. An early Peter Taylor goal put Spurs in front, and despite wave after wave of WBA attacks, Spurs held firm with the much-maligned keeper on top form, making a series of outstanding saves to help Spurs hold on to an important win.’
Over to You!
What memories do you have of matches against WBA?