Albion were one of the founding members of The Football League in 1888 and have spent the majority of their existence in the top tier of English football. They have been champions of England only once, in 1919–20, but have had more success in the FA Cup, with five wins. The first came in 1888, the year the league was founded, and the most recent in 1968, their last major trophy. They also won the Football League Cup at the first attempt in 1966. Since the early 1980s the club has been less successful. From 1986 to 2002 they spent their longest ever period out of the top division, although there has been something of a revival in recent years: 2008–09 will be the club's fourth season in the Premier League since 2002.
The team have played in blue and white stripes for most of their history. They have a number of long-standing rivalries with other Midlands clubs; their traditional rivals were Aston Villa, but more recently their major rivalry is with Wolverhampton Wanderers, with whom they contest the Black Country derby.
In March 1888, William McGregor wrote to what he considered to be the top five English teams, including Albion, informing them of his intention to form an association of clubs that would play each other home and away each season. Thus when the Football League started later that year, Albion became one of the twelve founder members. Albion's second FA Cup success came in 1892, beating Aston Villa 3–0. They met Villa again in the 1895 final, but lost 1–0. The team suffered relegation to Division Two in 1900–01, their first season at The Hawthorns. They were promoted as champions the following season but relegated again in 1903–04. The club won the Division Two championship once more in 1910–11, and the following season reached another FA Cup Final, where they were defeated by Second Division Barnsley in a replay.
Albion won the Football League title in 1919–20 for the only time in their history following the end of the First World War, their totals of 104 goals and 60 points both breaking the previous league records. The team finished as Division One runners-up in 1924–25, narrowly losing out to Huddersfield Town, but were relegated in 1926–27. In 1930–31 they won promotion as well as the FA Cup, beating Birmingham 2–1 in the final. The "Double" of winning the FA Cup and promotion has not been achieved before or since. Albion reached the final again in 1935, losing to Sheffield Wednesday, but were relegated three years later. They gained promotion in 1948–49, and there followed the club's longest unbroken spell in the top flight of English football, a total of 24 years.
In 1953–54 Albion came close to being the first team in the 20th century to win the League and Cup double. They succeeded in winning the FA Cup, beating Preston 3–2, but a loss of form towards the end of the season meant that they finished as runners-up to fierce rivals Wolves in the league. Nonetheless, Albion became known for their brand of fluent, attacking football, with the 1953–54 side being hailed as "The Team of the Century". One national newspaper went so far as to suggest that the team be chosen en masse to represent England at the 1954 World Cup finals. They remained one of the top English sides for the remainder of the decade, reaching the semi-final of the 1957 FA Cup and achieving three consecutive top five finishes in Division One between 1957–58 and 1959–60.
Although their league form was less impressive during the 1960s, the second half of the decade saw West Bromwich Albion establish a reputation as a successful cup side. In 1966, under manager Jimmy Hagan, they beat West Ham in their first League Cup appearance, winning 5–3 on aggregate in the last two-legged final. The following year they reached the final again, the first at Wembley, but lost 3–2 to Third Division QPR after being 2–0 up at half-time. Albion's cup form continued under Hagan's successor Alan Ashman. He guided the club to their last major trophy to date, the 1968 FA Cup, when they beat Everton in extra time thanks to a single goal from Jeff Astle. Albion reached the FA Cup semi-final and European Cup Winners Cup quarter-final in 1969, and were defeated 2–1 by Manchester City in the 1970 League Cup Final.
The club were less successful during the reign of Don Howe, and were relegated to Division Two at the end of 1972–1973, but gained promotion three years later under the guidance of player-manager Johnny Giles. Under Ron Atkinson, Albion reached the 1978 FA Cup semi-final but lost to Ipswich Town. In 1978–79, the team finished third in Division One, their highest placing for over 20 years, and also reached the UEFA Cup quarter-final, where they were defeated by Red Star Belgrade. In his second spell as manager, Ronnie Allen guided the team to both domestic cup semi-finals in 1981–82. The mid-1980s saw the start of Albion's longest and deepest decline. They were relegated in 1985–86 with the worst record in the club's history, beginning a period of sixteen years outside the top flight. Five years later the club were relegated to the Third Division for the first time.
Albion had spent the majority of their history in the top-flight of English football, but when the FA Premier League was founded in 1992 the club found themselves in the third tier, which had been renamed Division Two. In 1992–93 Albion finished fourth and entered the playoffs for the first time, having just missed out the previous year. Albion's first appearance at Wembley for over twenty years—and their last ever at the original stadium—saw them beat Port Vale 3–0 to return to the second level - now renamed the First Division. Manager Ossie Ardiles then joined Tottenham Hotspur however, and a succession of managers over the next few seasons saw Albion consolidate their Division One status without ever mounting a serious promotion challenge.
The appointment of Gary Megson in March 2000 heralded an upturn in the club’s fortunes. Megson guided Albion to Division One safety in 1999–2000, and to the playoffs a year later. He went on to lead the club to promotion to the Premiership in 2001–02. After being relegated in their first Premiership season, they made an immediate return to the top flight in 2003–04. In 2004–05 Megson's successor, former Albion midfielder Bryan Robson, led the team to a last-day “Great Escape”, when Albion became the first Premiership club to avoid relegation having been bottom of the table at Christmas. However they failed to avoid the drop the following season, and Robson was replaced by Tony Mowbray in October 2006. The club competed in the Championship promotion playoff final at Wembley Stadium on 28 May 2007, but lost 1–0 to Derby County. The following season Mowbray led the Baggies to Wembley again, this time in the semi-finals of the FA Cup. They lost 1–0 to Portsmouth, but one month later were promoted to the Premier League as champions.
Like all football clubs, Albion sport a secondary or "change" strip when playing away from home against a team whose colours clash with their own. As long ago as the 1890s, and throughout much of the club's early history, a change strip of white jerseys with black shorts was worn. The away shirt additionally featured a large 'V' during the First World War. In the 1935 FA Cup Final however, when both of Albion and Sheffield Wednesday's kits clashed, a switch was made to plain navy blue shirts. An all-red strip was adopted at the end of the 1950s, but was dropped following defeat in the 1967 League Cup Final, to be replaced by the all-white design that was worn during the club's FA Cup run of 1967–68. Since then the away strip has changed regularly, with yellow and green stripes the most common of a number of different designs used. In the 1990s and 2000s a third kit has occasionally been introduced.
Albion players—along with those of other Football League teams—first wore numbers on the back of their shirts in the abandoned season of 1939-40, and names on the back of their shirts from 1999–2000. Red numbers were added to the side of Albion players' shorts in 1969. BSR Housewares became the club's first shirt sponsor during the 1981–82 season. The club's shirts have been sponsored for the majority of the time since then, although there was no shirt sponsor at the end of the 1993–94 season, after local solicitors Coucher & Shaw were closed down by the Law Society. Unusually for a Premier League club, Albion were again without a shirt sponsor for the start of the 2008–09 campaign, as negotiations with a new sponsor were still ongoing when the season began. The longest-running shirt sponsorship deal agreed by the club ran for seven seasons between 1997 and 2004 with the West Bromwich Building Society. Since 2006 Albion's kit has been manufactured by Umbro, who also produced the club's clothing during the late 1970s and early 1980s.
Albion's main club crest dates back to the late 1880s, when then club secretary Tom Smith suggested that a throstle sitting on a crossbar be adopted for the crest. Since then, the club crest has always featured a throstle, usually on a blue and white striped shield, although the crossbar was replaced with a hawthorn branch at some point after the club's move to The Hawthorns. The throstle was chosen because the public house in which the team used to change kept a pet thrush in a cage. It also gave rise to Albion's early nickname, The Throstles. As late as the 1930s, a caged throstle was placed beside the touchline during matches and it was said that it only used to sing if Albion were winning. In 1979 an effigy of a throstle was erected above the half-time scoreboard of the Woodman corner at The Hawthorns, and was returned to the same area of the ground following redevelopment in the early 2000s.
The crest has been subject to various revisions through the years, meaning that the club were unable to register it as a trademark. As a result of this, the crest was re-designed in 2006, incorporating the name of the club for the first time. The new crest gave Albion the legal protection they sought.
The main club crest should be distinguished from the badge displayed on the first team strip, as the two have rarely coincided. No badge appeared on the kit for most of the club's history, although the Stafford knot featured on the team jerseys for part of the 1880s. The West Bromwich town arms were worn on the players' shirts for the 1931, 1935 and 1954 FA Cup finals. The town's Latin motto, "Labor omnia vincit", translates as "labour conquers all things" or "work conquers all". The town arms were revived as the shirt badge from 1994 until 2000, with the throstle moved to the collar of the shirts.
Albion's first regular shirt crest appeared in the late 1960s and featured the familiar throstle, but without the blue and white striped shield of the club crest. This continued until the early 1970s, with a similar design used during the late 1980s and early 1990s. In the mid 1970s, a more abstract version of the throstle was used on the club's shirts, while in the late 1970s through to the mid-1980s, an embroidered WBA logo was displayed, a common abbreviation of the club's name in print. Not until the early 21st century did the full club crest appear on the team's shirts.
The speed with which the club became established following its foundation is illustrated by the fact that it outgrew four successive grounds in its first seven years. The first was Cooper's Hill, where they played from 1878 to 1879. From 1879 to 1881 they appear to have alternated between Cooper's Hill and Dartmouth Park. During the 1881–82 season they played at Bunn's Field, also known as The Birches. This had a capacity of between 1,500 and 2,000, and was Albion's first enclosed ground, allowing the club to charge an entrance fee for the first time. From 1882 to 1885, as the popularity of football increased, Albion rented the Four Acres ground from the well-established West Bromwich Dartmouth Cricket Club. But they quickly outgrew this new home and soon needed to move again. From 1885 to 1900 Albion played at Stoney Lane; their tenure of this ground was arguably the most successful period in the club's history, as they won the FA Cup twice and were runners-up three times.
By 1900, when the lease on Stoney Lane expired, the club needed a bigger ground yet again and so made its last move to date. All of Albion's previous grounds had been close to the centre of West Bromwich, but on this occasion they took up a site on the town's border with Handsworth. The new ground was named The Hawthorns, after the hawthorn bushes that covered the area and were cleared to make way for it. Albion drew 1–1 with Derby County in the first match at the stadium, on 3 September 1900. The record attendance at The Hawthorns was on 6 March 1937, when 64,815 spectators saw Albion beat Arsenal 3–1 in the FA Cup quarter-final. The Hawthorns became an all-seater stadium in the 1990s, in order to comply with the recommendations of the Taylor Report. Its capacity today is 28,003, the four stands being known respectively as the Birmingham Road End, Smethwick End, East Stand and West Stand. At an altitude of 551 feet (168 m) above sea level, The Hawthorns is the highest of all the 92 Premier League and Football League grounds.
In the club's formative years, West Bromwich Albion were run by a seven-man playing committee, and funded by each member contributing a weekly subscription of 6d (six pence). Albion's first chairman was Henry Jackson, appointed in 1885, with the club becoming a limited company in June 1891. Other early chairmen of Albion included Jem Bayliss and Billy Bassett, both of whom had earlier played for the club. Indeed, from 1878 to 1986 there was always an Albion player or ex-player on the club's committee or board of directors. Bassett became an Albion director in 1905, following the resignation of the previous board in its entirety. The club was in deep financial trouble and had had a writ served upon them by their bank, but Bassett and returning chairman Harry Keys rescued the club, aided by local fund-raising activities. Bassett became chairman in 1908, and helped the club to avoid bankruptcy once more in 1910 by paying the players' summer wages from his own pocket. He remains Albion's longest-serving chairman, having held the position until his death in 1937. The club's longest-serving director was Major H. Wilson Keys, during the period 1930–1965, including 15 years as chairman. He became FA vice-president in 1969.
Sir Bert Millichip served as Albion chairman from 1974 to 1983, after which he chose to concentrate on his role as chairman of The Football Association. In 1996 the club became a Public limited company, issuing shares to supporters at £500 and £3000 each. The shares were quoted on the Alternative Investment Market, but the club withdrew from the stock exchange in order to become a private company again in 2004. The name of the company thus reverted from West Bromwich Albion plc to West Bromwich Albion Limited, the latter becoming a subsidiary of West Bromwich Albion Holdings Limited. Current chairman Jeremy Peace took up the post in 2002, after a rift between previous chairman Paul Thompson and manager Gary Megson forced Thompson to quit the club. In September 2007 Peace acquired additional shares in West Bromwich Albion Holdings Limited, taking his total stake in the company to 50.56%. This triggered a requirement, under the Takeover Code, for him to make a mandatory cash offer for the remaining shares in both WBA Holdings Ltd and WBA Ltd. Later that year, Michelle Davies became Albion's first female director. Jeremy Peace announced in June 2008 that he was looking for a major new investor for the club, but no firm proposals were received by the 31 July deadline.
West Bromwich Albion's record victory was their 12–0 league win against Darwen on 4 April 1892. This is still the widest margin of victory for a game in the top-flight of English football, although the record was equalled by Nottingham Forest when they beat Leicester Fosse by the same scoreline in 1909. Albion's biggest FA Cup victory came when they beat Chatham 10–1 on 2 March 1889. The club's record league defeat was a 3–10 loss against Stoke City on 4 February 1937, while a 0–5 defeat to Leeds United on 18 February 1967 represents Albion's heaviest FA Cup loss.
Tony Brown holds a number of Albion's club records. He has made the most appearances overall for the club (720), as well as most appearances in the league (574), FA Cup (54) and in European competition (17). Brown is the club's top scorer in the league (218), the FA Cup (27) and in Europe (8). He is also the club's record scorer overall, with 279 goals. W. G. Richardson scored 328 goals for the club, but this includes 100 during the Second World War, which are not normally counted towards competitive totals. Richardson holds the club record for most league goals in a single season, scoring 39 times in 1935–36.
Albion's most capped international player, taking into account only those caps won whilst at the club, is Stuart Williams, who appeared 33 times for Wales. Jesse Pennington is the club's most capped England international, with 25 caps. The highest transfer fee paid by the club is £4.7 million to RCD Mallorca for Borja Valero in August 2008. The record transfer from Albion to another club is probably that of Curtis Davies to Aston Villa in July 2008, for a fee believed to be in the region of £8–10 million.
For recent transfers, see List of English football transfers summer 2008.
As part of the club's 125th anniversary celebrations in 2004, a survey was commissioned via the official West Bromwich Albion website and the Express & Star newspaper to determine the greatest West Bromwich Albion players of all time. A modern-day 16-man squad was compiled from the results; all selected players are depicted on a commemorative mural displayed at The Hawthorns. Fourteen of the sixteen players are English-born, with a fifteenth, Cyrille Regis, being a full England international. The list of sixteen is as follows:
|1963–81||720||279||Wing half/Inside forward|
Other notable honours bestowed upon West Bromwich Albion players include the PFA Young Player of the Year award, which was presented to Cyrille Regis in 1979. In 1998 Billy Bassett and Bryan Robson were named among the list of Football League 100 Legends, along with Arthur Rowley, Geoff Hurst and Johnny Giles. Bryan Robson was also an inaugural inductee into the English Football Hall of Fame in 2002, to be joined two years later by Geoff Hurst. Bobby Robson, a player with Albion, has also been inducted, although this was for his achievements as a manager. In 1919–20, Fred Morris became the first Albion player to finish as top goalscorer in Division One, a feat which has since been repeated by Ronnie Allen, Derek Kevan, Jeff Astle and Tony Brown. Brown, who holds the club records for goals and appearances, was voted into the PFA Centenary Hall of Fame in July 2007.
The following managers have all led West Bromwich Albion to at least one of the following achievements whilst in charge of the club: winning a major trophy or reaching the final, achieving a top three league finish in the top flight, winning promotion or reaching the quarter-finals of a major European competition.
|1890–92||58||18||10||30||FA Cup winners 1892|
|1894–95||36||14||5||17||FA Cup runners-up 1895|
|1896–02||214||86||45||83||Division Two champions 1901–02|
|1902–48||1520||656||331||533||Promotion as Division Two winners 1910–11, FA Cup runners-up 1912, 1935, Division One winners 1919–20, Division One runners-up 1924–25, Promotion as Division Two runners-up 1930–31, FA Cup winners 1931|
|1948–52||179||70||46||63||Promotion as Division Two runners-up 1948–49|
|1953–59||301||130||78||93||Division One runners-up 1953–54, FA Cup winners 1954|
|1963–67||201||78||49||74||League Cup winners 1966, League Cup runners-up 1967|
|1967–71||182||64||49||69||FA Cup winners 1968, European Cup Winners Cup quarter-finalists 1968–69, League Cup runners-up 1970|
|159||60||42||57||Promotion from Division Two 1975–76|
|212||85||68||59||Division One 3rd place 1978–79, UEFA Cup quarter-finalists 1978–79|
|1992–93||55||30||11||14||Promotion as Division Two play-off winners 1992–93|
|2000–04||221||94||50||77||Promotion as Division One runners-up 2001–02, 2003–04|
|2006–||97||48||22||27||Promotion as Championship winners 2007–08|