West Bromwich

West Bromwich

[bruhm-ij, -ich, brom-]
West Bromwich, city (1991 pop. 146,386), Sandwell metropolitan district, W central England. On the site of a 12th-century Benedictine priory, West Bromwich has foundries and engineering and chemical works. A technical college is there.
West Bromwich Albion Football Club (also known as West Brom, The Baggies, Albion, The Albion, The Throstles or WBA) are an English professional football club based in West Bromwich, West Midlands. The club was formed in 1878 by workers from Salter's Spring Works in West Bromwich, and have played their home games at The Hawthorns since 1900.

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.

History

The club was founded as West Bromwich Strollers in 1878 by workers from George Salter's Spring Works in West Bromwich, then in Staffordshire but now part of the West Midlands administrative county. They were renamed West Bromwich Albion in 1880, becoming the first team to adopt the Albion suffix. Albion was a district of West Bromwich where some of the players lived or worked, close to what is today Greets Green. The club joined the Birmingham & District Football Association in 1881 and became eligible for their first competition, the Birmingham Cup. They reached the quarter-finals, beating several longer-established clubs on the way. In 1883, Albion won their first trophy, the Staffordshire Cup. Albion joined the Football Association in the same year; this enabled them to enter the FA Cup for the first time in the 1883–84 season. In 1885 the club turned professional, and in 1886 they reached the FA Cup final for the first time, losing 2–0 to Blackburn Rovers in a replay. They reached the final again in 1887, but lost 2–0 to Aston Villa. In 1888 the team won the trophy for the first time, beating strong favourites Preston North End 2–1 in the final.

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.

Colours

West Bromwich Albion have played in navy blue and white striped shirts for the majority of their existence, usually with white shorts and white socks. The team is occasionally referred to as The Stripes by supporters. A number of different colours were trialled during the club's formative years however, including cardinal red and blue quarters in 1880–81, yellow and white quarters in 1881–82, chocolate and blue halves in 1881–82 and 1882–83, red and white hoops in 1882–83, chocolate and white in 1883–84 and cardinal red and blue halves in 1884–85. The blue and white stripes made their first appearance in the 1885–86 season, although at that time they were of a lighter shade of blue; the navy blue stripes did not appear until after the First World War. For the regional leagues played during the Second World War, Albion were forced to switch to all-blue shirts, as rationing meant that striped material was considered a luxury.

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.

Crest

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.

Grounds

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.

Supporters

The official West Bromwich Albion Supporters Club has branches throughout the United Kingdom, as well as in Ireland, Australia, Canada, Denmark, Malta and Thailand. Albion's "club anthem" is The Lord's my Shepherd; the hymn, whose tune is known as Crimond, is generally attributed to Jessie Seymour Irvine. Supporters of the team celebrate goals by bouncing up and down and chanting "Boing Boing". This dates back to the 1992–93 season, when the team was promoted from the new Second Division. In recent years fans of the team have celebrated the end of each season by adopting a fancy dress theme for the final away match, including dressing as vikings in 2004 in honour of Player of the Season Thomas Gaardsøe. In 2002–03 Albion's fans were voted the best in the Premiership by their peers, while in the BBC's 2002 "national intelligence test" Test the Nation, they were found to be "more likely to be smarter than any other football supporters, registering an average score of 138".

Publications

The club has published an official matchday programme for supporters since 1905. The publication was entitled Albion News for many years, but was renamed Albion from the 2002–03 season onwards. It won Premiership Programme of the Year in 2002–03 and Third Division Programme of the Year in 1991–92. In 2007–08 it was awarded Championship Programme of the Year by both Programme Monthly and the Football Programme Directory. The programme has a circulation in excess of 8,000 copies. The first West Bromwich Albion fanzine, Fingerpost, was first published in 1983. It was followed by several others, most notably Grorty Dick – named after a Black Country stew – which was in circulation from 1989 to 2005. The club no longer has any fanzines dedicated to it.

"Baggies" nickname

Although known in their early days as "The Throstles", the club's more popular nickname among supporters came to be The Baggies, a term which the club itself looked down upon for many years but later embraced. The phrase was first heard at The Hawthorns in the 1900s, but its exact origins are uncertain. One suggestion is that the name was bestowed on Albion supporters by their rivals at Aston Villa, because of the large baggy trousers that many Albion fans wore at work to protect themselves from molten iron in the factories and foundries of the Black Country. Club historian Tony Matthews however suggests that it derives from the "bagmen", who carried the club's matchday takings in big leather bags from the turnstiles to the cash office on the halfway line. Other theories relate to the baggy shorts worn by various players during the club's early years. The official club mascot is named Baggie Bird, and is based on the throstle depicted on the club crest.

Rivalries

Historically, Albion's greatest rivals were Aston Villa from nearby Birmingham. The two clubs contested three FA Cup Finals between 1887 and 1895 (Villa winning two and Albion one). More recently however, most Albion fans have seen Wolverhampton Wanderers as their main rivals. Albion and Wolves have contested the Black Country derby more than 150 times; their first major clash was an FA Cup tie in 1886. The rivalry came to prominence when the two clubs contested the league title in 1953–54, and during the 1990s it intensified to new heights among supporters, with both clubs languishing in Division One for much of the decade and only local pride at stake. A 2004 survey by Planetfootball.com confirmed that the majority of both Albion and Wolves supporters consider the other to be their main rival, Baggies fans naming Aston Villa and Birmingham City as their second and third rivals respectively. Walsall are seen as lesser rivals, having played in a lower division than Albion for most of their history. The hooligan firm who associate themselves with Albion are known as Section Five.

Ownership and governance

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.

Records and statistics

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.

Players

As of 25 September 2008.

Current squad

Out on loan

For recent transfers, see List of English football transfers summer 2008.

Notable former players

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:

Name Nat. Years Apps Goals Position
1886–99 311 77 Outside right
1903–22 496 0 Left back
1929–45 354 228 Centre forward
1944–60 482 48 Left half
1950–61 458 234 Centre forward
1952–64 379 19 Right back
1963–81 720 279 Wing half/Inside forward
1964–74 361 174 Centre forward
1967–72
1973–78
312 0 Goalkeeper
1970–83 619 29 Centre half
1972–79 261 28 Outside left
1974–81 249 46 Central midfielder
1976–87 373 11 Left back
1977–79 114 30 Winger
1977–84 302 112 Centre forward
2001–07 213 0 Goalkeeper

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.

Notable managers

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.

Name Nat. Years P W D L Achievements
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
1975–77
1984–85
159 60 42 57 Promotion from Division Two 1975–76
1978–81
1987–88
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

Honours

Footnotes

A. : Older sources quote the year of formation as 1879, as evidence of a Strollers match from 1878 came to light only as recently as 1993.
B. : Throstle is a colloquial Black Country name for the song thrush.
C. : The town crest remained on the away strip until 2001.
D. : The fee for Davies was undisclosed by the two clubs. The highest disclosed fee received by Albion for a player was £6 million for Diomansy Kamara from Fulham in July 2007.
E. : Kevan was joint-top scorer with Ray Crawford of Ipswich Town.
F. : Secretary-manager. Albion did not appoint a full-time manager until 1948.
G. : Current manager. Figures correct after Queens Park Rangers vs West Bromwich Albion, 4 May 2008.
H. : The Football League First Division was the top division of English football until 1992, when the Premier League became the top division. At the same time, the second, third and fourth tiers of English football became known as the Football League First Division, Second Division and Third Division respectively. These three divisions were renamed again in 2004 as part of a Football League re-branding exercise, becoming known as the Football League Championship, League One and League Two respectively.

References

General

External links

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