The name Bromwich is an extremely old one. It is mentioned in the eleventh century Domesday Book as “bromwic” meaning a broom village and came to be known as West Bromwich to distinguish it from another West Midlands town, Castle Bromwich. Once a stop on the coach road to London, the growth of the area came with the discovery of substantial coal deposits and it soon became a significant industrial centre.
This was the typical breeding ground for a football club to build and flourish and West Bromwich Albion – also known as the Baggies, the Throstles or just WBA – were founder members of the English Football League in 1878 like many other clubs in industrial areas. They have played their home games at the Hawthorns since 1900.
For most of the time since their creation WBA have played in the top tier of English football – firstly the First Division and latterly the Premier League. Just once they were champions – in the 1919-20 season – and twice runners up. The Baggies have enjoyed much greater success in the FA Cup, starting in 1888 and most recently in 1968. This 1-0 victory over Everton, with a late goal scored by Jeff Astle, was noticeable for two very different reasons: it was the first time that the Cup Final had been televised in colour and Astle’s goal meant that he had the unique record of scoring in every round of the Cup that season. Incidentally two years earlier, West Brom had won the inaugural Football League cup and Astle was to score in a losing final in 1970, making him the first man to score in both finals.
Looking at the all-time top Baggies heroes let’s start with Jeff Astle, a centre-forward who made 361 appearances, and scored 174 goals. He was a great hero at the Hawthorns because of his ability to lead the team forward and to score with his head. He has been given a permanent memorial in the shape of the Astle Gates at the Hawthorns.
Midfielder Bryan Robson is best known for his exploits with Manchester United and England but he made no fewer than 198 appearances for West Brom during which he scored 39 goals and was in the minds of many the most talented footballer ever to play for the Club
Centre-forward Cyrille Regis was an explosive striker, hence his nickname of Smokin Joe after the boxer Joe Frazier – Cyrille was known for his speed along the pitch and in 237 appearances he slotted home 82 goals, many of them highly memorable.
Centre half John Wile, captain during the late 1970s, made 500 appearances for West Brom. The image that remains in the minds of many supporters is of Wiles playing on with blood streaming from a head wound during the FA Cup semi-final of 1978.
WBA players have always been known for their commitment and courage and we recommend a visit to the Hawthorns to sample their distinctive brand of football.
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