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  • Proud to be a Baggie: A Pictorial History of West Bromwich Albion Fans by Dean Walton

    WEMBLEY 1968 – 50 YEARS ON

    Ten-year-old Ray Jackson and supporters from Barratts & Baird set off for Wembley. (Proud to be a Baggie: A Pictorial History of West Bromwich Albion Fans, Amberley Publishing)

    May 18th 1968, Louis Armstrong’s What a Wonderful World was at Number 1 in the charts and Harold Wilson was the pipe-smoking Prime Minister. Indeed it was a ‘wonderful world’ for everyone associated with West Bromwich Albion football club, the FA Cup was coming back to the Black Country.

    In front of almost 100,000 fans against Everton at the old Wembley Stadium, the ‘King of the Hawthorns’ Jeff Astle became the first player to score in every round when his left foot rocket in the third minute of extra-time proved to be the winner – his 35th goal in an incredible season. Albion’s Welsh international skipper Graham Williams lifted the trophy and a part of the West Midlands went absolutely crazy.

    Although hardly anyone owned a colour television in those days, the ’68 final was actually the first to be broadcast in colour, this meant that both teams had to wear their change strips – Everton in gold & blue and the Baggies wearing their lucky white shirts & shorts with the now legendary red socks being worn with the kit for the first time. The match ball was also yellow for the benefit of colour TV. Dennis Clarke also became the first substitute to be used in a final when he came on for the injured John Kaye at the end of the 90 minutes.

    Everton were hot favourites, they had thrashed Albion both home and away that season. Baggies captain Graham Williams proudly declared before the game that ‘no team ever beats another three times in the same season.’ This statement stuck in the players’ minds and helped spur them on to success.

    A crowd of 250,000 in West Bromwich town centre with the Star & Garter pub on the right. (Proud to be a Baggie: A Pictorial History of West Bromwich Albion Fans, Amberley Publishing)

    The next day, the streets from Birmingham city centre all the way to West Bromwich town hall were packed with an estimated 250,000 people who turned out to welcome the team back with the Cup for the fifth time.

    West Brom have never made the final since, despite getting to four FA Cup semi-finals, in fact it was the last major trophy that the club won. The FA Cup was very special in those days, fans would gather around the TV from 9am in the morning to watch the build up to the match itself – it was always the highlight of the season.

    Now we look back nearly 50 years later and every one of those players is still a household name amongst the Baggies’ supporters: Osborne, Fraser, Williams, Brown, Talbut, Kaye, Collard, Lovett, Astle, Hope, Clark C and Clarke D. Sadly three of the team are no longer with us; goalkeeper John Osborne, winger Clive ‘Chippy’ Clark and ‘King’ Jeff Astle have all passed away, Astle’s premature death was a result of brain damage caused by continuous heading of the old leather case balls.

    Fortunately the remaining nine players still get together regularly and at least three of the Cup winning team will be at the launch of Proud to be a Baggie – a book chronicling the history of West Bromwich Albion fans. The launch and signing takes place in the Fanzone at The Hawthorns before the forthcoming Albion v Spurs game on 5th May. Dean Walton’s book features many never-before seen photos of the fans heading to Wembley and at the homecoming on the Sunday.

    Albion may well be heading for the Championship but the boys of ’68 will be remembered forever.

    Dean Walton's new book Proud to be a Baggie: A Pictorial History of West Bromwich Albion Fans is available for purchase now.

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