Cannes had it’s Film Festival, Windsor had it’s Royal Wedding but West Bromwich had the big celebration of the weekend – the 50 year celebration of the FA Cup victory over Everton. Over 250 supporters turned up to honour the team of 68 at The Hawthorns on Saturday night. The day started with the meeting of those staying over at the Park Inn Hotel, though age has caught up with everyone it was again brothers meeting and sharing a drink and stories of days gone by. The cup final was being played in the background and strangely enough a similar score line to that of 50 years ago.
Dressed splendidly in the Association suit, shirts and ties the lads departed for the Hawthorns to meet up with the one not staying overnight Bobby Hope. Drinks reception in the Pennington Suite followed by a few words by our President Brendon Batson OBE. This was about 1968 and sadly we have a few no longer with us but Brendon made a special mention of Jeff Astle, Chippy Clark, John Osborne, Alan Ashman, Stuart Williams and sadly the very recently departed Graham Lovett.
Laraine Astle, June Clark, Jenny Osborne joined us to represent their loved ones along with Ena & Nicola Talbut whose husband John could not attend.
The evening started with an introduction by Mark Jenkins, followed by Adrian Chiles taking over the mic to be MC, next the entrance of the members of that team lead in by Graham Williams and followed in the same order they entered Wembley Stadium on May 18th 1968 – John Kaye, Doug Fraser, Ian Collard, Bobby Hope and Dennis Clarke, a presentation clock was given to each by the President on behalf of the Association. A memorable and emotional tribute was screened for those no longer with us to the traditional cup final song of “Abide With Me”. A few words from Ally Rob as to his memories on the day 50 years ago and his personal thoughts on those who were no longer with us.
Dinner served and a few glasses drunk and in the background the film of the final being shown on screens around the room. The “entertainment” started firstly with a filmed apology from Bomber Brown for his absence followed with the 4 wives being presented on stage, Laraine acted as the spokesperson for the girls.
John Kaye, Ian Collard & Dennis Clarke followed with the latter making a fine tribute or two to the No 9 Jeff Astle, John got the audience crying with laughter with his “polite” description of his intentions to stop Alan Ball performing and Ian with his thoughts and memories.
Adrian then got the Celts onto the stage Graham Williams, Doug Fraser and Bobby Hope, more stories flowed with Hopey chipping in with his wonderful “one liners”, Graham’s thought on how he too wanted to stop Alan Ball! Doug with his wit and banter entertained the audience. A brilliant night of stories.
Finally onto the stage came David Ashman, son of the Manager Alan, to give his impressions of that day 50 years ago when he was only 8!
The evening closed with the presentation of the “Caps” a club initiative to give every 1st team player a commemorative numbered cap, David Ashman made the presentation.
It was about 68 but the family we are it was never going to be a night without other former players being in attendance, the Association President Brendon Batson, Chairman Ray Wilson, Ally Robertson, John Wile, Joe Mayo, Derek Monaghan, Mick Fudge plus Treasurer Norman Westbury and Secretary Geoff Snape but the second biggest cheer of the night greeted Darren Moore our new Head Coach as he entered the room.
A night never to be forgotten and our thanks must go to everyone who supported the dinner, to Adrian Chiles MC, West Bromwich Albion Football Club for the excellent organisation, our Association for there contribution, to the squad of 68 and their wives and finally to the wives of those stars of 1968 no longer with us.