With the new Premier-ship season ‘just around the corner’, it is of course time for the players and staff to get back into the ‘old routine’ of competitive action, and that of course means pre-season friend-lies.
As Albion return from their relatively successful short tour of the USA, with wins against Ventura County Fusion and Portland Timbers, ‘under their belts’ along with a 1-2 reverse in the first match against San Jose. The team now prepares for more or less ‘back to back’ games against Rochdale, Southampton and Bristol City, all on ‘foreign’ soil.
The match against Rochdale on Tuesday 26th July, regardless of which side manager Roy Hodgson decides to field, will create it’s own little bit of history. Neither side has met before, in any form of competition or friendly fixture. Quite remarkable really when you consider the depth of history attached to both clubs. True, Albion reserve X1’s have done ‘battle’ at Rochdale’s home ‘Spotland’ against such sides as Bolton Wanderers Reserves before, but no West Bromwich Albion side, in its ‘own right’ has faced the small Lancashire outfit.
Albion move on the very next day, Wednesday 27th July to Southampton, to play what will be the very first friendly fixture between these two famous ‘old’ clubs. So again, just a little piece of history attached to what is nothing more than a fitness workout for both sides. Three days later Albion again venture down the M5 to Bristol, for a pre-season ‘warm-up’ this time to Ashton Gate to face City. You will recall ‘the Baggies’ faced Rovers in their new season’s preparations just a year ago. Nothing new with this fixture, Albion have faced City in ‘friendly’ combat, no fewer than seven times down through the years, with the oldest recorded meeting being at Bristol on 23rd April 1898, when ‘the Baggies’ were held to a 1- draw, with Ben Garfield grabbing Albion’s goal.
Albion Players in Lima - 1966
Albion’s Reserve/Junior sides have experienced pre-season work-outs against Cheltenham Town and Kidderminster Harriers, both very popular opponents for Albion X1’s in recent seasons. Indeed Kidderminster have featured regularly on Albion’s pre-season lists, on no fewer than nine occasions since July 1993, when Keith Burkinshaw’s side drew 2-2 in Mark Dearlove’s Testimonial. However, there are two other recorded ‘clashes’ between these sides, way back in the 1888/89 season when ‘Kiddy’ twice hosted their more ‘illustrious’ neighbours. Albion ran out winners on both occasions, 4-1 and 5-2, with a certain William Isaiah Bassett grabbing two goals in the latter fixture.
1965 USA Tour Fixture Card
Cheltenham have been popular pre-season opponents since 2001, incidentally the same season Albion had to overcome Cheltenham in the fifth round of the FA Cup. Of the four ‘1st X1’ fixtures played, Albion have won three times and the other a 1-1 draw at Cheltenham, which featured Marek Cech’s first goal for the club. Trawling through the record books, it is interesting to note that Albion played Cheltenham for the Worcestershire Cup on Armistice Day 1939, when W G Richardson was amongst the scorers in a 5-1 ‘Baggies’ win.
Heading for New York in 1965
For the record, Albion’s 2011 trip to the States was the fifth time a ‘Baggies’ side has flown across the Atlantic, to prepare for a new season. In July 1965 Jimmy Hagan took his side to New York to compete in a tournament with Kilmarnock of Scotland, Ferencvaros of Hungary, and Polonia Bytom of Poland. A somewhat disastrous experiment, as most matches were played in temperatures in excess of 90 degrees. The Following year Jimmy took his troops, down South America way, for a far more agreeable six match tour, taking in the delights of the ‘cocacabana’ beach. In May 1981 Ronnie Allen took the side on a short three match tour of Vancouver, Portland and Edmonton. They recorded a 2-1 victory over this years ‘pre-season’ opponents, Portland Timbers 1-0. In May 1989, Albion faced Arizona Condors and L A Heat, in a very short two match visit across ‘the pond’.
Top of the World ma! Ian Collard, Danny Campbell and Ray Wilson on tour-1966
Final preparations for this season’s Premier league campaign , will be take the form of tough tests against Olympiakos of Greece, in Greece, and Palma of Italy, at the Hawthorns. Then it will be ‘all systems go’ when the ‘Baggies’ step out against Manchester United no less, at the Hawthorns on Sunday August 14th.
Laurie Rampling/July 2011
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