NORWICH CITY 1 –V- WEST BROMWICH ALBION 1
Carrow Road, Norwich, Saturday 13th January 1979
Its not often that Albion are top of the pile, so when that achievement comes around, as an Albion fan you have to celebrate it. Not that this affair was a ‘great match’, absorbing and intense it certainly was. but in other ways it had so much going for it.
Albion travelled to Norwich, in the middle of their best run of away results in their illustrious 100 year history. Fittingly, just 13 short days into the clubs centenary celebrations, Cyrille Regis’s goal, that earned the Baggies a 1-1 draw, and himself the ‘man of the match’ award, put ‘’West Bromwich Albion’ top of Division One. Something this great club had not achieved since the halcyon days of 1954, when Albion so nearly brought that so elusive ‘Double’ back to the black country. Albion also introduced to the football world, their latest and costliest addition, one David Mills. Purchased from Middlesbrough, for a ‘cool’ half a million, Mills had to sit this one out on the bench.
25 years is a long, long time in waiting, but Cyrille’s goal, after 11 minutes, that made it all possible, was worth the wait. City defender Phil Hoadley, made a hash of an attempted back pass, on the edge of the box. The ball fell short of keeper Keelan, and Regis, like lightening gathered up the loose ball, and placed it perfectly into the far corner of the Norwich net, past the advancing Keelan, who had no chance.
1979-13.01-Norwich City-Regis Goal-Top of the League
In truth, from that point, Albion could have, and probably should have got a hat-ful of goals, such was their dominance. City, however, were dogged, and rode their luck well. New boy Justin Fashanu, deputising for the injured Martin Chivers, came close to scoring on two occasions, before the half time interval, and certainly, with a bit more luck, could have gone into the break level.
Norwich City-Laurie Cunningham
A bizzare situation early in the second half, changed the course of the game. 5 minutes into the second period, Brendon Batson, Albions’s elegant full back, was forced to leave the field, to change his boots, for the special ‘ice-breakers’ he and his colleagues had worn so effectively against Bristol City on New Years day. Whilst Batson was impatiently waiting to be allowed on by the referee, Martin Peters, an ‘old warrior’ by now, but still very much a threat to any side, capitalised on the extra space created by the missing Batson, Norwich full back Ian Davies, was ‘home free’ down the left flank, whipped in a pin point cross, straight onto the head of Peters, who gave Godden no chance in the Albion goal.
The equaliser certainly set Albion and their fans back a bit, and certainly made for a thrilling finale.
Both sides had opportunities to win the game, but the best attempt fell to the ‘brilliant’ Regis, whose thunderous 25 yard drive with ten minutes left, dipped and crashed against the crossbar, before bouncing to safety. I declare, the bar was still shaking some 5 minutes later, such was the power of the Regis effort.
DAVID MILLS SUB-V-NORWICH
So, in the end, honours even. Albion ‘Top of the league’ displacing none other than Liverpool for that treasured position. The fact that BBC TV’s Match of the Day’ cameras were there to witness this great event, and advertise the quality of this Albion outfit, to the whole nation, was just ‘icing on the cake’.
1979-13.01-Ally Brown v Norwich City
After the match, manager Ron Atkinson, in his usual ebullient style, met the gathered press, “I am a bit dis-appointed we didn’t get both points”, He declared, “But obviously pleased to be on top of the league.”
He continued, “We are not talking about championships yet. I just want us to go playing the way we are.” Of the ‘missing Batson’ episode, big Ron remarked, “With eleven men on the field we might have prevented their goal. Batson had already changed his boots at half time, and was changing back to his original pair.”
Norwich boss, another ebullient character, John Bond, was full of praise for the visitors. “I can see them as a championship side. They will go close. They want to play all the time and show great confidence.”
Norwich City-Ally Brown header
Well he was nearly right. Albion did go close, but in the end ‘no cigar’. Poor results towards the end of the season, eliminated the Baggies to 3rd place, behind Liverpool and Nottingham Forest. Still, of course, their best finish, since that runner-up spot in 1954.
Sir Bert Millichip seen here with Bryan Robson in 1979
Final summing up of the game was left to ‘Mr West Bromwich Albion’ himself, Chairman, the late great, Sir Bert Millichip. “It’s a long time since 1954” He declared, “So it’s a nice feeling, being top at this stage. It would be nicer still to stay there.” He added, rather sombrely, “Mark you, it’s coming to something, when you feel rather dis-appointed at getting only a point away from home.”
Tony Brown shot -v-Norwich
Isn’t that the truth. It’s now, another 31 years on, from that great achievement, and Albion have not yet been able to manage ‘top spot’ since. However, we can all dream!!
Laurie Rampling – March 2010.