It has been an exciting time for the Former Players Association of late because memories came flooding back for many from the late 70,s with the BBC documentary Whites versus Blacks. Interesting and extremely well presented by Baggies fan Adrian Chiles, it brought home to those who were brought up on the wonderful skills of Laurie, Cyrille & Brendon just how difficult life could be on the pitch with all the abuse thrown at them. We knew that their friends and fellow professionals in that side of 78 would support them through this difficult time and it is equally good to see that they all remain true friends today. One of the good things to come from this documentary is the fact that the Association has established contact with Vernon Hodgson. Though Vernon never made a first team appearance we feel that his part in this documentary should be recognised with membership of our Association. His life could have been very different in many ways but his humbling words that “The bins saved his life” is truly one of the most profound and touching statements from the documentary. Our “Three Degrees” were trail blazers for the black footballers and we hope that the Statue will soon be finished and erected in West Bromwich in their honour.
Some of our members, at the invite of the Manager, had a most enjoyable day at the Training Ground and it was particularly interesting to see how different things are today from when most of our members played. No longer would a professional get a lift back from the “Milkman” in his cart when they should have been pounding the streets of Handsworth as part of the training regime, nor would they be down the pub after training for a few pints! The facilities are so very different but then the game as a whole is very different. A few weeks later the Association made a presentation to Tony Pulis in recognition of him joining the exclusive club of Managing for 1000 games.
The Regis Suite is our match day home and many Former Players like to attend games and it has been good to see some from the ’66 & ’68 sides returning, the likes of Bobby Hope, Graham Lovett, Stan Jones and Graham Williams. In addition we regular see Brendon Batson, Cyrille Regis, Ally Robertson, Joe Mayo plus those who “work” on match days as MC’s or Guest Speakers – Ray Wilson, Derek Monaghan, Paul Raven, Daryl Burgess, Richard Sneekes, Bob Taylor, so as we say many times, that no matter which era you played we all had one thing in common and that is the bond of the blue and white shirt which creates a feeling of togetherness and friendship.
Over the years you build up relationships and recently we saw the departure of the Commercial Director Adrian Wright who we worked very closely with, someone else we dealt with on a weekly basis James Dawe is moving onto pastures new and we would like to wish him all the best in his new role of Head of Hospitality at our neighbours and close rivals from Aston. Thanks to both of them for the support they gave the Association.
The season so far has been excellent and a special mention for our two long serving players Chris Brunt & James Morrison both back performing well after a lengthy spell on the sidelines. It has been a tremendous team effort from everyone and we wish them an equally successful second half to the season. Perhaps even a trip to Wembley to emulate those former players mentioned earlier.
May we take this opportunity of wishing the new owner Gouchan Lai and his representatives, John Williams our new Chairman and the Board of Directors, Tony Pulis, David Kemp and all the Coaching Staff, the Players and all the Staff of West Bromwich Albion a Very Merry Christmas and a Successful New Year.
Similarly to all those who support this great football club of ours, a Joyous Christmas and a Happy 2017.