A book charting the history of West Bromwich Albion through its close links with fans is reviewed by ERIC BROWN.
Cyrille Regis achieved legendary status with West Bromwich Albion fans long before his untimely death earlier this year.
So he was a natural choice to write the foreword for a new book charting that emotional bond between Baggies fans and the club.
In it Big Cyrille explains how those fans immediately took him to their hearts, put him on a pedestal and made him their icon.
“Work hard and Albion fans will respect you for it” he wrote in December 2017 shortly before his death. “My debut against Rotherham in August 1977 changed my life.
“Most of the crowd that night had probably never heard of the raw black kid signed from Hayes for £5,000 but they were soon chanting for me to take a penalty.
“Luckily I scored and that was the beginning of a love affair with Albion fans.”
Regis never forgot that early backing from down-to-earth folk released from humdrum lives to chase their dreams on a Saturday.
“They are hardworking Black Country people who toil in factories and foundries. I think they recognised that I worked my socks off and welcomed me in an era when racism was rife. ”
Cyrille’s comments, rendered even more emotional by his death, are followed by a pictorial history of Albion who had already appeared in an FA Cup Final by the time they became one of the Football League’s founder members in 1888.
The book focuses on the years from 1950 to the present day with meticulous research by editor Dean Walton unearthing a wealth of photographic evidence of the close link between club and fans.
There are pictures of fans everywhere Albion travelled at home and abroad. It is an unintentional pictorial history of the English game as it includes images of many grounds sadly long gone like Filbert Street, Boothferry Park, Feethams, Burnden Park, Springfield Park, Gay Meadow and many more.
Illustrations of White Hart Lane, Stamford Bridge and Wembley must be seen to be believed. Albion’s faithful may not stampede for a souvenir of this underwhelming season of struggle but if they collect just one reminder then this book should be it.
Proud to be a Baggie, a pictorial history of West Bromwich Albion fans by Dean Walton, is published by Amberley. Price £14.99 paperback.