And Brown calls on supporters to make the difference against club’s oldest rivals
CLUB legend Tony 'Bomber' Brown insists tomorrow's derby clash with Villa (ko 8pm) is the most important date on the calendar for Baggies fans.
Villa-Albion is the most-played top-flight West Midlands derby, with 132 fixtures between the fellow-founder members since their first meeting in the league back in January 1889.
The Manchester-born midfielder, who is both the Baggies’ record appearance holder and goalscorer, netted on eight occasions against the Claret and Blues during his 20 years with the club.
And he has revealed it was former club trainer, Wilf Dixon, who made it clear losing to Albion’s oldest rivals was simply not an option when he arrived at The Hawthorns in April 1961.
“The Albion Villa derby is back,” said Brown.
“I’m really looking forward to it.
“It’s the highlight of the season for me.
“They are the two big sides in the Midlands now.
“Blues and Wolves are not in the Premier League with Albion and Villa so it is a bit of a throwback to when I was playing.
“I like it this way because I was brought up that Albion against Villa was the big one.
“It was the first thing I was told when I arrived here.
“It was instilled into me.
“I remember my first morning at the club.
“I joined with some other apprentice professionals.
“The trainer at the time, Wilf Dixon, sat us down and said ‘there are three things you need to remember at the Albion. Always keep the ball on the floor, always pass to another blue-and-white shirts, and the third thing is, you must always beat the Villa.
“He made it clear they were the big rivals.
“It still applies to me today.
“This is the game I want us to win more than any other game.
“You’ve got other big games but I just want us to beat the Villa.
“I just want Albion to be the top club in the Midlands.
“I want us to be top dogs.”
Brown believes the atmosphere inside The Hawthorns could prove to be the difference and has called on Albion supporters to pump up the volume.
“The fans play a massive role in a local derby,” he added.
“Especially if you’re at home because you have the majority of the supporters.
“I don’t care what any player says, you hear the fans, you know what’s going on in the crowd.
“If the fans can make it a cauldron of noise it really helps the players.
“When you get the ball and you start attacks, then the fans get behind you, it makes a huge difference.
“The fans made a big impact in this game last year.
“They got behind the lads and it’s a great asset.
“It makes you half a yard quicker.
“That’s why I hope the supporters get behind the lads, whatever happens, on Monday night.
“If we go behind they need to stay with the lads like they did last year.”
‘Bomber’ scored the 150th goal of his career when he fired a brace as Albion recorded a 2-0 victory over Villa at The Hawthorns on Boxing Day 1973.
And Brown says it is his greatest derby memory.
“Boxing Day 1973 was my favourite." he said.
“We won 2-0 and I scored both the goals.
“One of them was my 150th goal for the club which is a special milestone.
“That one sticks out for me.
“Scoring it against Villa was an added bonus.
“We sent the supporters home happy which is the most important thing.”