Behind the scenes at the Baggies
BURSTING with more value for money than an Autumn Statement, more intrigue than the title of the next James Bond movie and more laughs than the latest episode of I'm A Celebrity...BAGGIE SHORTS is back with a bang!
The latest instalment of our regular column, which takes a sideways-look behind the scenes at all things Albion, is primed and ready for action.
So let's do this...
Asking questions is central to any media professional's job, but some questions are better than others.
One national broadcaster, who shall remain nameless, once strode into the press room before a game here and demanded of the Albion press team, "Is it true that The Hawthorns is the highest league ground above sea level in the country?"
Short of referring him directly to God, we were stumped. So we told him that we'd had the sea lowered instead.
With a venture to Humberside next up for Albion on Saturday, any trip to Hull sends out a reminder of the time esteemed colleagues from a neighbouring club set off for the long journey north in what was the Tigers' first season in the Premier League.
Having typed the stadium postcode into their Sat Nav, our media friends relaxed and pointed their car in the general direction of the Hull ground.
Or so they thought.
They finally 'reached their destination' to find themselves pulling up outside a near-derelict Boothferry Park - not the KC Stadium.
Thankfully the two stadia are only a mile apart.
We at Baggie Shorts are hardly in a position to talk. One of our team once set off for a pre-season Albion game at Histon, confident in the knowledge that his Sat Nav would take him straight to the non-league stadium thanks to the postcode listed on a popular search engine.
Big mistake. Our man arrived at his destination, some 60 minutes before the scheduled kick-off: an A-road lay-by, next to a field full of cows.
Worse, the actual Histon ground was some 15 miles away...
Thankfully, this was a pre-season friendly in a sleepy Cambridgeshire village, not a crucial Barclays Premier League match.
Steve Bruce: full-time football manager, part-time wedding guest according to one of Twitter's funniest parody sites.
Having once described a Blues performance as being a 'damp squid', Bruce remains one of the most down-to-earth, friendliest managers in the Premier League - championed by the media, respected by players.
And it was after last season's game between Hull and Albion that the Geordie allowed his professional mask to slip.
As journalists gathered to hear Bruce wax lyrical about his side's victory over the Baggies, the Hull boss brought an abrupt halt to his press conference.
"BLOOOODY HELL...did ya see that?," yelped Bruce, holding the side of his head with one hand, pointing with his other hand at the TV screen positioned high above and behind the seated media.
His eyes were transfixed on the action unfolding elsewhere: "Hang on, hang on...never mind me...forget what I've got to say...I want all of you to watch this goal again."
And so all pressing media demands were put on hold as the entire room turned to watch a re-run of Wayne Rooney's brilliant strike for Manchester United against West Ham.
Yes, it was worth the interruption.
Steve Bruce: Football enthusiast first, manager second.
In a former life before writing programmes, Albion's publications editor Dave Bowler wrote a book about the history of the England team called “Three Lions On The Shirt” (still available, ideal Christmas present etc etc).
One interviewee was Mark Hateley, then manager at Hull, our opponents this weekend.
Hull was a very different club then, still at Boothferry Park. Things weren’t so lavish then, their office a small house just outside the ground.
As Dave says, “It’s not the only time I’ve been ushered into an upstairs bedroom by a secretary, but it is the only time I’ve interviewed a former England goalscorer in one”.
December is traditionally a time when footballers bring Christmas joy and happiness to less fortunate youngsters.
We are no different, with Albion's first-team players visiting Sandwell Hospital and the Birmingham Children's Hospital during the coming days bearing gifts, Christmas goodies and no shortage of yuletide cheer.
It's a humbling experience for all players and staff. But it's not without its more surreal moments.
Baggie Shorts recalls a visit to one hospital several years ago, when the season of goodwill to all men (and women!) took on a slightly different twist.
A group of Albion players - we shall refrain from naming individuals, but it was circa 2005 - were in the process of leaving the hospital having completed their festive duties.
As the players entered the lift and waited to descend to the ground floor, a somewhat flustered matron raced up to them and just about managed to squeeze open the closing doors.
"Which one of you wanted the nurse's number?...Her name's Clare...She's asked me to pass it on..."
And then followed silence.
Extremely awkward silence, in fact.
As the confused medic stepped back, still holding the incriminating slip of paper, the doors closed and the lift began its descent.
We never did find out who the amorous Albion player was...
See you all next time! 'boing-boing'