Baggie Shorts: Christmas Special
SANTA, hold fire: we're not done yet.
Yes, it's us again.
So while the fat man tries to squeeze himself down the chimney, we visit you one final time.
It must be the festive edition of Baggie Shorts.
Mr Andy Johnson. If you have ever met a man with more boundless energy, a more bizarre sense of humour and a greater willingness to do anything possible to entertain himself and those around him, you probably work in a very specialised branch of the medical services.
From the very outset, Johnno was different. Very different. Special. His first matchday at The Hawthorns saw him turn up for the game in a rascal of a suit that looked as if it had seen time at Wormwood Scrubs, charcoal grey with stripes that looked disconcertingly like arrows on it.
Andy is perhaps the most hyperactive bloke on earth, which accounted for his performances on the field, haring around like a demented Duracell bunny on speed. It also accounts for the fact that on occasion, he struggled to sleep. Most of us might make a drink in such times of trial. Perhaps read an improving book. Watch a bit of insomniac television. For Johnno, being awake at the three in the morning was always just another opportunity to do something. Like get up and build a bonfire and then set light to it in his back garden.
I never visited Johnson Towers but from the goings on there, the garden must have taken up most of Worcestershire. How else could he have handled the menagerie that made its way through his garden? Injury never sat well with Johnno given that it reduced his chances of running off all that excess energy, and during the lengthy post-Fulham lay off in the Great Escape season, one day, left to entertain his kids, they were all particularly bored.
Given that footballers aren’t entirely short of a few quid, you’d think the answer might be to go out and buy them a new computer game, or take them to a theme park. But Johnno was altogether more original than that. He bought a couple of lambs for them to play with. The novelty didn’t last long and legend has it that after a short while, said lambs were bundled into the back of a van and, the following morning, a local farmer awoke to find his flock increased to the tune of two.
But let us end on a seasonal note. In a further bid to entertain his children one Christmas, Johnno, from somewhere, found a reindeer, which he tethered in the garden overnight on Christmas Eve so that he could tell them Santa had called the following morning. As he recited the tale, one member of the group asked, “You never got a real reindeer did you? You just nailed some antlers to a donkey didn’t you!”
But no, ‘twas a real reindeer, which captivated the children for at least 30 seconds until they got their hands on their Xbox. Amid the Christmas Day excitement, the reindeer somehow slipped away. So, if anybody sees a reindeer looking lost near Bromsgrove – or a donkey with blood pouring out of its antlers for that matter – you know where it came from.
Imagine having an Albion Boardroom at the office. Entatech UK Ltd don’t need to imagine, they’ve got one within their UK headquarters thanks to company Director, and avid Albion fan Jon Atherton.
The Telford-based IT Distributor represent a host of high street names such as Microsoft and Fujitsu, and recently decided to offer sponsorship for each of their meeting rooms.
Marketing manager and, ahem, Wolves fan Steve Parker takes up the story.
"Redesigning our corporate offices was a job I was looking forward to, until I got the brief from Director Jon Atherton for an Albion room,” said the horrified Molineux dweller.
Famous for putting his Wolves supporting staff through the grinder, Jon – who has supported The Baggies for over 30 years - was delighted to rub salt in their wounds and unveil his latest project: a room decked out in Albion decor. Now that's what we call good taste.
"The boardroom at Entatech will host an array of international corporate guests, and has already become a big talking point. We already host a series of visitors in our box at The Hawthorns, and this was an opportunity I just couldn’t resist. The disappointed faces of the Entatech Wolves supporters, is an added bonus!”
And who said Christmas spirit was dead...?
We are now amid our ninth season in the new top flight of English football, the holy grail that is the Premier League, destroyer of the old order when football was still a sport rather than a reality TV show. That first season began with a 1-0 defeat at Manchester United’s Old Trafford. When Derek McInnes got red carded in that game, we should have known there was something rum about this league and, sure enough, we’ve barely got a decision in our favour since.
So, starter for ten, no conferring. Who scored West Bromwich Albion’s first ever Premier League goal, all the way back in 2002. Was it Jason Roberts? Lee Hughes maybe? Bob Taylor? No, he was hardly given a Premiership kick. Scott Dobie? Danny Dichio?
It was none of those strikers. Nor was it Ronnie “best Bosman” Wallwork. It was a man whose name has been long since forgotten. Step forward Lee Marshall, for that was your moment of fame. Albion had thrown the kitchen sink at Leeds United in the opening phase of our first home game in the Premier League but as we entered the last minute of the fixture, we were losing 3-0. Marshall, a 73rd minute sub, found himself in the box in injury time and was presented with a chance to slot a consolation goal past Robinson, a chance he happily accepted. After a mere 17 minutes in an Albion shirt, Marshall had peaked.
And how he had peaked. For compared with the rest of his time here, that was a moment so stratospheric he should have required supplementary oxygen to get through it, so thin was the air up there. \
It didn’t all collapse immediately, for the £700,000 signing from relegated Leicester City managed to get himself a few early season games as we defended our way to a series of plucky defeats, desperately trying to keep our heads below water. Marshall had impressed at times during that early season spell, his passing a feature at times, the lanky Londoner certainly performing every bit as well as any of his colleagues.
And then, as the seasons turned, Autumn saw the fall of leaves and Lee. He was substituted midway through the 2-0 defeat at Stamford Bridge as we chased a game long gone and after that, nothing. Not a word. Lee Marshall disappeared with an efficiency that Lord Lucan would have admired had we been able to find him to ask about it.
Weeks passed. They turned into months, as weeks have a habit of doing. Albion’s form improved little if at all, but Marshall never got the call. Bonfire night passed, Advent calendars were opened, nutmeg was applied to Christmas puddings, New Year’s resolutions were made, Valentines were sent, pancakes were tossed, hot cross buns were toasted, Albion were relegated, chocolate eggs consumed, Maypoles danced around, but sign of a Marshall Plan came there none. And nobody knew what had become of him.
Only briefly, at a forum with the manager in the East Stand, did it seem as if we might get an answer. As orders for last questions were taken, a bright spark got up. “I want to ask something that’s troubling me. I want to know about the forgotten man at the Albion”. At last, an answer! “I want to know, what has happened to”.. yes, yes, say it! “To Michael Appleton”. We had found the only Albion supporter on earth unaware that Michael was out injured.
A new season began, a fresh promotion drive opened up. Surely Marshall would be back in harness now for he was more than capable of holding his own in the First Division. But still nothing. And then, as we arrived at The Hawthorns for the visit of Derby County, a rumour swept the ground. Marshall had been spotted, training with the matchday squad for the first time in a year or more. Was Marshy back?
Apparently not. He did not appear against Derby, wasn’t even on the bench. A few weeks later he was off to Hull on loan where he broke his leg and had his career ended prematurely, a terrible waste, as was his entire career with Albion. But, acting professionally to the end, his last act as a Throstle had been to answer the call to come in and train on Christmas Day...
And on that note, all at wba.co.uk would like to wish you a very Happy Christmas.
We'll see you soon.