Bomber, the wordsmith
NOT many people get to work or spend regular time in the company of their heroes.
One man does. Publications editor Dave Bowler has got to know Tony Brown better than most.
Whether it's footballing philosophies, formations, favourite players, worst opponents, best-ever goals, most forgettable games or just chit-chat in general - there is little Bomber and Dave haven't tackled over the years.
Here is Dave's story:
For some 14 seasons now, week on week, it has been my huge good fortune to transcribe the Gospel according to Tony Brown for the Albion programme. I reckon he will have done around 300 columns by the end of this season, along with countless one-off pieces, interviews about specific games and players and seasons.
We must be approaching three-quarters of a million words over that time, making the great man possibly the best documented, most prolific footballing wordsmith of all time. No surprise though really, given he is also the most prolific marksman the Albion have ever had.
We've done those columns sitting in his front room, over the phone and, more often than not, in my car as we trundle back from away games all over the land, me asking questions, Tony answering them, my digital recorder in his hand. And if only you could get hold of the unedited versions...
I grew up watching Tony Brown. My first childhood memory that I can date is May 19th 1968 when my Mom and Dad took me to West Bromwich High Street and we watched the Albion, Tony included, bringing the FA Cup home. He was in the team when I went to my first game here in January 1971. He was a constant in that team for the next nine years, almost a part of the family.
It's been a great joy to know him these last 14 years and share all kinds of footballing days with him. But even now, when we're coming up the M1 sometimes, I'll glance over at the passenger seat and suddenly think, "Jesus Christ! Tony Brown's in my car!" I couldn't be more amazed and, truth be told, I'd be less impressed, if I was saying, "Tony Brown! Jesus Christ's in my car!"
Talking to the great man has made many a long journey flash by, as has his willingness to bring wine gums and jelly babies for every trip back - he rarely succumbs to temptation, he's an athlete... But that is symptomatic of his generosity and his thought for others. Unfailingly humble, perpetually generous with his time, always willing to talk on any footballing topic you like if there's space to fill, able to laugh at himself as well as others, being able to call him a friend is a rare privilege.
Don’t meet your heroes they say but there is no worry on that score with Tony. He might have hips of steel these days, legacy itself of his devotion to the Albion served at the end of a needle dripping cortisone, but he definitely does not have feet of clay.
Never mind footballers, the world needs more people like Tony Brown. If God is paying proper attention, then while the statue is lovely enough, He’ll confer something else on him. He’ll make him immortal.