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Astle debut 50 years ago today

30 September 2014

'The King' named in starting XI at Filbert Street

It was 50 years ago today that Jeffrey Astle first showed the way…

That’s how the legend should have started, but life doesn’t always play to the Hollywood script, does it.

So when Jeff Astle made his Albion debut 50 years ago this very evening, the jury was definitely out on whether or not the Throstles had made a shrewd investment or had perhaps wasted the £25,000 that we’d handed over to Notts County in return for his services.

For his first 90 minutes, played out at Leicester City’s Filbert Street, were less than encouraging. Not only did the Albion take a 4-2 beating but our new number nine had a stinker.

It rounded off a pretty average day for the new boy. On his arrival in the dressing room, sporting a bright green blazer, he was told by Sir Robert Hope to “Get out! The coach driver’s not allowed in here mate!”

Once manager Jimmy Hagan pointed out that this was his new signing, he then had to explain that a finger of Fudge was not enough to give the Albion fans a treat that evening. Stripped and ready to go in the corner of the dressing room was Mickey Fudge.

“Sorry Mickey, you’re not playing tonight. This is Jeff Astle and he needs your shirt.”

In the end, perhaps they’d have been better to let Jeff get to know his new teammates first, because they were certainly strangers that evening, though Jeff was not the only culprit in a team full of six out of tens.

Astle, however, knew what he was doing. Perhaps the greatest showman ever to don the stripes, he was simply waiting for the best moment to make the biggest possible entrance.

It came on his home debut, his third game for the club, on 10th October 1964, when we played host to the Wolves. Albion 5 Wolves 1 – that scoreline has a ring to it, doesn’t it – Astle two.

Stick goals past the Wolves and you will be a hero forever more, as long as you don’t park in Loftus Road. Astle knew it instinctively and, from there, a love affair with the Albion crowd was created, one that has never been surpassed.

Astle became the King of the Albion. It’s a better job than being King of England any day.


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