Signature Sam not one to be out-Foxed
SEEING the wood for the trees is not always easy and sometimes you need a prompt to take a step back and really get a proper sense of perspective. Two such events over the last week helped do just that.
One of those was, of course, Astle Day. Let us not concern ourselves with the result for the moment, nor should we resort to the "typical Albion" response that’s so easy for many of us to slip into. No team can produce results to order, however mighty they are – on the 50th anniversary of the Munich disaster, not even Manchester United in their Sir Alex Ferguson pomp could do that, losing 2-1 at home to Manchester City in their retro kit and all.
Looking instead at the day in the round, it was the kind of event that this club could never have imagined doing a decade or so ago, a reminder of just how far we have travelled over the years.
To be self indulgent for a minute, I arrived here in October 2000, accidentally tasked with setting up a media department. We hadn’t got one then and, for eight months, I was it. We run a pretty tight ship now but that was like being stuck in a lifeboat. With no paddles. And holes in it. That said, I did own the club’s first laptop. Strictly speaking, it wasn’t a laptop, it was just that we had so little office space that my monitor was perched on the edge of a desk and I had to have the keyboard on my lap. Where was your health and safety then eh?
Anyway, 15 years on, on Saturday 11th April 2015, from the organisation of the white kit, through the week of Astle related media online, on to the pre-match and half-time entertainment, the entertaining of the VIP guests and on to the Astle King cards that blossomed in the Brummie, it was a quite extraordinary day, put on by club staff who went above and beyond, putting in plenty of extra hours to make sure the day went off smoothly.
They can all be deservedly proud of the shift they put in and of the way in which they raised Albion’s profile through football as a football club that understands just what it is that’s special and unique about this game – and it isn’t money.
The other incident came from a conversation with Sam Slater, once a ticket office employee here, now a record company mogul with his own Stoney Lane label – www.stoneylane.net - named, of course, in honour of our former home, and issuing catalogue numbers based on Albion glories – the first release, "Vuelta" by the Mike Fletcher Trio is SL1931. We need to win something new, quick.
I digress. I had an email from Sam last week saying, "I signed Ruel Fox". Knowing of his new venture, I imagined the former jet-heeled wingster had taken up a new career. I could see it all, Ruel Fox on vibes, leading a trio including Jonathan Greening keeping metronomic time on drums, Paul Scharner flailing away out front on alto sax with some Ornette Coleman free jazz stylings.
"Put me down for a copy!" I replied.
Sadly, this potential thrilling jazz combo exists merely in my fevered imagination, for there are no hot sonic platters in the offing from them – though don’t be surprised to see Stoney Lane issuing a sampler called "Ruel Fox On Vibes" in the near future.
Instead, Sam was referring to a time back in the summer of 2000 when life was simpler. The paperwork for Ruel Fox’s transfer from Tottenham had come through and needed a countersignature at this end before being faxed on to the Football League.
It was late in the day, Dr John Evans was not in the office – then housed in the upstairs corridor in the old Tom Silk Building – and most people had gone home. Sam was still around, so he affixed his autograph to the piece of paper, charged up the fax machine, and Ruel Fox was ours.
And that, my friends, was how we used to roll in olden times. We’ve come a long way. Let’s not forget it.