Where it all started...
JEFF Astle’s first Albion appearance came in undistinguished circumstances, thrown straight into the team at Leicester’s Filbert Street a few hours after signing for us for £25,000, leaving Fourth Division Notts County behind.
He arrived in the dressing room full of players to be greeted as the new bus driver because of the green blazer he was wearing. Having relieved Mickey Fudge of the number ten shirt that he was already wearing, he duly went out and played like one, only not of the Charlie Adam variety. Albion lost 4-2, the goals scored by our full-backs, Cram and Williams. It was that kind of night.
Another ordinary performance followed in a 1-1 draw at Sheffield United before a home debut beckoned on October 10th, 1964. The opponents? Wolves.
Just 25 minutes into the game, Sir Robert Hope floated in a dangerous cross that the Wolves ‘keeper flapped at. John Kaye picked up the loose ball and chipped it across the face of goal, onto the forehead of Astle, from where it was but a short journey to the back of the net, a journey that would be a frequent one in the years to come, one far more popular in West Bromwich than anything even Michael Palin might come up with.
Astle was now up and running, revelling in the rarefied First Division air. That he was now at home was underlined in the 56th minute when he was on the spot again to prod home a Clive Clark cross from within the six yard box. Now in the number nine shirt, the arms were raised in what was to become a familiar pose and a star was born.
Albion went on to win 5-1 and if Astle was not yet the King, he was already Albion royalty with his eyes on the throne. It didn’t take long to get there.