Albion boss believes Astle deserves recognition
TONY Pulis looked ahead to today's Astle Day by paying his own tribute - claiming the Albion legend was part of England's greatest-ever tournament squad.
The Albion family will come together at this afternoon's game with Leicester City to celebrate the 1968 FA Cup Final hero, as Jeff's family launch the Jeff Astle Foundation.
Albion players will wear a replica of the 1968 FA Cup Final kit, with supporters in the Birmingham Road End being called upon to create a striking image with cards when the clock strikes minute nine.
And that's not the end of it - with further surprises still being kept under wraps until later.
Pulis remembers Astle with fondness, not just for his Albion exploits but for being part of what the Baggies boss regards as the greatest-ever England squad.
Astle was part of the 1970 England World Cup squad regarded by many to be the nation's finest to take part in an overseas' tournament, despite losing in a quarter-final against West Germany.
Most notably England narrowly lost to Brazil in the group stages - with Astle, who won five caps, missing a chance to ensure a draw for Sir Alf Ramsey's side.
In the event, the score was irrelevant with both sides reaching the latter stages of the tournament, with the star-studded Brazil side - regarded as the finest-ever international side of all time - being crowned as eventual winners.
Pulis said: "That was a great World Cup and Jeff was part of it.
"People often spoke about that chance but it didn't matter. And he had already scored the FA Cup Final winner two years earlier for Albion.
"But for me that England team was better than the one which won the tournament in 1966.
"I've argued many times with Gordon Banks (ex-Stoke and England World Cup winning goalkeeper) about that as he said 66 was better as they won it.
"But for me '70 was better and Jeff was a part of that greatest ever England squad."
Pulis has urged supporters to enjoy today.
He continued: "The club have worked very hard to get this day and arrange it in a day everyone will enjoy, not just the family but every supporter at this football club who regard Jeff as one of the greatest they've seen here.
"It's a legacy he's left behind. The Cup final goal will be remembered but he scored so many goals, played so many games. He's iconic.
"Hopefully the fans who didn't see hm wll learn about what was one of Albion's greatest-ever players in one of the club's greatest-ever sides. The fans should celebrate that."
There is another, more serious aspect to today's proceedings - the launch of the Jeff Astle Foundation, which will provide care for the current and future generation of footballers suffering from head injuries.
Astle's death was attributed to Chronic traumatic encephalopathy (CTE), a condition more commonly known as Boxer's Brain.
Pulis added: "Having played in the 1970s, footballs weren't protected from water. It was frightening looking back.
"When I started we played with lace up footballs. Scientifically they've proven that heading it so many times can impact on you. The family have driven that and this will be a big occasion for them.
"We want to win the game. Jeff would want us to win that more than anything. So let everyone enjoy the game, let's hope for a good result.
"But let's hope awareness has been raised and money is raised for this Foundation."