Linking two members of Albion’s 300 club
YES, I know Albion are better known for the Three Degrees, but for the purposes of this game, we’re going to prove the idea that by six simple steps, everyone on earth can be connected to everyone else. Today, we will be tracing the lineage that goes from current captain Chris Brunt to his predecessor of 1954 vintage, Len Millard…
Albion’s number 11, CHRIS BRUNT, is well on his way to finding a permanent place in Albion folklore. With over 300 games and 42 goals to his name, these are incredible statistics in a modern game where players flit from club to club. Perhaps his greatest record is as Albion’s most capped international, a record he continues to extend further with Northern Ireland.
For many years, the holder of that record was Welsh international STUART WILLIAMS who wore the dragon on his shirt on33 occasions whilst he was at The Hawthorns, an impressive number given that these were the days when a country played just a handful of games per year and there were no substitutes allowed. Stuart was a regular at full-back for Wales over many years and played his full part in the country’s greatest footballing achievement, reaching the 1958 World Cup finals in Sweden.
The Welsh had a terrific time at the only tournament where all four home nations have qualified, for while England and Scotland went out at the group stages, Wales and Northern Ireland both made it through to the knockout phase. That’s where Wales’ luck ran out because they came across a team that was about to change the shape of world football. Their quarter-final game was against Brazil and Stuart was charged with playing against a hitherto unknown teenager called PELE.
Wales fought valiantly but lost 1-0 and Pele and his colleagues went on to roll out a new conception of the game that perhaps reached its apogee in the World Cup of 1970 when that canary shirted team brought colour to a world that had existed in black and white. Magnificent as they were in beating Italy 4-1 in the final, perhaps the greatest game that year was against England as Pele and BOBBY MOORE engaged in a remarkable display of the footballing arts played out as duel in the sun.
Moore, of course, was skippering the reigning champions after England had emerged victorious from the competition held in their own backyard in 1966, thereby interrupting Brazil’s run of success. That final against West Germany is the stuff of legend by now of course, not least its climax when Moore led his team up the 39 steps to Wembley’s old, and rather more impressive Royal Box to collect the Jules Rimet trophy, wiping his hands on his way up so that he would not dirty the gloves of THE QUEEN as they shook hands.
HM the Q is of course, a regular visitor to all kinds of state occasions and sporting events, that being in the job description. It was rather remiss of her, therefore, that she found herself otherwise engaged on May 18th 1968 when the Albion were at Wembley to collect the Football Association’s Challenge Cup after giving Everton a proper walloping, 1-0. Clearly she didn’t pay attention to what her mother told her because back on May 1st 1954, THE QUEEN MOTHER was at the cup final, and rightly so.
On that day, she had the great privilege of watching the “Team of the Century” in action and carrying off the FA Cup by defeating Preston North End 3-2, some consolation for a season in which the England selectors stole the double from us, not that we’re still bitter about it. Before the game, HM the QM had the great honour of being presented to the Albion team and at the final whistle, the even greater privilege of handing the cup over into the tender care of LEN MILLARD.