Walking down Wembley way
The early 1930s represented a golden age for the Throstles, begun as they were with the unique double of FA Cup win and promotion in the celestial season of 1930/31, then some strong showings in the top half of the top flight to follow.
But all good things eventually come to an end and the FA Cup final of 1935 proved to be the turning point in Albion fortunes. A solid league season saw then finish ninth, their worst in four seasons back in the First Division, but that was forgiven in the light of the march towards Wembley for the second time in five seasons.
The Throstletariat were spellbound by the imperious cup run. Since beating Birmingham in 1931, they’d won just one FA Cup tie in three seasons, but the club that had made so much of its history in the competition was back to its best in 1935.
Much was down to the emergence of Arthur Gale, the schoolteacher rising from the reserves to replace injured skipper Tommy Glidden after Christmas. Gale scored in the 2-1 win over Port Vale in round three and was on the mark again as Sheffield United were crushed 7-1 in round four. Gale scored again in round five as Albion won 5-0 up at Stockport, before the Throstles were drawn against age old rivals cup rivals Preston in round six.
More than 56,000 fans packed The Hawthorns to see Gale pinch the only goal to send Albion through. It took two games to overcome Bolton in the semi-final, Gale’s goalscoring run coming to a close, WG and Sandford winning us the replay 2-1.
With Glidden fit again, there was much debate ahead of the Wembley game as to who would face Sheffield Wednesday. Gale missed out, a decision that did not go down well with all of the support, not least because Joe Carter was also selected having been out injured for seven weeks.
In the end, in an era before substitutes were allowed, Carter’s inclusion proved a gamble too far for he pulled up injured early on and was little more than a passenger.
Wednesday scored after just two minutes through Palethorpe but Albion, composed after their visit to Wembley the day before as pictured, found their range and Boyes, a boyhood Wednesday fan, had us on terms after 21 minutes.
The Owls restored the advantage through Mark Hooper with 20 minutes left but Sandford levelled five minutes later. Carter missed two decent opportunities before a swift Wednesday break in the 85th minute saw Rimmer score. He added a second in the 89th minute to win the game 4-2.
For the Throstles, something snapped and we started sliding down the league. In 1937, they had a last hurrah by reaching the FA Cup semi-final but the death of Billy Bassett on the eve of the game affected the players deeply and they were well beaten by Preston, and in 1938 they were relegated to the Second Division.
No wonder war broke out a year later.