Centenary celebrations1979/80 was an anti-climactic campaign, though it’s hard to see how it could ever have been anything but following the incendiary way in which the Throstles tore up domestic and European football the previous year before the snow got in the way of us winning everything.
In the wake of that success, Laurie Cunningham headed for Real Madrid, Len Cantello went to Bolton Wanderers and Albion needed to regroup. Things were hardly helped by injury to Cyrille Regis and Derek Statham, while Tony Brown was coming to the end of the most distinguished career in Albion history.
New faces came in to join David Mills who had become Albion’s record buy in January 1979. That record was smashed by Peter Barnes who arrived with his Manchester City colleague Gary Owen in tow, while John Deehan moved here from Witton to plug the gap while Cyrille was sidelined.
That this was a time of transition was made very clear by the line-up for the season’s curtain raiser, the Centenary Game against Ajax of Amsterdam.
Of those 15 who line up in our photograph, six were new acquisitions, though Ivan Katalinic was here on trial, allegedly because Ron Atkinson thought it might help persuade Tony Godden that signing a new contract rather than spending a year in the stiffs might be a smart move. It worked as Katalinic kept a clean sheet in the 1-0 win, Barnes getting the goal. Godden was an ever present thereafter, having found his signing pen all of a sudden.
It was a grim start to the new campaign as we won only one of the opening nine, Manchester City obligingly falling by the wayside as we won 4-0, but we took some tankings too, not least a 5-1 beating at the hands of Nottingham Forest when John Robertson was on fire – he obviously forgot to put his fag out.
We went out of Europe at the first hurdle as we lost to Carl Zeiss Jena, a huge blow having fared so well in the UEFA Cup a season before.
The League Cup saw us reach round four and then in the FA Cup after a 1-1 draw at The Hawthorns against Second Division West Ham, when Phil Parkes gave an unbelievable goalkeeping performance, we lost 2-1 in the replay at Upton Park, Tony Brown registering his last goal for the club. The Hammers went on to win the cup that season, through the Head of Trev.
New players began to emerge as the season wore on, Martyn Bennett and Barry Cowdrill popping up in defence from time to time, Remi Moses adding some steel and energy to the midfield as we rebuilt and laid down some foundations for the following year.
place, deeply disappointing at the time – weren’t we a spoilt bunch? thThings gradually picked up and, after a poor run at the turn of the year, we only lost two of the last 18 league games. Overall though, we couldn’t turn draws into wins – 19 draws and 11 wins all season – and that left us consigned to 10