Do you want fries with this?
(An extract, From Wisdom Of The Ages: first of a two part interview with Derek Statham)
There are many of us of a certain age who will become eternally misty eyed at the mere mention of the name Derek Statham. It’s rare that a full-back attracts much attention but Derek was no ordinary full-back. Not only did he stand out as a player, he did it in that team that burned incandescent across God’s country in those greatest of years from 1977 to 1979.
In a team that included Cyrille Regis, Willie Johnston, Laurie Cunningham, Tony Brown and Bryan Robson amongst others, time and again it was the prospect of seeing Derek Statham in full flight that persuaded sections of the Throstletariat to put their money down and come to The Hawthorns, safe in the knowledge that the little number three would always do something that would sear through your retina and indelibly stamp itself on your brain.
If you weren’t there, get out all the DVDs, get on youtube and devour every inch of footage that you can. It will be worthwhile. There’s never been a footballer like him.
But if you were there, close your eyes and let the years cascade back. From the Smethwick Corner, I can see him collecting the ball in the penalty area at the Brummie End, turning past a striker and then putting his foot on the gas, careering forward down the left, swerving inside another challenge and crashing a 25 yarder at goal. Ok, they didn’t often go in, but who cares? The visceral thrill of watching Statham in full flight is something the game has not enjoyed since. He was genuinely magical.
Hard to reconcile such majesty with the fact that he grew up in Wolverhampton, but thee we are. Thankfully, our vigilant scouts rescued him from the clutches of the Molineux and made him a Throstle from an early age…
(An extract from Throstle At The Gates of Dawn, on the 1988/89 season. Above, Brian Talbot gives his backing to the Whopper)
Big Ron stabilised matters but following a sluggish start to the ‘88/89 campaign he was away to Spain, not to top up the tan – he was capable of doing that in Bromsgrove – but to take over Atletico Madrid.
Ten games in, 18th in the table and we started to cast around for yet another new manager but, in the meantime, Brian Talbot stepped up and took over as player / manager. He had the credentials as a former England, Ipswich and Arsenal man and very much the lynchpin in Atkinson’s Albion, but few were prepared for the start he would make in the job.
Five straight wins later and Albion were second, The Hawthorns crowd was baying for him to get the job, as were the players, and so the nameplate of Brian Talbot was screwed onto the manager’s door – actually, it might have been sellotaped, we got through managers so quickly those days there was no use being optimistic.
Having been given the job full time, we promptly took just one point from the next six, but Talbot’s team genuinely was on a roll and we shrugged off that blip to march on to the new year in imperious fashion.
We were a team full of goals, not least through Don Goodman who revelled in the service he got, not least from his manager who could play inch perfect pass after pass into his path. Alongside him was Gary Robson, enjoying perhaps his best spell at the Albion, working as Goodman’s foil, creative in the main but scoring his share of goals too.
At the back, Arthur Albiston was an experienced head while Chris Whyte and Stacey North formed a solid partnership, Whyte coolness personified, North also the possessor of a long throw that would have turned Rory Delap green.
These interviews, and much much more, can be found in Albion News, the magazine that happens to come out on match days. Super-sized, for your convenience. You know it makes sense.