IT'S not often that Albion have been able to bring in a player who is already a seasoned international for his country, but when Brian Little returned to his former employers, Stoke City, to pluck Larus Sigurdsson from their back line, he had already racked up an impressive 30 caps for his nation – and within weeks of arriving here, he clocked up number 31 as Iceland lost 3-2 to the then World Champions at the Stade de France.
It didn’t take Siggy very long to endear himself to the fans at his new club, his rumbustious, no nonsense aggression, his win the ball first and ask questions later attitude making him a firm favourite. Perhaps the best out and out defender that the Throstles had fielded since Ron Saunders had a brainstorm and flogged Ally Robertson to the Wolves, Larus lived by a simple job description: keep the ball out of our net at all costs.
In a grisly spell under Little, Siggy was a shining light, keeping opposing teams at bay on his own at times, keeping us in with a chance of avoiding relegation to Division Two.
Larus was the living embodiment of proper defending. Nothing fancy, nothing flash, just win the ball and get it away to safety, before a cruciate injury kept him out of the final phase of that season and much of the next as he battled back to fitness.
His value to his nation was acknowledged as he returned to their side almost as soon as the Albion XI, playing in a beaten side in Sofia as Iceland lost a World Cup qualifier.
Happier days were around the corner as Larus played a full part in one of his nation’s greatest wins, a 3-1 thumping of the Czech Republic in Reykjavik. That heralded perhaps the greatest season of Siggy’s career, a year when he, Darren Moore, Phil Gilchrist and Russell Hoult entered Albion folklore as one of the most miserly defences in our history. “1-0 to the Albion” became a mantra as those four were the bedrock of our march past the Wolves and on to promotion.
Now a Premiership player, Larus continued as a regular for his country, enduring a personal nightmare when they were drawn against Scotland in European Championship qualifying and proceeded to lose both games 2-0. Not advisable when you had to share a dressing room with the poisonous tongues of Scott Dobie and Derek McInnes…
Larus almost had the last laugh as Iceland drew 0-0 with Germany in Reykjavik, putting them ahead of the Scots, in second place with one qualifying game to go.
Larus didn’t make it to that game. Fourteen days later, he tangled with Andrew Johnson (theirs, not ours) in Albion’s game at Crystal Palace and had to be substituted. Siggy never kicked another ball in anger, for club or country.
The Iceman is still missed.