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Six degrees of separation: From Pocognoli to Brown

3 November 2015

Connecting a Belgian full-back back to our greatest goalscorer

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, a bit like Jeremy Clarkson and a TV producer’s chin, only with extra steps and fewer cold potatoes. Today, we will be tracing the lineage that goes from our Belgian left-back Sebastien Pocognoli and the goalscoring genius of Tony Brown…

SEBASTIEN POCOGNOLI, our Belgian international, was a part of the national team at the Beijing Olympics in 2008, and has played across Europe since making his debut for Genk as a youngster, playing in Germany and Holland as well as in this country and his homeland, playing for Hannover 96 and AZ Alkmaar amongst others.

It was at Alkmaar that he came under the leadership of the renowned LOUIS VAN GAAL, the Manchester United manager. Van Gaal won the Dutch title with AZ, one of seven national championships that he has won in his career. To that you can add the Champions League, UEFA Cup, two UEFA Super Cups and the Intercontinental Cup as well as leading the Netherlands to third place in the recent World Cup. Not bad for a former gym teacher.

Even then, Van Gaal is not the most famous gym teacher in the world of football, for surely that distinction goes to the late BRIAN GLOVER, famous actor, writer, one time wrestler and the embodiment of the PE teacher when he played the role of Mr Sugden in the film “Kes”. Picturing himself as Bobby Charlton, Glover’s cameo as the frustrated footballer, commentating on his own prowess, is perhaps the standout moment of the film.

The movie was directed by KEN LOACH, doyen of the social realism school of filmmaking, especially back in the 1960s, though the Nuneaton born visionary has broadened that palette over the years. Football has remained a part of his work, not least in the brilliant 2008 movie “Looking For Eric”, featuring Cantona himself. Something of a rebel, Loach, like Cantona has long been a maverick who refuses to be cowed by the Establishment. 

In that mood, Loach turned down the award of an OBE in 1977, putting him in the company of a small band who have turned down such honours, including JOHN LENNON who, having once accepted an MBE, sent it back “as a protest against the Nigeria-Biafra thing, against our support of America in Vietnam and against “Cold Turkey” slipping down the charts”. Lennon had his chauffeur, Les Anthony, drive the medal back to Buckingham Palace, which possibly ruined the symbolism a bit.

As well as being a member of The Beatles, Lennon was a noted wordsmith and printed a couple of books of verse, short stories and drawings during the height of Beatlemania, called “In His Own Write” and “A Spaniard In The Works”. These were both fine examples of Lennon’s love of a bit of punning wordplay and, despite the title, that second book was not an early prediction that Albion’s 1978/79 UEFA Cup campaign would see us run up against VALENCIA.

That two legged cup tie remains one of the seismic events in the long and glorious history of the Throstles, an epic win over a side containing perhaps the world’s greatest player at the time, Mario Kempes. Coming home with a 1-1 draw from Spain, the second leg at The Hawthorns was the most pulsating affair. Albion were in irresistible form and won 2-0, one of the goals good enough to turn into a stature. The scorer? TONY BROWN, obviously…

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