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Six degrees of separation: From Olsson to Robson

27 October 2015

Connecting a Swedish warrior to Captain Marvel

YOU are all aware of the game I’m sure, the idea that by six simple steps, everyone on earth can be connected to everyone else – a bit like using Luis Suarez’s dental records. We have a simpler method and today, we will be tracing the lineage that goes from our mighty central defender Jonas Olsson all the way through to Albion, United and England legend Bryan Robson…

He is currently 228 games into one of the great Albion careers, and though he has had a difficult start to the season, anybody writing off JONAS OLSSON is clearly both deranged and a braver man than me. If we can be sure of anything in professional football, it’s that Jonas will be back. In the meantime however, Jonas will doubtless be drawing inspiration from his music collection, notably that of the greatest survivor of them all, his guitar playing hero.

KEITH RICHARDS, for it is he, is the personification of rock’n’roll. Reputed to visit a Switzerland clinic on a regular basis to have his blood changed, it’s thought that in the event of nuclear attack, the only things to withstand the blast will be cockroaches and Keef. He is, of course, the mainstay of the greatest rock’n’roll band in the world, the Rolling Stones who, most right thinking people agree, went through their imperial phase once Mick Taylor had joined the band.

Taylor’s tenure started with the “Let It Bleed” album in 1969, an album that featured a cake that would even have Mary Berry going all gooey. And no wonder, for it was created by noted fellow cakewright DELIA SMITH who is now just as well known for involvement at Norwich City. Possibly her finest moment came during a televised game when, with the Canaries struggling, she went out on the pitch and harangued the fans with, “Where are you? Let’s be having you!”

“999 Letsbe Avenue” is the punchline to one of the favourite jokes in the much loved children’s comic THE BEANO, the set up being, “Where do policemen live?” In those far off days before the internet knackered everything, The Beano was part of the fabric of the nation, achieving extraordinary circulation figures and becoming an institution enjoyed by all ages and by all levels of society, from High Court judges to musical royalty from the swinging sixties.

How do we know this to be the case? Because on the cover of “John Mayall’s Bluesbreakers”, a seminal record from that decade, a copy of The Beano is being read by none other than guitar god ERIC CLAPTON. During the late 1970s, in the golden days of the Three Degrees and Ron Atkinson’s cavalier football team, Clapton was a regular visitor to The Hawthorns and was pictured wearing an Albion scarf on the cover of his “Backless” album, released in November 1978.

A couple of months earlier, Clapton had underlined his Albion supporting credentials by sponsoring a game here in God’s country, our first ever UEFA Cup tie when we played host to the Turkish side GALATASARAY. They were not quite the feared institution they’ve become today with the “Welcome to Hell” banners that festoon their new stadium. Back then, they were there for the taking and, as part of our glorious march to the quarter-finals, take them we did. 

Out in Turkey, Albion stormed to a 3-1 victory, becoming the only English team to defeat Galatasaray on their home soil until Chelsea repeated the trick with a 5-0 victory in the Champions League in 1999. Not only did we win in Turkey, we repeated the trick at The Hawthorns and by the same scoreline. Laurie Cunningham showed that European competition was going to be his forte by scoring in both legs, as did our dynamic midfielder BRYAN ROBSON.

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