Careful what you wish for Mr Gaunt…
THE 1969/70 season marked the end of a golden era for the Throstles. When they marched out at Wembley Stadium for the League Cup Final on 7th March 1970, it was for a fourth cup final in five seasons.
Despite taking an early lead through a Jeff Astle goal – the King thereby becoming the first player ever to score in both an FA and a League Cup Final at Wembley – Albion were eventually defeated in extra-time by Manchester City, the game played out on a mudheap after Wembley’s pitch had been scarred by heavy snow in the week ahead of the game.
In the league, it was a middling season at best, the Throstles finishing in 16th, though never troubled by relegation. Astle was in imperious form, scoring 25 league goals and five more in the League Cup, on his way to selection for Sir Alf Ramsey’s England squad that went out to Mexico to defend the World Cup at the end of the season.
Astle didn’t trouble the scorers in the FA Cup, but Tony Brown did, scoring perhaps the finest goal of his career as Albion went out to Sheffield Wednesday, losing 2-1 in the third round at Hillsborough. They’d gone out of the competition at the same venue the previous year, losing the FA Cup semi-final to Leicester City, the only time the Throstles have lost consecutive cup ties on the same ground.
The League Cup run aside, there wasn’t a huge amount to cheer, the best win of the campaign coming in the 40th game, as we beat Nottingham Forest 4-0 with two from Bomber and one each from Astle and Allan Glover. In typical style, we followed up our best win with our worst defeat, a 7-0 thrashing at Old Trafford in the very next game some four days later.
Albion suffered a grim end to the season, winning just three and losing seven of the last 13 league games, though we did beat AS Roma 4-0 in the end of season Anglo-Italian Cup, our game at Lanerossi Vicenza abandoned after 76 minutes following a riot, instigated in no small part by Asa Hartford.
History has it that by then, chairman Jim Gaunt was already itching to change things, complaining after the Manchester City defeat that, “I’m fed up of coming to Wembley, it’s time we won the league”.
On the one hand, he got his wish – the Baggies didn’t trouble the national stadium again until 1993, by which time we’d dropped into the third tier of English football.