The unique double diamondsMARK well these faces peering out from the smoke at Paddington Station in late April 1931.
It was a team that had been gradually forming ever since the gradually declining League Champions of 1920 had been relegated in 1927 and new heroes were required.
Wise heads such as Tommy Magee, George Shaw and skipper Tommy Glidden offered a little bit of experience to the combine, but it was the sudden emergence of WG Richardson and Teddy Sandford in particular as fully formed players that season which provided that piece of alchemy which transforms the solid into the stellar.
In an era when only the top two got promoted, there was a precious little margin for error, and less still given this was a division that included Everton, still spearheaded by the legendary Dixie Dean, the Toffees disappearing off into the distance and making it clear there was only one promotion spot up for grabs – 121 goals in 42 league games garnered them 61 points.
Division Two was a pretty powerful place that year for as well as Albion and Everton, Tottenham, Wolves, Burnley and Preston, perennial top flight powerhouses were all competing for promotion. Albion were well placed at the turn of the year, ensconced in second, jousting with Spurs and Wolves. Then the FA Cup began and it was to turn into an epic run for Albion.
Three games were required to defeat Charlton Athletic in the third round, the Throstles eventually triumphant on the neutral soil of Villa Park.
A tumultuous cup tie against Tottenham saw Albion edge through by the only goal, Portsmouth were despatched at Fratton Park and then it was Wolves in round five. More than 52,000 saw us draw at The Hawthorns but over at Molineux, the forces of the light prevailed and WG and Stan Wood saw us to a 2-1 win.
Perhaps the season’s pivotal game was the semi-final at Old Trafford against Everton. They were all but promoted. Had they won, the double might have been theirs.
But in an atmosphere of near hysteria at a ground bursting at the seams, Glidden’s goal, a cross that confused the Everton ‘keeper and skidded in, sent Albion to the new fangled Wembley.
They were playing catch up in the league as the fixtures piled up, but Spurs lost their nerve and we closed remorselessly in on them, such that when we went to the FA Cup Final – held a week before the final league games – our fate was in our hands. Win those three last games and the team would become immortal.
Birmingham were well beaten in the pouring rain at Wembley, WG scoring both Albion goals in the 2-1 win, the winner coming straight from the kick-off after Blues had equalised, the Throstles cutting a swathe through the defence to restore order.
The following Thursday we won at Stoke – it must have been our year – setting up the last day at The Hawthorns when Charlton were the visitors. Needing a win to clinch promotion, he game went to and fro before Tommy Glidden and his men could lay hands upon their destiny.
century, perhaps a greater double even than winning Division One and the FA Cup. After all, nobody has managed to do it since. thAlbion had accomplished the first double of the 20