From the sublime to the not so much...Football never stands still. However good you were last season, whatever you won, however you played, it was last season. What matters most is the now, the present, next Saturday. You have to go and prove yourselves all over again, which is precisely what this collection of Albion men were doing on this day at Bramall Lane in early September 1954.
by beating Preston North End 3-2 at Wembley Stadium. Could they go one better the following year or had they peaked?stThe “team of the century” had missed the double by a whisker in 1953/54, coming second in the league, collecting the FA Cup on May 1
Early evidence, after they’d lost the opening two games, was favourable. A run of seven wins and a draw thereafter – including a 2-1 win at Sheffield United after this picture was taken, goals from Carter and Allen – took the Throstles to the summit of the First Division, and all seemed set fair for another assault upon the title, but even as we crested the wave with a 6-4 victory over Leicester City, storm clouds were brewing.
.thThe great Ray Barlow, the heartbeart of that celestial team was struck down with injury and played just once in the next 11 games. By the time he was fit and raring to go again, Albion had won just twice more and had slumped to 13
Similar problems afflicted Johnnie “on the spot” Nicholls, great foil to Ronnie Allen and goalpoacher extraordinaire in the previous season, Nicholls managing but 17 league appearances across the campaign, contributing a dozen goals.
Manager Vic Buckingham tried to mask his loss, eve playing Barlow in attack at times, but that cost the side even more as they lost his invention, his guile and his genius – for once, not too strong a use of the word – for spotting and then delivering a pass of such geometric perfection that not even Da Vinci would have registered it.
century, by Newcastle United in 1951 and 1952. The third round draw was kind, in its way, sending Albion to Bournemouth of the Third Division (South). A single goal from defender Stuart Williams, playing in the unfamiliar role of inside-right in place of Paddy Ryan, was enough to settle the tie and give us a fourth round visit from Charlton Athletic. The Baggies had already beaten them 3-1 down at The Valley, a game that saw Alec Jackson make his debut, but although Williams contrived to thrive up front, scoring twice, Albion were bundled out of the competition, 4-2.thBy the turn of the year, pursuit of the league title was out of the question and, with no European places to fight for back then, all thoughts turned to the defence of the FA Cup, something achieved only once in the 20
Already a transitional season in many respects, that fall from grace in the cup only hastened the process and Buckingham began to tinker with his team. Both Stan Rickaby and Paddy Ryan came to the end of the road as the likes of Williams, Alec Jackson and Wilf Carter started to play more regularly, players for the future.
, but it had its share of memorable moments. We played out a pulsating 4-4 draw with Wolves at Molineux in the Charity Shield, the two sides sharing the shield for six months, and in October, we travelled to Brussels to face the mighty Hungarians of Honved, losing 5-3 to a team that included Puskas, Kocsis, Czibor and Bozsik.thThe 1954/55 campaign ended with the Throstles 17
Perhaps the most significant result was in the FA Youth Cup though, where we were beaten in the final. That was no disgrace though. Our opponents were Manchester United, fielding a team of boys that were about to become legendary as the Busby Babes.