Club News

Albion 8: Buckingham's Palace

Big Vic, but not as you know it

WELCOME to Albion 8, our quirky, slightly disjointed look back through the archives.

This week, we honour possibly our greatest-ever manager.

It was 21 years ago this week that Vic Buckingham passed away.

As a tribute to the great man, we are devoting Albion 8 to his achievements in football - not just with Albion, but also beyond.

* PEGASUS. Back in the day when the FA Amateur Cup would draw six figure crowds, Buckingham guided Pegasus - a team comprised of Oxford and Cambridge students - to the Wembley final, where they beat Bishop Auckland in front of 100,000 fans playing 'push-and-run' football that was to become the hallmark of many teams throughout that era, notably the Spurs side that won the League and Cup double of 1961.

* 1953-1959: Buckingham's time at The Hawthorns. In that period, Albion claimed top five positions on four occasions, including runners-up in 1954, won one FA Cup and got to the semi-finals.

* DOUBLE TROUBLE...: In 1954, Albion went within a whisker of winning the first League and Cup double of the 20th century. They beat Preston North End 3-2 in the FA Cup Final and finished just four points behind Wolves. The pivotal game came against Wolves on April 3. The game was played around the same time as England's game with Scotland, which meant Albion were without Ronnie Allen and Johnnie Nicholls (who both scored for England). Without their potency, Albion struggled against Wolves - not helped by Ray Barlow picking up an injury in the opening minutes - and Buckingham's depleted side eventually lost 1-0. They never recovered. Still, an FA Cup win wasn't a bad consolation.

* BICYCLE KICKS: Right-back Don Howe could do many things well - defend, attack down the wing, run with the ball, pass. But Buckingham wanted more. He summoned young Howe to his office and simply said: "...Howe...You need to introduce the bicycle kick to your game...that'll be all..." And with that Howe was excused and allowed to leave the office.

* SIGNINGS: Bobby Robson was signed during Buckingham's time, while Derek Kevan followed the manager down from his previous club Bradford Park Avenue.

* AGONY: Buckingham came within two minutes of taking Albion back to Wembley in 1957, conceding a late equaliser to Aston Villa in the semi-final before losing out in the replay at St Andrew's. In the other semi-final, Birmingham City lost to Manchester United - robbing Wembley of its only ever Second City cup final.

* REVENGE: Buckingham's last game in charge at Albion was against Villa. The 1-1 draw - goal courtesy of Ronnie Allen - consigned Villa to relegation. Not a bad way to leave...

* TOTAALVOETBAL: After leaving Albion, Buckingham went onto manage, among others, Ajax (twice), Barcelona, Sevilla and Olympiacos. It was during his first spell in Amsterdam that Buckingham unearthed a 12-year-old by the name of Johan Cruyff. When Buckingham returned to Ajax for his second spell, Cruyff, then 17, was handed his debut. Ajax, barely a professional club, won the Eredivise title and the Dutch Cup. And with it Buckingham instilled a style of football based around possession of the ball, adaptability of all outfield players and the ability of players to maximise spacial awareness. That style later became known as 'Total Football' (Totaalvoetbal). 
Cruyff's immense admiration for Buckingham never left - the ex-Albion boss later became godfather to one of the Cruyff children.

On that note of genius, we will see you next week.