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BOWLER’S DELIVERY: Good times, bad times

27 January 2016

Never had it so good? Sometimes yes, sometimes no…

WHEN I turned up at The Hawthorns last Saturday, it was 45 years to the day since I’d made my debut there, taken along by my dad, sitting in Halfords Lane that first time, as we battled with Ipswich Town in the fourth round of the FA Cup. 

Colin Suggett scored in a 1-1 draw – we lost the replay – and so a lifetime of character building, or warping, was begun.

I’ll be honest, last Saturday wasn’t the way I’d hoped to mark the anniversary, not that I mark that kind of thing anyway. Regular readers will know I’m far too cynical for that kind of frivolity. 

A 0-0 draw that had slipped from the mind even before the blast of the full time whistle had finally died down, it was up there as one of the least entertaining games I’ve ever seen. 

There have been many worse results, plenty of thrashings, comfortable defeats to teams far worse than the current Villa side – oh yes there are – but in terms of moments to get you off your seat, last Saturday was footballing superglue. 

And don’t think everyone involved doesn’t know it either, whatever was said for the benefit of the media scrum after the game. Everybody knows, just as those who play this game for a living know that they are one point closer to the season’s objective, which is what matters when livelihoods are on the line – this is professional sport after all.

It was an afternoon when there was plenty of time for musing on other things, even in the midst of commentating – Albion Radio, 106.9FM in the stadium, get on it. Musings such as the fact that my dad, the neighbour and his son who all made up our party on that January day in 1971 are all gone and so are their memories of the Albion, players seen, journeys made, money well spent, money wasted. 

We live in a world of downloading. When you’ve read this, if you get to the end, you might nip off to Amazon or iTunes and download an album. You might get an email with an attachment you need to download. 

But who is downloading you? 

Who downloaded Don Howe? Or Bobby Robson? Ray Barlow?

Where are your memories going? And don’t say Facebook because one day, even that will be gone and your photos with it. 

The fact is, there are some things that are too important to be left in the past, because when we look back, we don’t go there to get dewy eyed over some Disneyfied version of the Albion. Nor do we do it to try and make today look better courtesy of some Orwellian recasting of history. 

Never had it so good? Yes we have, of course we have. Personally, I would return to 1978/79 in a heartbeat. 

Have there been worse days? Dear God yes. Remember 1986? None but a buffoon would fail to realise that over 140 years of this institution there has been a constant procession of highs and lows, all of which contribute to what we are today.

We do it because it matters, because it is part of our shared experience and part of our gift to the next century. If we don’t download this Albion, our Albion, what are the next generation going to think of us?

We need to give them the truth, all our truths.

Watch this space…


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