A year to forget...
LOOK this way…
A picture can paint a thousand words according to popular song. Popular lore also has it that the camera never lies. Stick this fella on canvas and it tells you everything you need to know about the 1990/91 season that followed in its wake.
If you’re looking for subtle symbolism, we have it in spades here, the team so disjointed that they’re facing different directions even before a ball was kicked. And there was rarely a more disjointed, disastrous season at The Hawthorns, a more catastrophic fall from grace.
With the possible exception of the one that followed it when The Throstles weren’t even good enough to reach the play-offs in Division Three, 1990/91 is just about the worst in our history.
And it’s not as if we had high expectations. After a promising first season as player-manager, the wheels had begun to fall off the Brian Talbot project, largely because he never could find anybody to replace him in the centre of the park. Without his ability and his nous, a largely rudderless Albion had plummeted to 20th in Division Two, only three points above the waterline.
Two wins and a draw from the first four games gave a suggestion that perhaps things would be better this season, but it was a false dawn as a first day injury to Don Goodman left the Albion attack without a cutting edge and gradually we sunk down the table, without quite touching the relegation zone.
A run of one win in eight through November and December saw us on the crest of a slump, the mood so dismal that Talbot’s interviews after the defeat at Leicester left us 16th carried a tone of real resignation, almost expectation that the Baggies were going to get beaten.
But we couldn’t lose to Woking at The Hawthorns in the third round of the FA Cup could we? No, not once went 1-0 up. Ah, but these were the ‘90s and we could do anything we put our minds to as long as it was bad.
Tim Buzaglo became an FA Cup hero, scored a hat-trick and we were crushed 4-2, there was a near riot in Halfords Lane and Talbot’s time was up.
Stuart Pearson took charge as caretaker and steadied the ship. We won a couple, drew one and lost three of the next six, hardy a revival, but good enough to keep the Throstles above the fray, a 2-2 draw at Notts County on February 23rd giving us 34 points from 30 games and 16th place.
The following Monday, Bobby Gould was appointed and made his bow with a very creditable 0-0 draw against West Ham, on their way to promotion. By the time the next six games had passed, it was clear we were getting out of the division as well, only in the opposite direction.
Six defeats on the spin had us rooted in the bottom three and although we then went unbeaten to the end of the campaign, the nine games saw us draw seven times, the last five fixtures ending 1-1 as we embraced that season’s death wish with gusto.
It all ended in a Toga party at Twerton Park, Kwame Ampadu the unlikely scorer of our last goal of the season, Albion not good enough to survive in a league where only two teams took the drop.
One win from those seven draws would have saved us. It would take a long, long time to repair that damage.