New weekly slot featuring stars of yesteryear
Welcome to our new feature, 'A Catch Up With...' a weekly chat with a former Albion player.
Our first guest is Garry Thompson, striker of this manor during the early-to-mid 1980s.
NAME: Garry Thompson
Time at Albion: 1983-1985
I joined Albion from Coventry...but I didn't want to. Whenever I played against Albion Ally Robertson and John Wile used to make it their mission to kick me from pillar to post so I wasn't in a rush to meet them, I was settled in Coventry but Jimmy Hill was insistent that I left because they were in financial trouble. I actually drove three times around the ground because I really didn't fancy it but once I got there the lads were great…eventually. I already knew Gary Owen quite well and he'd told the lads to make sure they didn't laugh at anything I said because he knew I was always trying to crack jokes. So the first couple of times I said something I was just met with silence and tumbleweed. I drove home that night thinking everyone hated me!
I scored a hat-trick against Forest. After the game Brian Clough snatched the matchball away from me - I'm not going to argue with the great Brian Clough: if wants the ball, he can have it. Then, a few minutes later, our dressing room door opened and in walked Clough with the ball signed by all of his players and he told our lads to sign it too. That ball ended up with my dad who told me off for trying to chip the keeper for the third goal. Charming.
Least favourite game:
My first two games for Albion. First match was Pat Jennings' 1000th game. So I'm through on goal and go to chip Pat but kick it straight at him - Pat grabs the ball and says 'No change there then big man'. The next week we're playing at Luton on the plastic pitch and myself and Paul Elliott are kicking lumps out of each other. I think I've done well in a 0-0 draw but I came into the dressing and Ron Wylie absolutely slaughtered me. It got better after that.
Team-mate you'd most like to go for a drink with: Cyrille Regis and Ally Robertson took me under their wings and were great social animals. Then there was Derek Statham, who was always good for a night out.
Who did you share a room with - any annoying habits?
Cyrille and then Nicky Cross. Nicky and I had a similar sense of humour so we got on great. He never made the tea though.
A funny thing happened when...?
First few days at Albion were tough. Derek told me that John Wile hated me...and because John left a short time later I always thought he wasn't keen on me. It wasn't until I mentioned this to Ally Robertson many years later that he started laughing saying that Derek had been winding me up. I actually saw John at the Chelsea game last season and he was a lovely man but I still felt I had to apologise for harbouring feelings of 'violence' towards him. I think he saw the funny side.
The strangest team-talk you've heard:
Mick Kelly, a coach back when Ron Wylie was manager, used to get really aggressive during his team-talks, often for no reason. He didn't do much for our dressing room atmosphere.
Football now, what would you change? I hate the grappling in the penalty areas when corners are being taken. If you're grappling with a player, you're impeding him and it should be a foul.
Give us three words to describe your Albion experience: Goals, mates, 'socialising'.