Club News

Albion 8: Happy birthday Laurie

Remembering an Albion legend

WELCOME, for the final time, to Albion 8.

Before we're not going just yet. Oh no.

Laurie Cunningham would have turned 60 today.

Here are eight things you maybe already knew...or maybe didn't. Either way, enjoy...

* Laurie was a keen dancer as a youngster, with ballet lessons improving his posture, balance and poise.  Away from football, he would enter dancing competitions to supplement his wages. He also became the first, and probably only, Albion player to appear on a TV show to show off his dance steps - it was on ITV's kids' TV show Magpie (think Blue Peter, but not on BBC)

* He joined Albion from Orient on March 6, 1977 in a deal worth £110,000. Such was Cunningham's popularity at the East London club that they later opened a bar in his name.

* His debut for Albion came in the 2-0 win at Tottenham Hotspur on March 12, 1977. Tony Godden also made his first outing that day. 

* He wasn't always flavour of the month at Albion. He missed his first chance to play in a Villa derby, towards the end of 1976/7. It was an evening game following a morning training session - one Laurie failed to show for. John Giles was waiting for Cunningham when he arrived.  “Where were you this morning?" asked the manager. Cunningham replied "I stayed in bed boss, I was tired." 
Giles sent the winger packing: “Well you can go off back there now, you’re not playing”.  Only he didn't use the word 'go'. We lost.

* Cunningham was only the second black footballer to be capped at any level by England - winning an U21 cap against Scotland in April 1977. He was initially thought to be the first only for the Football Association to amend their record books in 2013, suggesting Benjamin Odeje had represented England at schoolboy level a few years earlier.

* In 1979, Laurie became the first black footballer to represent Real Madrid. He became a big favourite - playing in the European Cup Final in 1981 - only to have his progress ruined by injuries. Madrid's pursuit was sparked by Cunningham's brilliant displays in UEFA Cup games against Valencia.

* In 1988, Cunningham won an FA Cup winners medal after coming on as a substitute for Wimbledon in their 1-0 victory over Liverpool - a side that was managed by future Baggies boss Bobby Gould, assisted by Don Howe and current joint-assistant head coach David Kemp.

* He was named as one of West Bromwich Albion's 16 greatest players, in a poll organised as part of the club's 125th anniversary celebrations (in 2004).