Albion mourn prolific goalscorer
THE pantheon of Albion greats grows smaller once more as we come to terms with the passing of Dave Walsh, one of the most prolific goalscorers in the history of the football club.
Walsh joined the Throstles as we rebuilt in the aftermath of the Second World War, spotted playing for Linfield in Northern Ireland where he’d scored 73 goals in the 1945/46 campaign.
That doyen of talent spotters, Fred Everiss, made the trip over in the company of director Claude Jephcott and, after a little financial wrangling – Dave was nobody’s fool and nor was he ever going to sell himself short – he was on the boat over and lining up in Albion’s side as the Football League resumed for 1946/47.
His eye for goal was not dulled by the transition and he scored in each of his first six games for the Albion, a club record that still stands. Remarkable as that is, it’s yet more incredible when you consider that in his early days in West Bromwich, Dave was afflicted with a persistent nose bleed so bad that he almost packed for home until Everiss moved him to Droitwich and away from the chemicals in the air around West Bromwich that were causing him such trouble.
From that incendiary start, Walsh barely let up throughout his Albion career, scoring goals like other shell peas, pushing us ever closer to promotion until, in 1948/49, we seized the prize – Walsh 23 goals in 41 games.
We went up second to Fulham, the title eluding us in the final game, as Dave wryly recalled. "Getting promoted was great, but we should have gone up as champions. I missed four open goals at Grimsby on the last day of the season and if we’d won that, we’d have finished top. I’ve never known anything like it because I was usually so sharp around the goals and the blokes were going to kill me! Saying that, we’d already got promoted and we had a right few jars on the Thursday night after we’d beaten Leicester to win promotion, so we probably weren’t at our best on the Saturday."
Dave took to the First Division with all the relish you would expect, extending his extraordinary Albion record to 100 goals in 174 games before getting tapped up by the Villa and heading off down Island Road in December 1950, a lapse of judgement for which he has long since been forgiven.
Walsh’s career was one full of incident away from The Hawthorns too. He played for both Northern and Southern Ireland and more than that, he was in the first foreign side to beat England on home soil. No, he didn’t play for Hungary as well, but the Republic of Ireland side that defeated England at Goodison in September 1949.
Post-football life saw Dave running a sports outfitters business before heading off to retirement in Devon in a beautiful house overlooking the beach and, more importantly, just a decent short iron shot away from a golf course.
It was there, back in late 2007 as Albion ventured down to play Plymouth Argyle, that I had the great good fortune to spend a couple of hours in his company recording an interview which, thank the Lord, I still have on tape and which will be a centrepiece of the Download Albion project in the months to come.
You’ll be able to read that interview in Albion News on Saturday and grateful I am to have it, because Walsh was one of the great post-war pioneers who helped reconstruct the football club and, ultimately, laid the foundations for what became the 'Team of the Century' that so blossomed in 1953/54.
More than that though, Dave Walsh, then 84, was a man who crackled with life and good humour. He was a natural storyteller with a wicked sense of humour that he wasn’t beyond turning on himself. He radiated energy as he recounted this goal, that international trip.
Dave was the kind of character who you felt simply could not die, who would go on tearing up the golf course at 120.
But not even the giants can hold back the years and the end eventually came for this bright, spellbinding figure, just a few weeks short of his 93rd birthday – odd really, it wasn’t like Dave to miss the target.
Yet if Dave Walsh no longer walks among us, immortality of a different kind is his, for he is woven into the fabric, the heritage of this football club, the football club he thought of as home.
Rest easy Dave.