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BOWLER’S DELIVERY: Scotland the brave

An Albion XI from north of the border for St Andrew’s Day

ALBION’s Scots have been in the news of late with Matt Phillips, James Morrison and Darren Fletcher all on the mark in the recent win over Burnley.
Following that, and with St Andrew’s Day upon us, it seemed the ideal moment to pick an all-time Albion XI culled from some past masters from the other side of Hadrian’s Wall in this 4-3-3 line-up.

76 appearances

Albion’s only real Scottish goalkeeper of any note, he came into the side in the late ‘50s as Jim Sanders’ career came to an end. Brave as anything, dominant in an era when goalkeepers could still be legitimately bundled into the net and with the propensity for dropping an occasional clanger, not that anyone remonstrated with him given he was made entirely out of reinforced concrete. 

323+2 appearances, 12 goals

A Scot who was so out of his depth when he arrived in England that coming down to hotel reception the day after signing for the Throstles, he asked where the beach was. Initially a midfield enforcer, he moved to right-back as the 1960s wore on and was a rock in the FA Cup winning side of 1968, skippering us at Wembley in the League Cup final two years later.

54 appearances, 1 goal

Powerful centre-half who was never averse to a tackle, Eddie’s Albion career was ruined first by injury and then by Alan Ashman’s inability to spell his surname on the teamsheet – see also Dick Kryzwicki. Eddie took no prisoners, but injury late in the 1967/68 saw John Kaye dropping back into defence to replace him and that was that.

622+4 appearances, 12 goals

An Albion legend, second only to His Holiness Tony Brown in our appearance charts, if not the goalscoring ones. He formed an extraordinary defensive barrier with John Wile throughout the 1970s, yet never won a Scottish cap. The sweeper up behind the slightly quicker Wile, you might get the ball past Alistair, but if you had any ambitions of following it, you could think again. 

282+2 appearances, 3 goals

Converted from a winger in his early days, Ray had the thankless task of following Graham Williams at left-back in the Albion side of the late ‘60s and early ‘70s. Defensively strong, Ray was quick with it and played a big part as an overlapping full-back, able to get forward and put in a fine cross, but always capable of recovering his position. 

266+8 appearances, 26 goals

A perpetual motion man in midfield, Asa was as fiery as they came, able to start a riot in a cemetery and, quite possibly, the only man ever to get sent off twice in the same game. To go with that, he had a lovely touch on the ball, was a fine passer and could regularly arrive late in the box to score his share of goals. 

320 appearances, 11 goals

One of the many jewels in the 1953/54 Team of the Century, Dudley was part of the fabled half-back line that included the great Ray Barlow and Joe Kennedy or Jimmy Dugdale. An industrious worker with a good range of passing to his name too, his crucial goal from distance in the 1954 FA Cup semi-final against Port Vale paved the way to Wembley that season. 

397+5 appearances, 42 goals

Sir Robert Hope remains one of the finest midfield generals this, or any other club, has ever had though again, the Scottish management failed to recognise it, bestowing just two caps on him. He could pass the ball onto a sixpence from any distance and with Astle, Clark and Brown in front of him, if they’d kept records for assists in the ‘60s, he’d have topped more charts than The Beatles.  

331+28 appearances, 85 goals

A hugely underrated member of the great 1978/79 side, his hard work and selfless running opened up the pitch for his colleagues and allowed Cyrille to conserve his stamina and just explode in the penalty area. Some 20 goals for Ally in that season underlined his worth but over a decade and more, he was a central figure for the Throstles.

64+63 appearances, 25 goals

Amongst the most significant Albion players of the 21st century, no question. With Hughes sold and Roberts and Dichio injured, if Dobie hadn’t gone berserk in September 2001, his first full month in the first team when he got seven goals in six games, Albion would never have even ben in the promotion race that season, never mind beating Wolves to the Premier League. A lovely lad who never quite realised just how good he was. 

254+7 appearances, 28 goals

Name me a greater entertainer or a better value for money footballer than Willie Johnston and I’ll show you an argument that will run for days. A dream for any Albion supporter to watch, with the pace of an Olympic sprinter and the touch of a magician, Johnston would have been a nightmare in an all-seater stadium – he’d have had you constantly on your feet. Genius.