I can’t look…
Over the international break, we’re bringing you the countdown on Albion’s 10 greatest post-war goalkeepers. To qualify, they’ve kept 25 clean sheets in the league and from there, we’ve worked out their clean sheets to games percentage. Eyes down for a full house…
8. Jim Sanders
327 games, 86 clean sheets, 26.30%
1954, with Albion trailing 2-1 to Preston in the FA Cup final, we were awarded a penalty. One of the most famous photographs in all footballing history shows the full length of the Wembley pitch, Ronnie Allen striking the ball at one end, Sanders clutching the post at the other, back to the action, unable to watch.stIt’s richly ironic that goalkeeper Jim Sanders will almost certainly always be best remembered for an attack of nerves. On May 1
If you knew Sanders only from that picture, you’d think he was the highly strung type, prone to attacks of the vapours. That could not be further from the truth.
For after starting his career at Charlton Athletic in 1939, rather more important matters came to the fore and, with war raging around the world, Sanders joined the Royal Air Force. He made more than 120 flights as a gunner before he was seriously injured on an operational flight. That led to him being invalided out of the services and, such was the severity of his injuries to his neck and back, seemingly out of football too.
Warned he should never play again, he was swiftly back on the pitch as a centre-forward, scoring 50 goals in a season, before moving back between the sticks as life returned to normality following the end of hostilities. Unable to displace Sam Bartram at The Valley, he moved to Albion in November 1945 and played half of the opening post-war season, 1946/47, before being placed on the transfer list.
Fortunately, there were no takers and Sanders was back in the side thereafter, becoming a stalwart of the 1948/49 promotion team, keeping 18 clean sheets in the league as we returned to the First Division.
Albion had good competition in goal at the time and after a string of 103 consecutive league games, Sanders lost his place to Norman Heath, as well as suffering a number of injuries. He looked to move on on several occasions, but this time, Albion were having none of it.
It was as well for both parties for in March 1954, as Albion chased the double, Heath suffered a terrible injury in a game at Sunderland, one that was to eventually end his career. Sanders, returned to the colours, collected an FA Cup winner’s medal. It was a day Sanders relished to the end, rarely going to any function without his winner’s medal tied round his neck, so proud was he of the achievement.
He continued to be a regular well into the 1957/58 season, keeping clean sheets in each of his last three Albion games before he moved on to Coventry City, but in his tenth game for them, he broke his leg and that was the end of him as a senior professional.
Life as a publican beckoned, taking charge of the Crown & Cushion at Perry Barr, but even then, this martyr to ill luck could not survive unscathed, injuring his back when lifting a crate of beer.
He passed away in 2003 but such are the scale of his achievements, he remains an Albion immortal.
8. Jim Sanders
9. Ray Potter
10. Norman Heath