At five, a bunch of fives
While all is quiet at The Hawthorns during the international break, Publications Editor Dave Bowler chooses his ten favourite games from 45 years of visiting the home of football, some of them obvious, some very personal.
5. 19 May 2013 - Albion 5 Manchester United 5
Just as some games have very personal resonance, others are the big ones that exist in the wider consciousness, special days when remarkable things happen and which everyone carries away with them forever more.
Albion 5 Manchester United 5 was such a game and there’s precious little I can tell any of you about it that you don’t already know. Albion were busily being shredded by the newly crowned champions in the first half an hour, 3-0 down before we dragged it back to 3-2, only to go 5-2 down in the second half before improbably rescuing a point with three goals in the last ten minutes, spurning the opportunity to go and win the game into the bargain.
For all that, it’s the game’s surroundings that made this one especially memorable for me, if you’ll forgive a large helping of self indulgence, required as I am to get some modern games into this list and not simply recount the 1978/79 season.
It started a dozen days earlier when we were up at the City of Manchester stadium to play City, slipping to our seemingly customary defeat up there. But whilst there, rumours started to circulate that Sir Alex Ferguson was about to announce his retirement from the game at the end of the season, bringing to an end the single most decorated managerial career in English football history.
And that would end at The Hawthorns.
Early the following morning, a Wednesday, I got a phone call from work to suggest that instead of 84 pages, we go up to 144 pages for this issue, all extra content, no extra ads.
There are those of you who may believe that there is a team of people all slaving away on the programme, each putting in their bit of work. Not at this place there ain’t. We run a tight ship, and so the extra space that needed filling was down to me. And all of it to be signed off by 3pm the following Wednesday. And a Sunday day trip to Norwich – a 4-0 thumping that I’ve happily forgotten – in between times.
The thing got done without any sleep for a week, just like most of the staff here had to put in long, long hours to get the ground, the infrastructure, tickets sales, the whole production number on the road. For those who think people who work here don’t care, I can promise you that you are wrong. In every nook and cranny of the Albion there are people who regularly go far above and beyond the call of duty time and again for no extra reward and in the face of plenty of obstructions.
Anyway, back at the ranch, it was then the chaos truly began. Despite printing way more copies than we ordinarily would, it was quickly clear than it still wasn’t going to be enough. Given that a match programme is the only souvenir that properly commemorates a game – you know what you can do with you half and half scarf – the world and his wife wanted one from Fergie’s last stand.
Arriving at The Hawthorns early, we were soon getting word of people driving up to programme sellers, handing over wads of cash and chucking boxes of programmes into the backs of vans. It was pretty clear that we were going to sell out way in advance of kick-off time, though we then applied a swift kick to the tender portions of those hoping to make an ebay killing by announcing an immediate reprint.
In truth, going up on to the gantry and reporting upon the ten goal carnage that unfolded was a doddle after all that.