A St Valentine’s Day massacre
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.
7. 14 February 2015 – Albion 4 West Ham United 0
Plenty of you might be as surprised at this choice as yesterday’s defeat, but as I was trying to grab a few games out of the memory banks, this one stood out for a couple of reasons, not entirely dissimilar to that Newcastle game because much of it is about that clichéd old phrase, “the magic of the cup”.
As a hard bitten traditionalist, the way in which the FA Cup has been denigrated down the years – including the lack of safeguarding by the association itself, too easily willing to trade some of it lustre at the behest of big clubs doing business in the bloated European competitions – has been pretty depressing to witness, all too many people happy to turn it into a second class citizen where once it was the blue riband event in the footballing calendar, the one you dreamt of winning.
Clubs pulling out of the competition altogether, weakened teams, the disappearance of second and third replays, the possible loss of replays altogether, Wembley semi-finals, all have conspired to chip away at it, but still, now and then, the old competition can bite back and serve up an afternoon that reminds you what all the fuss was about.
This was such a game, certainly from an Albion perspective when, against a decent West Ham side, then piloted by Sam Allardyce and so not the kind of team you’d envision shipping a hatful of goals in a cup competition, we simply murdered the opposition.
After an even start to the game, the Throstles caught fire 20 minutes in when Brown Ideye converted after good work by Craig Dawson and Craig Gardner. Then, after dominating the rest of the first half, came the second reason for picking out this game.
Some 42 minutes in, James Morrison won the ball in the middle of the park, advanced a few steps towards goal, swayed past a challenge and then absolutely creamed it with the outside of the right boot, the ball flashing from his foot and arcing away past Adrian and into the far corner, as good a goal as you could hope for in a cup game, including Cyrille’s from ’82 which now decorates the East Stand.
It’s not just that it was a marvellous goal, but it was who scored it. Like Chris Brunt who was central to the choice of the Liverpool 2011 game, James Morrison is one of those players who it has been a privilege to watch and work with over the last decade. An intelligent footballer, good technique, always willing to speak his mind too, Morrison has been a giant at this football club, one of the key figures in getting us back to something like our proper place in the English game. When his team here is finished – hopefully with 300, maybe 400 games behind him – only then will some wake up to just what a fine player he’s been for us and just what a hole he will leave to be filled.
His perfectly timed strike, in both senses, all but won the cup tie but, as they say, 2-0 is a dangerous score and the next goal was important. On this day though, we weren’t taking our foot off the West Ham windpipe and a dozen minutes into the second half, the old firm of Brunt and Morrison weaved intricate patterns down the left before Brunt crossed. It reached Stephane Sessegnon at the back post and his ball back in took a nice deflection that looped up for Ideye to nod in.
Hilarity was added to the proceedings when Amalfitano got himself sent off just 11 minutes after coming on for a horrible lunge then a push on Brunt before, on 72 minutes, Saido Berahino finished them off, taking his shot early from Craig Gardner’s pass, bludgeoning the ball past Adrian before he had time to move.
A proper cup tie that. Let’s hope for half a dozen more in 2017.