Albion men who joined from the CherriesWhenever a sinner sees the light, there is, as we know, much rejoicing in heaven. And when a footballer finally sees all that is true and good about the game and dons the blue and white stripes, so is there joy in the presence of the angels of God in Halfords Lane, of which there are surely many. And so, across this season, we will be featuring those who have left our upcoming opponents and come to join us in the shining city on the hill throughout our history.
When Billy Elliott – pause for you to insert your own ballet-film based joke here – became the first footballer to leave Bournemouth for the Baggies, he was returning to the scene of what was to prove one of his few failures.
A Cumberland lad, growing up in a rugby area and who had consequently endured “many a good hiding from my father for playing football”, he moved down to the midlands, only to be rejected by the Wolves, via Dudley Town. Don’t you just love a funny story?
Billy, a flying outside-right with a ferocious shot, moved down to the south coast in May 1938 but wasn’t there for long before the Albion swooped upon him, Elliott registering one goal in ten Third Division (South) games for the Cherries.
He came north and made his debut on Christmas Eve 1938 in a 3-1 defeat at Luton, then scored his first Albion goal three days later in a 3-2 defeat at Swansea Town. He ended his season with three goals in 19 games and looked set for a long and successful career at The Hawthorns until Hitler intervened.
By the time league football returned properly in 1946/47, Elliott was 26, having lost a swathe of his best years. And there’s no question that he was good during those missing years. Very good, good enough to play for his country.
Elliott did not strictly represent club and country because his two appearances for England do not appear as full internationals in the official record books. Perhaps that’s understandable in terms of his first game, a 2-0 win for England over Wales at Ninian Park just a month before D Day and a full year before VE day heralded the beginning of the end of the war – not that that was any consolation to those troops still getting shot at in the “forgotten war” in the far east mind you.
Quite why his second appearance was not deemed worthy of full status is altogether more perplexing though, given that it was against the old enemy, Scotland, and at Hampden Park almost a year after the hostilities had ceased, on 13th April 1946, England losing to the only goal of the game.
Elliott continued to perform at a high level for the Throstles after the war, eventually accumulating a career record of 40 goals in 182 games – how much more impressive would that have sounded if he could have had those seven seasons of football?
Ultimately, Elliott was denied official international status in the post-war games because he really was in the wrong place at the wrong time. After all, what hope did you have of playing on the right wing for England when there was Stanley Matthews and Tom Finney in the queue in front of you?
There was more than half a century between our Bournemouth signings, but when we returned to Dean Court in 1991, it was to pluck another wide man from their ranks, Wayne Fereday.
Wayne too was winging his way back to the Black Country, having been born little more than a stone’s throw from The Hawthorns before starting his playing career at QPR and then on to the south coast via Newcastle – that’s some SatNav.
It was Bobby Gould who recalled him to God’s country, in the midst of the traumatic 1991/92 campaign. He made his debut in a 1-1 draw at Bradford City in December 1991 and for the next few months, he played on either flank as we tried to get out of Division Three. Injury to Simeon Hodson and then Paul Raven pushed him into right-back duties, ideal for the following season when Ossie Ardiles arrived and used his full-backs as additional wingers anyway.
Injuries ruined that season for Fereday, heading down to the Wembley play-off final on a supporters bus, still on crutches – Fereday, not the bus – but desperate to be a part of it all as an Albion fan through and through.
Those injures never really went away, a legacy of Fereday being so desperate to do well for his club that all too often, he rushed back into action too early. He was to leave at the end of the 1993/94 campaign, but not before offering up his abiding Albion memory, rampaging forward against the Wolves to start the move that lead to Darren Bradley’s screamer in the 3-2 win. Not a bad way to paint your name into history is it?