Weary of Wearside? Come to the Albion
The Black Country is a beacon of charity and forgiveness as any fule kno, and so there’s nothing we like more than a sinner who sees the error of his ways and finally makes his way into the light.
There have been a few of those who have exchanged Sunderland for the Throstles down the ages, including one of the most significant signings we have ever made.
170 appearances 30 goals (1969-73)
Back in July 1969, football was a very different game, such that £100,000, rather than £100million, seemed like an incredible amount of money to spend on a transfer. But for the first time ever, the Throstles dished out that very sum on a footballer, Jim Gaunt becoming the first chairman ever to ink such a cheque before presumably passing out in shock.
Colin Suggett was the player in question, the Sunderland striker / midfielder the man that was going to help the Baggies turn our prodigious cup fighting form into similarly explosive league performances.
He scored twice on his debut in a rare 2-0 win at The Dell, and amassed 12 goals as an ever present in the First Division, also collecting a loser’s medal in the League Cup Final that year as we lost to Manchester City at Wembley. The team lost its way thereafter and Suggett was powerless to help, though he did win national fame the following season when he was judged not to be interfering with play as Tony Brown rampaged forward to set up the famous “offside” goal that cost Leeds the title and caused a near riot. After 30 goals in 170 games, as Albion struggled in 1972/73, Don Howe sold Suggett to Norwich City, the team that would ultimately survive at our expense as we got relegated...
92 appearances 8 goals (2013-16)
Like Suggett, Stephane Sessegnon became our record signing when he joined just as the transfer window was closing in 2013. The diminutive winger from Benin had excelled against Albion in the past but had a more hit and miss career when he arrived at The Hawthorns, moments of magic, such as his goal that almost beat Chelsea at the Bridge in 2013, combining with less pleasant memories like the sitter he missed against the Villa at 2-0 in the following game.
76 appearances 18 goals (2001-04)
Another relatively recent signing from the Stadium of Light was Danny Dichio, initially on loan, then as a permanent deal for in excess of £1million. Dichio became the central attacking focus for Albion as we gradually hunted Wolves down to beat them to Premier League promotion, and was similarly used in the top flight before he and Gary Megson stopped seeing eye to eye – hard to imagine they ever did given that Deech was about seven feet tall.
Bernt Haas (2003-05)
52 appearances 3 goals
Bernt Haas had one of the more dramatic Albion careers of recent times. He arrived after scoring a wonder goal for Sunderland in a preseason friendly here and replicated that feat with a cracker against Manchester United in a League Cup tie, part of a 2003/04 season of cultured full-back play.
But the former Armani model came down to earth the following preseason when he suffered a punishment substitution after 10 minutes of being tortured by Leroy Lita, the Swiss star refusing to go back in the dressing room at half-time, a wise move. It all ended in a blur of Lincoln green, Haas returning to his homeland after a 52 game Albion career.
55 appearances 2 goals (1938-46)
Heading back into the mists of time, Sandy McNab made the switch from Roker Park to The Hawthorns in January 1938, just a few months after winning the FA Cup with Sunderland. He played pretty regularly at wing-half for the Baggies, occasionally filling in at inside-forward, before Hitler was inconsiderate enough to end his footballing career by starting a war, McNab nearly 35 before football resumed, moving to Newport County to end his playing days.
We’ve had a couple of one game wonders come down from Wearside in Jack Boyd and Jimmy Millar, transfers that didn’t really work out, but some rather longer lived ones didn’t go that well either. Shaun Cunnington had a couple of years here but a slew of injuries restricted him to just 11 starts for the Throstles, while Frank Cresswell’s season long tenure in 1929/30 yielded 31 games and six goals as Albion built towards the “double diamonds” side of the following campaign.
And finally, what of the loan market? It has brought us its share of characters in Brett Angell and Carsten Fredgaard, but above all let us recall Stanislav Varga who turned up to help us over the line in that 2001/02 campaign and formed a powerful alliance with fellow Slovak Igor Balis, the international man of mystery. Do we recall him for his football? No, possibly not. But the blue vodka he brought with him, now that’s another story...