Scruffy? They all count, especially this one…
To fill the days until football returns from the international break, Albion News editor Dave Bowler has been charged with selecting a top ten of Albion goals.
Picking a top ten of Albion goals over a lifetime of watching isn’t easy. For starters, at this advanced age, I’ve forgotten most of them. And do you pick great goals, funny goals, important goals? It’s a good question and I’ll only know the answer by next week when I’ve finished with it, but all I can say is it’s going to be a very personal collection and you’ll almost certainly disagree with it. Argue away…
We will all have our different memories of the tumultuous 2001/02 campaign that saw the Albion back to the top flight after all too many years spent in the doldrums, toying with a death wish. Balis at Bradford, obviously, Jordao at Molineux, Larus scoring against Portsmouth a particular personal favourite.
But through it all, Bob Taylor seemed to be forever in the thick of it, especially when it mattered, seemingly destined to take us into the Premier League, a prophecy on which he delivered by scoring that goal against Crystal Palace on the final day.
For me though, the moment when I knew – absolutely knew beyond any doubt – that we were going to win automatic promotion, came a whole lot earlier, on a Friday night in Nottingham, March 22nd, game 40 of the season, a week after a lively encounter with Sheffield United.
After that game was abandoned, we were waiting to see if we got to keep those here points or whether we were going to have to play game 39 again, though the club had made it clear that if we were required to do so, we would turn up, kick off and go home.
As it was, the Football League decided that the points were ours to keep on the day of the Forest game and so we went to the City Ground with seven games to play, one more than the Wolves who were eight points ahead of us in second place. An insurmountable gap surely?
Possibly, those Wolves’ defeat at home to Grimsby a week before suggested they were falling apart faster than a cheap suit. Skipper Derek McInnes had counselled that we needed to keep winning to keep then honest and, playing ahead of them that weekend, we needed that win.
The game rolled on and on, looking set for a stalemate until, for reasons unknown, with eight minutes left, Riccardo Scimeca decided to push Scott Dobie over on the edge of the box, doing us a good turn two years before joining us.
Neil Clement, 20 yards out. His free-kick smacked against the bar and clipped ‘keeper Ward’s hand as it rebounded into the six yard box. Reacting quicker than anyone, there was Bob Taylor following the ball in and hurling himself at it to nod into the empty net from five yards, the strike of an instinctive goalscorer.
Not a goal that would normally live long in the memory, but once we’d seen out those last few minutes, won 1-0 and reduced the gap to five points, it somehow became the central goal in the season. From there, it was just a matter of time until we caught and then overtook Wolves and beat them to the top flight. It was never in any doubt.
We celebrated in the grand fashion, with a pizza in Nottingham city centre. My Albion Radio colleague - who shall remain nameless, just in case Scott Field doesn’t want to be mentioned – was similarly enthused by the result.
So relieved was he that he indulged in a stream of extremely unParliamentary language while reliving the game, the like of which we could never have unleashed upon the delicate ears of the listening Throstletariat and even had the staff of Pizza Hut closing up the salad bar early lest we should pollute it with our language. It’s possible that I joined in.
What times they were…