Many and varied are the pieces of memorabilia, art and paraphernalia that the football club has gathered about itself over the years. Over the next season or three, we are going to select some of these, in no particular order nor importance, to help tell a tale of Throstles down the years. It’s not a definitive history, might at times be apocryphal and at others completely fabricated, but these odd shafts of light will give you a sense of who we are and where we came from. Confused? You will be…
RONNIE WALLWORK’S PLAYER OF THE YEAR TROPHY, 2004/05
You know that introductory bit up there, the thing you stopped reading weeks ago? The bit that says that some of the stories found in this particular feature may not be quite the gospel truth? Well, I can promise you that, although you are going to come to the conclusion that I’ve made this story up, I can swear on the Albion News that this is the truth, the whole truth and nothing but the truth.
Many of you out there are sufficiently old enough to recall the season of the “Great Escape”, when the Throstles became the first team to avoid relegation despite being bottom of the pile on Christmas Day.
Although that in itself was a major triumph, in truth it was a pretty dreadful season with precious few shafts of light along the way – the win at Charlton, Paul Robinson’s last minute equaliser at Villa Park, beating Manchester City at The Hawthorns to record our second victory of the campaign in game 24 – yes, game 24.
We won only six games all season as it turned out, but the most important was the last, on the final day of all, when we defeated Portsmouth 2-0 and so consigned Southampton, Norwich City and Crystal Palace to the drop in our place.
Selecting a Player of the Year was not, perhaps, the easiest of jobs, and one that fell upon the coaching staff, but, ahead of the final game, it has been decided to present Zoltan Gera with the prize, the Hungarian having produced an impressive first season with the club.
With the end of season dinner due to take place on the Monday evening after the Portsmouth game, the decision had needed making in advance, so that the trophy could be readied. And there it sat, hidden away in the commercial office lest the great man should get wind of his triumph.
This was just as well.
After the Portsmouth game, the players and management all reached a state of what we might call maximum refreshment and it was not exactly first thing in the morning when Bryan Robson popped into the office the following day.
When he did, it was with momentous news.
“Player of the year? Changed me mind. Give it Ronnie”.
The existing trophy was quickly checked. Yes, there was Zoltan Gera’s name on it and no, there was no getting rid of it and replacing it. Commercial manager Stuart Curtis was swiftly on the phone, ordering a replacement trophy.
There wasn’t one, they’d got none left.
And so it was that with but moments to spare, a trophy unlike any of the others on offer that night was delivered to The Hawthorns and made available for presentation to the great man, who, in his own watershed respecting words, was no longer “thingy” as he was described in the popular song.
Ronald made his, admittedly unsteady, way to the podium to collect his prize, suggesting that quite possibly, he had not yet been to bed since the Portsmouth game. And then, after all that effort to get him a trophy, he left it on the table at the end of the night and never asked for it back after.