West Bromwich Albion Wales XI
West Brom fan, historian and former award-winning programme editor Dave Bowler, picks a Baggies Wales XI.
Dave is also author of several football books, including the excellent biography of Spurs and Northern Ireland pioneer, Danny Blanchflower.
Goalkeeper, 40 games for West Brom
Tony never quite established him at the Albion, vying for the position with the more experienced Ray Potter. The death knell for him at The Hawthorns came after he helped fish manager Jimmy Hagan out of the canal at the back of the training ground after he’d reversed his car down the slope and into it. Trying to haul him back up the bank, the disciplinarian Hagan noticed that Millington, among others, was breathing heavily under the strain. Having literally helped save the manager’s life, Millington was rewarded with extra training sessions to get fitter. Whether he was the player who shouted, “Throw the bugger back in” is not known.
Right-back, 246 games, 9 goals
With 33 Welsh caps to his name, Stuart long held a place in Albion’s history books as the most capped international in the club’s history, a record that stood for half a century until it was beaten by Hungary’s Zoltan Gera. As a youngster, Stuart was the unfortunate 12th man at Wembley when the Throstles defeated Preston 3-2 in the 1954 FA Cup final, but that was more than compensated for when he went to the 1958 World Cup with Wales, playing in each game, and then, after hanging up his boots, returned to The Hawthorns as coach of the 1968 FA Cup winning side.
Centre-half, 140+14 games, 3 goals
Mardon had the misfortune to play for Albion during the years of The Great Sadness (1986-2000) as the club tumbled down the leagues and never looked like returning to the top. A stylish defender, he became something of a cult hero among the Throstletariat, earning his own chant – “Captain Mardon – International” to the rhythm of the Captain Scarlet tune. Mardon was a martyr to injury, a shame because he had the ability to play in the Premier League, though that wouldn’t have happened with Albion back then…As a late call up to the Wales squad to face Germany in 1995 to replace flu-stricken Adrian Williams, Mardon’s name did not even feature in the match programme. He replaced Steve Jenkins in the 75th minute immediately after Wales fell behind only to equalise 2 minutes later. But despite two further bench appearances those few minutes remained Mardon’s only taste of international football.
Centre-half, 14+5 games, 0 goals
James had an unfortunate Albion career. Bought from Hull where he had played centre-back, Tony Pulis decided he was going to turn him into a right-back, giving him his Albion debut in that role. Against Manchester City. Opposite Raheem Sterling. Although his Albion career never quite recovered after that, unsurprisingly, he was well liked by the supporters and is viewed as one of those who got away, a missed opportunity.
Left-back, 354+6 games, 11 goals
A 24 carat Albion legend, the only captain to have lifted two cups for the club, the League Cup in 1966 and the FA Cup two years later. He came to the club as a winger, saying that he learnt his trade by trying to twist in and out of the holidaymakers at Rhyl, also admitting that “my body swerve went straight on”. He moved back to play most of his football at left-back, though he could still play in midfield when the need arose. One of the game’s great talkers – and you try to stop him – the fact that Graham has never written an autobiography about his time as a player and then as a coach, literally all over the world, is a national scandal.
Outside-right, 120+21 games, 24 goals
A footballer for whom the word “enigmatic” was invented. Endlessly talented, watching him run with the ball at his feet when the mood was with him was an exhilarating sight. Sadly, that mood seemed to desert him more and more as time went on. Koumas clearly hated the hoopla that goes with modern football, the interviews, the publicity and the fame particularly grating for him – and who can blame him? On his day, not a defender in the Premier League could stop him, but his day didn’t come around often enough for the needs of C21st football. A lost talent for both club and country, Koumas was special indeed, the kind of footballer you’d happily pay good money to watch.
Centre-midfield, 228 games, 0 goals
When Welsh banknotes return, if Jimmy Murphy isn’t on one of them, there should be a revolution. Jimmy is one of football’s greatest and most criminally underrated figures. As a player, he was a key figure in Albion’s sides of the 1930s, coming to notice with a couple of games as the Throstles did the unique double of winning promotion and the FA Cup in 1930/31, then establishing himself in the side through much of the rest of the decade, playing in a losing cause in the 1935 FA Cup final. Murphy was a perpetual motion half-back, known as “Tapper” by many given that he was never shy of tapping the ankles of an opponent. After the Albion, he was, of course, Matt Busby’s right-hand man at Manchester United, keeping the club alive after the Munich disaster of ’58, a trip he missed because he was busy guiding Wales to the 1958 World Cup in the play-off with Israel. A footballing giant.
Centre-midfield, 122 games, 10 goals
Witcomb was one of those unfortunates whose career was interrupted by the Second World War. He joined Albion in October 1937 and made a name for himself as a fine all round half-back, strong in the tackle with a good range of passing and a powerful shot on him. He was good enough to be named in the All Britain team that played the Football League at Molineux in 1939 and resumed his career at The Hawthorns after the war before moving on to Sheffield Wednesday in February 1947 for the hefty sum of £6,500. His 3 Wales caps came in each of the first internationals after WWII.
Outside-left, 60+4 games, 12 goals
The son of Polish refugees displaced by war, his father having escaped from Auschwitz, Ryzard Lech Krzywicki was a ‘Penley Pole’- born, in 1947, in the Maelor Saesneg village of Penley – but grew up in Leek in the Potteries watching Stoke City and a winger called Stanley Matthews. Dick was lightning quick – his colleagues said he could catch pigeons – and especially direct. Those same colleagues said that if they didn’t take care to close the turnstiles, Dick would go motoring down the left wing and straight out of the stadium. He was in and out of the side, as is often the fate of the winger, missing out on the 1968 FA Cup final. He was in the running for the one place that was up for grabs and, legend has it – it’s not true, but why worry about that? – that manager Alan Ashman was going to put him in the side. Ashman got a call from Wembley on the Thursday, asking for his team to put in the programme.
“1 – Osborne, 2 – Fraser, 3 – Williams….7 – Krzywicki”
“How do you spell that Alan?”
“Kriz. No, Kryz. No, hang on, Krzyw. Oh, bugger it! 7 – Lovett.”
Scored his only international goal versus England at Ninian Park in 1970 (the first ever Wales game for member of The Barry Horns, Chris Leek, who recalled the game in ep.100)
Centre-forward, 27+23 games, 17 goals
Earnshaw’s Albion career will always be remembered for the part he played in the “Great Escape” of 2004/05. The Throstles were all but dead and buried as they went to play at Charlton on March 19th. Even though Charlton were down to ten men, it was still 1-1 when Earnshaw came on as a sub in the 64th minute. In the late 17 minutes of the game, he knocked in a hat-trick which at least kept Albion in touch. Then on the season’s penultimate Saturday, the Throstles were the tea-time kick-off at Old Trafford. Results earlier in the day meant defeat would send Albion down. United were 1-0 up when, after 63 minutes, Albion won a penalty which Earnshaw stepped up to take. It simply had to go in. It did. A week later, the Throstles stayed up with a win over Portsmouth.
Centre-forward, 16+8 games, 6 goals.
John’s best days were behind him by the time he joined Albion from Celtic in 2006, and ill health, from which he has thankfully now recovered, accelerated that demise. He became something of a cult figure in his brief association with the club – “What’s that coming over the hill, is it John Hartson, is it John Hartson?” An engaging character, two tales stick out about him:
On the day he signed, after doing his press conference, he needed to head back to Glasgow to sort things out for moving south. He fuelled his car at the petrol station next to The Hawthorns, only to find his wallet was still in Scotland. Spying someone in the queue with an Albion security pass around her neck, he walked over and said,
Then, having scored twice on his debut, he came into the office on the Monday morning wanting to know about the club’s goalscoring records, which showed a rare appetite for the game even at 31 – he was 278 short of the record at the time.