Each month we take a look at an
Albion ‘programme from the past’. A number of the programmes will be rarities, allowing a much wider audience to view them, perhaps for the very first time.
v West Bromwich Albion, League Division One, Portman Road, Saturday 28th
Saturday 28th September 2013
marks the 50th anniversary of the debut of a true legend of West Bromwich Albion
Football Club - Tony ‘Bomber’ Brown.
Tony, who was born in
Oldham, Lancashire, on October
3rd 1945, grew up as a Manchester United fan, becoming a regular on the terraces
at Old Trafford. Despite being a ‘red’ however, he almost signed for arch-rivals
Manchester City, actually verbally agreeing to sign for the men from
Luckily for Albion, one of their scouts - John Shaw, persuaded 15 year-old Tony to travel
down to the Midlands for a trial, a trial in which he impressed. He was
quickly offered a contract with
Albion, which he agreed to sign as an apprentice professional,
officially joining the club on
April 13 1961.
Tony spent the first two years of his Hawthorns career
playing, and scoring, in the club’s reserve and youth sides, alongside the likes
of Bobby Hope, Graham Lovett and Mickey Fudge. After impressing new manager
Jimmy Hagan sufficiently, September 1963 finally saw Tony offered the
professional contract he so desired.
Within days of becoming a professional Tony would be thrust
into first team action, making his debut at the age of 17 at
Portman Road against Ipswich
Town whilst deputising for the ill Eddie Readfern. Tony started his career how
it would generally continue - with a goal, helping the Baggies to a 2-1 win. Two
weeks later, Tony made his second appearance and his Hawthorns debut, against
old rivals Aston Villa. Again Tony would find the net, this time in in a 4-3
Tony would finish the 1963/64 season with five goals from 13
league games, a record he bettered the following season with nine from 17
although the second half of the 1964/65 season would see him return to reserve
team football after the arrival of Jeff Astle from
The 1965/66 season saw Tony finally become a first team
regular, hitting 27 goals in all competitions, including one in the second leg
of the League Cup Final against West Ham United at The Hawthorns, a game Albion
won 4-1 to lift the trophy 5-3 on aggregate.
The subsequent seasons would see the goals continue to fly in
and a FA Cup medal won. His 100th goal for the club came in a league match away at
Sunderland in September 1969. The 1970/71 season saw Tony hit 28 league goals to
become only the fifth Albion player to finish a season as the First
Division's leading goalscorer. He would be rewarded for his scoring exploits with his
England debut in May 1971 in
a game against Wales
at Wembley. The game, which ended goalless, would remarkably become Tony’s one
and only senior England appearance.
The early to mid 1970s saw
Albion decline, with the club suffering relegation to the Second Division in 1973. Tony
however continued to be amongst the goals, his 200th Albion goal coming against
Aston Villa at Villa Park in March 1974. Two months later Tony was
rewarded for his service to the Baggies with a testimonial match. The game, which would be
unthinkable these days, featured a combined Albion and Aston Villa XI versus a
combined Wolves and Birmingham City XI. The Albion/Villa combination would win
the game 2-1, with Tony naturally on the scoresheet.
The arrival of Johnny Giles as
player/manager for the 1975/76 season would see the Baggies' fortunes improve.
Despite a poor start to the season Giles' men would clinch promotion on the
final day with a 1-0 win at Oldham, Tony fittingly scoring the goal which lifted
Albion back into the 'big-time'.
Albion finished the 1976/77
season in a creditable 7th position but Giles would leave at the end of the
season to be replaced by former Albion great Ronnie Allen. Allen would be in
charge for just six months before he himself was replaced by Ron Atkinson. Tony
flourished under both managers though and finished the season with 23 league and
The 1978/79 season would be the last good season
Tony would have at The Hawthorns and what a season it was. Challenging for the
First Division title for the majority of the season, enjoying success in the
UEFA Cup and playing some of the best football the club ever had, the season and
team would go down in Baggies' folklore. It was also a momentous season for
Tony, the 3-1 win at Leeds in October would see him hit his 209th league goal
for Albion, breaking the record of his former boss Ronnie Allen.
Tony would start the 1979/80 season in the team but
increasingly found goals difficult to come by. He would score his last first
class goal for the club - his 279th - on January 8 in a 2-1 defeat at West Ham
United in a FA Cup 3rd round replay. His last competitive appearance for Albion
came four days later as a substitute in a league match at Nottingham Forest.
Although still under a long-term contract to
Albion, Tony would spend the late spring and summer of 1980 playing in the
American NASL for the New England Teamen. He would return to The Hawthorns for start
of the 1980/81 season and would feature in a number of friendly and reserve
team games but his league days were over. His last ever appearance in first team
action would come in a friendly match at Poole Town in February 1981.
The summer of 1981 would see Tony spend another
spell in the States with the 'Teamen', who had by this time relocated to
Jacksonville. He returned to Albion, who were once again under the leadership
of Ronnie Allen, at the start of the 1981/82 season. Whilst Tony was happy to
remain at The Hawthorns until the end of his contract, the club and Allen were
not willing to let that happen. After basically being forced out of the club
Tony left for Fourth Division Torquay United. His first season at Plainmoor saw
him finish as top scorer but the 1982/83 season didn't go so well. He made just
four first team appearances before calling a day on his league career. A very
short spell in non-league football at Stafford Rangers followed but in April 1983
Tony hung up his boots for good.
After leaving Stafford he worked full-time as a
sales representative before a phone-call from Johnny Giles, who had returned to
Albion as manager in February 1984, led to Tony returning to football and the Baggies. Tony
initially worked in the club's youth system before joining the first team
coaching staff prior to the 1985/86 season. The season was a disaster for the
club, Giles leaving in September to be replaced by Nobby Stiles who himself was
replaced in February 1986 by Ron Saunders. Tony would leave the club at the end
of the season and would then spend a short spell on the coaching staff at
Birmingham City but after leaving St Andrews his involvement in football came to
an end - almost. Tony, who enjoyed a long-overdue second testimonial game in
time against the Jamaican national team, is now a regular and popular
summariser on local radio covering Albion games.
20 page programme for Tony's debut game at Ipswich, pictured above left, can usually be bought for around
View the complete programme here