The 2017/18 season could not be described as one of the best for West Bromwich Albion (WBA). Not only did they suffer relegation from the Premier League whilst Black Country rivals Wolves leapfrogged them after being promoted, but Baggies legend Cyrille Regis unexpectedly passed away in January 2018.
Before he died Regis had provided the Foreword to Dean Walton’s Proud to be a Baggie, in which he said how playing for the Albion transformed his life and paid tribute to the fans who have followed the club at the Hawthorns down the years. They are apt sentiments for the book, since the focus is a photographic exploration of those who have watched WBA from the 1950s through to the 2010s.
The various images record the ups and downs and the triumph and the tears of the Albion faithful during that period, but also provide much more as they also tell the story of the changing face of football – from the black and white stills showing fans packed on terraces wearing flat caps in grounds long since demolished, to the colour images of Premier League Asia Trophy games in all seater stadiums in the Far East.
However, the real interest is with those moments in time from the era prior to the social media age, when taking pictures involved a camera and then waiting for them to be developed. Amongst these pre-camera phone days gems are a set of pictures from a snowy Anglo-Italian Cup tie in Brescia where just 196 brave souls witnessed Bob Taylor hit an eighty-seventh minute winner in December 1995.
There is some text which accompanies the images to give some background to the game and event featured which is helpful, but the decade by decade summaries provided are so brief that in order for them to be useful they would have to be expanded.
Of course, this book is aimed at Baggies fans, but anyone who follows their team will appreciate this collection, as the pictures of fans attending pre-season fixtures in far-flung and sometimes obscure places, as well as fancy dress outings, and those days of joy and despair are common to all in the football family.