Tim Joyner* is our second Baggie from WBAzone.com
He was also a Sunderland fan, but only for one afternoon…
Sunderland first came to my attention as an 11-year-old back in 1973 when I watched the FA Cup Final against Leeds. As a young lad and a fanatical football fan FA Cup Final day was always a big event and I’d always choose a team to support for the Final.
Having always had an affinity for the underdog, I became a Sunderland fan for the day and vividly recall the match even now, the goal by Porterfield, Montgomery’s unbelievable saves and Bob Stokoe running onto the pitch.
That apart I must admit to not having really followed Sunderland’s fortunes too closely, there are the links with Super Kev, Kilbane and of course Don Goodman who was a very popular player at The Hawthorns and who still appears at Albion supporters functions now and then, and even more recently our former defender Paul McShane, a popular player with Albion fans.
Off the pitch your former manager Denis Smith had a spell as Albion manager during the late 1990’s and actually did a reasonable job considering the lack of any real finance available for team building during his spell in charge.
And now your questions:
Q1: Were you surprised to go up, and are you surprised to be where you are now?
I don’t think any Albion supporters were surprised at our promotion last season, we came very close to achieving promotion the previous season, narrowly losing the Play Off Final at Wembley against Derby. While our defensive frailties were, and still are, a major concern to Albion supporters our attacking play was outstanding and we deservedly won the Championship title in what was a hugely enjoyable season in which we also got to the Semi-Final stage of the FA Cup.
As for this season, Yes I am surprised to see us 8 points adrift from safety. While very few Albion fans were expecting anything other than a very tough season back in the Premiership, hopes were high that the squad was capable of avoiding an immediate return to the Championship with most of us very confident of finishing ahead of both Hull and Stoke who came up with us last season. Until our home defeat by Newcastle on 7 February there was genuine hope and optimism that we might avoid relegation and we went into that game with high hopes of a home victory having only lost one of our previous five Premiership home matches (and that against Manchester United) and gained a point at Hull the previous week with a good performance.
Since the hugely disappointing Newcastle defeat we have gained 3 points from the 21 points available and, despite an encouraging performance at Fratton Park against Portsmouth in a 2-2 draw on Easter Saturday, we are all now reconciled to Championship football next season.
Understandably, there is currently a downbeat feel among our support with many supporters questioning both the Board and Team Management. However, even at this stage of the season, with relegation a virtual certainty, there has been no vociferous dissent at any of our matches against either the Chairman or Team Manager. Having said that there are now a number of Albion fans openly calling for the managers dismissal on various Albion fan sites, although they appear to still be in a minority.
From a personal perspective I think the progress and improvements in the clubs infrastructure undertaken by our Board of Directors over the past 10 years deserves applause and without the benefit of outside finance the club continues to be run on a sound business like basis. There is no evidence to suggest we are likely to suffer the financial difficulties incurred by numerous other clubs and for this Jeremy Peace our Chairman deserves credit in my opinion.
As for Tony Mowbray, while his “Messiah” like status has obviously taken a “hit” he retains my own support and if, as I suspect, he takes on board the errors made this season, then I expect him to guide the club to a top six finish next season if not automatic promotion.
Q2: What did you reckon to Sunderland’s prospects at the start of the season and are you shocked to see us fighting for our lives?
At the start of the season I would have predicted Sunderland to finish the season as high as 13th or as low as 17th in the league. While Sunderland are not a club whose fortunes I have followed particularly closely the impression I had was of a manager (Keane) whose tenure saw a huge turnover in playing personnel, many of whom appeared to have been purchased at a higher price than would have been expected. I was actually surprised at your high level of expenditure in the transfer market and the questionable qualities of many of the players who joined Sunderland, certainly in terms of the fees paid for them.
Q3: And what did you make of Keane’s decision to walk out?
I wasn’t particularly surprised by this. I read Keane’s autobiography and found it difficult to warm to his character. While he was an outstanding footballer, one of the greatest midfielders I have ever seen, it was hard not to question his personality at times and certainly his infamous “tackle” and subsequent comments about Haaland during the United versus Manchester City match a few years ago set a shocking example to young fans who idolised him, at least in my view.
The impression and perception I had was of a manager who squandered millions in the transfer market on mediocre players and who quickly lost patience with them, hence the huge turnover of players during his managerial tenure.
It was no surprise to me when he walked out.
Q4: Name this season’s Premier champions, the three to be relegated and the three to come up.
I think Manchester United will finish in first place, with Albion, Middlesbrough and Hull to be relegated. I expect Wolves, Sheffield United and Birmingham to be promoted from the Championship.
Q5: Who are the best players you’ve ever seen in a West Brom shirt?
I’ve been a regular at The Hawthorns since 1971 (aged 9) so have been lucky enough to see many outstanding players representing Albion, particularly during the mid to late 1970’s when we were competing at the top of the old First Division and in the UEFA Cup.
While my all time favourite Albion player is Willie Johnston the very best player I have ever seen in an Albion shirt is Bryan Robson. Other players who were also exceptionally good and who provided great memories were Laurie Cunningham, Tony Brown, Derek Statham, Johnny Giles and of course the aforementioned Willie Johnston.
Q6: Any personal or handed down memories of Jeff Astle?
Even now, 25 years after his departure from Albion, the memory of “The King” lives on at the club. The news of Jeff’s death, was a great shock and of great sadness to all Albion fans. Jeff’s family had chosen, understandably, to keep his illness during his last few years a private matter and many of us were unaware that his health had deteriorated which made the news of his death at a relatively young age even more of a very sad surprise.
With my first Albion match being back in 1971, and being only nine years old, I was too young to have witnessed Jeff at his peak but count myself very fortunate to have been present at the home game against Bristol City in the old Second Division in 1974 when Jeff scored his very last Albion goal.
A truly great footballer and character who deserves his cult like status and whose memory is retained at The Hawthorns via the impressive “Astle Gates” at the entrance to the stadiums Car Park on the Birmingham Road and even now you can buy Albion T shirts emblazoned with his name from the Albion club shop.
Q7: Superkev. We’ll probably agree on him, but what went wrong for Kilbane for us?
Kevin Phillips provided an outstanding return during his time at Albion, not just in terms of goals scored but in his overall contribution and we were all very disappointed to see him leave last summer, even more so to a local rival in a league below us. The exact reasons for his departure still remain unclear and I sincerely believe he could have made a valuable contribution in our fight against relegation.
He was certainly one of the best strikers I have ever seen in an Albion shirt and was very popular with Albion fans and with the other players by all accounts.
As for Kevin Kilbane it was obvious that he did have talent and potential but never achieved a steady level of consistency during his time at Albion. In fairness he played in a very mediocre Albion team and to his credit his number of Premiership and International appearances over the past 10 years since his departure from The Hawthorns would indicate that he is a very good player.
Kevin was a regular at Albion Supporters Club meetings during his time at the club and always appeared to be a very friendly, approachable and genuine individual.
Q8: What do you honestly think about Sunderland – club, people, city, ground(s) – and , come to that, Newcastle?
I have no real knowledge of Sunderland as a city, I’ve seen Albion play at Roker Park a couple of times but have yet to visit the Stadium of Light. Despite the absence of a roof over the away terrace I always enjoyed visits to Roker Park, a real traditional football stadium. I travelled to Roker Park on Supporters coaches and therefore was only familiar with the immediate area around the stadium.
I would say that I’ve always been impressed by the level of your support, in terms of numbers, quality and loyalty.
As for Newcastle, again their support is impressive, and I remember attending an FA Cup tie against Newcastle in 1974 when they brought around 14,000 fans, certainly the largest away following I’ve ever seen at The Hawthorns though as with Sunderland, I’m not familiar with Newcastle as an area and have not visited St James’ Park since their major ground redevelopment.
Q9: What has been the worst refereeing decision against you this season? Have any spectacularly bad decisions gone in your favour?
It’s got to be the decision by Rob Styles to send off Paul Robinson following a 50/50 tackle against Manchester United. We were losing 1-0 at the time but playing well. While we would probably have lost the game against a team of their quality the sending off resulted in the remainder of the match becoming a total non event for Albion fans as United cruised to a 5-0 victory.
All Albion fans sincerely hope to never see Styles referee another Albion match.
Q10: Club v country. Who wins for you, and why?
For me it’s Albion first and foremost although the fortunes of England are important to me and although I have not watched England “live” for many years I do try to watch all of their games on TV and wear my replica England shirt with pride.
I’m very impressed by Capello and genuinely believe that under his management we do have a real chance of achieving success at the next World Cup.
Q11: Who will win? Will you be there?
I will definitely be at The Hawthorns for the visit of Sunderland and I have a sneaking feeling that Albion might actually beat you on 25 April, although I do feel it will be a closely fought match, with any victory likely to be by the odd goal. The pressure is now effectively off Albion, we all know we are going to be relegated and I suspect Albion’s form in terms of performances and results may actually improve over the remaining few weeks of the season.
With all the pressure on Sunderland I think it might be a stressful afternoon for you, though I do think you have enough quality in your team to avoid a bottom three league position.
Tim Joyner on Tim Joyner:
I was born in Kidderminster in 1962 and have lived in the town ever since and I’ve been an Albion fan all my life and went to my first game at The Hawthorns in October 1971. I attended about 15 home games a season up until around 1974 when I became a season ticket holder and have held a season ticket ever since. In the past 35 years I’ve missed about 6 home games.
I also attend many of Albion’s home reserve games and am a member of the Kidderminster Branch of the Albion Supporters Club.
Both my daughter and son are Albion season ticket holders and we have three seats next to each other on the back row of the Birmingham Road End, my wife is also an Albion fan although she has only attended one match this season.
I tend to get to a couple of away matches each season though now my children are both a little older we plan to all get to a few more away matches from next season.
Best regards to all Sunderland fans and good luck for the rest of the season (your away game against Albion excepted).