Still seeking Justice for Jeff as West Bromwich Albion visit Sunderland


Every so often, a noble cause brings opposing sets of supporters together and Saturday’s game against WBA offers a chance for one such display of solidarity. This is a slightly updated version of the posting contributed by Salut! Sunderland’s deputy editor Malcolm Dawson and which, we are pleased to report, has been seen by Jeff Astle’s family …

When I was a kid I watched the FA Cup Final on TV religiously. It was virtually the only live televised football available to those of us growing up in the fifties and sixties.

Years later I could still have told you every result and every goalscorer between 1959 and 1978, but I’m not so sure I could now.

A few games and a few names still stand out though. Mike Trebilcock who scored twice for Everton in 1966 and Howard Kendall who had become the youngest ever player to appear in a Wembley final, also for the Toffees two years earlier.

Neil Young who got the only goal for Manchester City in 1968 and the year before that, Jeff Astle whose left foot drive from the edge of the penalty box in extra time secured the trophy for West Bromwich Albion.

Years later, living in the East Midlands, I met Jeff several times on the cricket field where he played for a side in South Derbyshire, not too far from Burton on Trent where, if I remember correctly he ran a window cleaning business. Can’t see Wayne Rooney or Steven Gerrard doing that when they hang up their boots.

As you would expect from a former professional sportsman, Jeff was competitive on the cricket field but a lovely bloke for all that. Tragically Jeff died 13 years ago at the age of 59 and the evidence presented links his death to brain damage consistent with repeated heading of the older type of leather football.

On Saturday in the 9th minute Baggies’ fans will begin a minute’s applause in support of the Justice for Jeff campaign which is highlighting the need for research into the causes of brain damage in football and other sports and to support in someway the families of soccer players who have suffered the same trauma as the Astle family.

Recent developments regarding the issue of players suffering concussion in a match may or may not be as a direct result of the campaign, but keeping it high on the FA agenda can only be a good thing. Can I urge all of you reading this who will be in the ground to join with the Albion fans to highlight the issue.

Unlike some websites we do not “Copy and Paste” but the following links will take you to sites where you can read more about the “Justice for Jeff” campaign Also if you haven’t already, have a go at “Guess the Score”and all Baggies fans are welcome to join the fun.

Justice for Jeff website

Justice for Jeff – Facebook

SAFC Forum – Vital Football

Birmingham Mail talks to Jeff’s widow.

11 thoughts on “Still seeking Justice for Jeff as West Bromwich Albion visit Sunderland”

  1. I’ve often wondered why walls aren’t lined up along the goal line like that. It would possibly be more effective than placing them in front of the goalkeeper’s view. He could also take up a more forward position in some circumstances. An interesting one, that.

  2. Nice article, ‘tho Howard Kendall later became Toffees legend, he was the youngest player in a Final for Preston North End against West Ham, as you say, the older we get the memory isn’t so good. I remember it because at primary school every Monday morning we had to write a “news” story about what we’d been up to at the weekend. I cheated and just wrote a cup final match report. I got a star on the essay for the aforementioned Kendall fact.

    Got nothing to do with the article, but Kendall went to Washington grammar with my hero Bryan Ferry, I didn’t get a star when I put that nugget on the Viva!Roxy Music website…..

    And coincidentally, I think the Soccer Stars annual was where I saw a classic photo of SAFC v WBA at Roker in the late 60s, we’d been given a free kick and all 10 WBA outfield players were lined up on the goal-line behind their keeper, it caused uproar at the time and was regarded as unsportsmanlike. I think we drew that game 2-2.

  3. It’s nothing to do with misconceptions of origin. It’s about where we find common usage, and that is in North America. Nobody else in the world calls it “soccer” to the best of my knowledge, and most certainly not in Murton.

    I’ve never heard anyone from the NE use the term, apart from Malcolm now obviously, and most certainly not in Murton 🙂

    • Well I’d never heard the word Mackem until the late 80s or early 90s despite spending the first 23 years of my life living only 6 miles from Sunderland. We used to call people from Sunderland Townies. Even when I worked in the Town in the mid 70s no-one ever used the word Mackem though I was introduced to the phrase topper scran at that time. I suspect the fact that living in North America you have become more sensitive to the term soccer than we parochial types.

      As for soccer maybe you never heard it in Murton but I went to school in E(pple)TON so we were a bit posher than you lot!

      A little bit of research tells me that Bobby Charlton who I believe was born in the North East founded his “soccer school” in 1978 and it has always been known as this. IMDb lists a TV series Bobby Charlton’s Soccer School in 1975 too.

      Mind you I don’t really feel the need to defend the use of the term soccer to avoid unnecessary repetition in an article which aimed to highlight a far more serious issue than semantics. 🙂

      • I heard “soccer” used regularly by a Yorkshireman when at Uni in the early 70s and, believe me, he was not a public school oik. The use was strange even though I was familiar with the origins of “soccer” and “rugger” from my primary school days, he was the only person I ever heard using it.

        No recollections of “Mackem” at all from my youth, or even my middle age.

  4. Soccer – a corruption of Association Football I believe and is a term I have used since long before the Mayflower landed at New Plymouth.

    I’m sure that many of the Murton boys you grew up with were familiar with the word. I used to get a soccer magazine in the 1970s called “Soccer Monthly” and our own (and Hull’s) Raich Carter produced one called “Soccer Star” in the 1950s. I believe the term was in use in the UK in the late 1800s to distinguish it from Rugby Football.

    There are still some Rugby Union teams who are simply called football clubs. Leicester Tigers is officially Leicester Football Club I think.

    To me the terms footy and soccer are alternatives to what we know as Football.

    I call American Football, American Football – even the college stuff.

    • Correct. ‘Soccer’ as opposed to ‘rugger’ – a shortened form of the ‘Assoc.’ rules introduced in the later 19th Century by the newly formed Football Association, to distinguish their game, Association Football, from Rugby Football and other forms.

      The ‘-er’ on the end of soccer (and rugger) comes from the same public school tradition which named ‘Johnners’ and ‘Blowers’ of Test Match Special fame.

      So today we have A.F.C. Wimbledon, Sunderland A.F.C., Hull City A.F.C. etc., and the name ‘soccer’ was exported to America and taken up to describe what we Brits usually call ‘football’ – which over the pond means the gridiron game.

      It’s a common misconception that the term ‘soccer’ originated in USA.

  5. Malcolm. A poignant article. Jeff was a very good player who I remember very well of course. If Mick G is reading this piece he has a very good story to tell about a visit to the Hawthorns many years ago which involved a conversation (of sorts) between one of our fans and Jeff Astle. I hope he reads and posts in reply.

    Why does the word “soccer” appear in your article? There’s really no such thing, just North Americans referring to the world’s favourite sport by a incorrect term.

  6. I met Jeff Astle many years ago in an Indian restaurant in Birmingham. Darlington were playing in the play-offs to get into League 1 (as it is now) and Jeff kindly gave me the score.

    We got to talking about Sunderland and he said that they played us shortly before the cup final in 1968. As the first ball came through, Charlie Hurley just said That’s mine Jeff. He felt that the implication was clear and his chances of playing in the Cup Final could only be improved by not ever tempting Charlie into a tackle. He said he virtually didn’t touch the ball in the entire game!

    Only talked to him for about 10 minutes but he seemed a lovely bloke. I’ll be joining in on Saturday.

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