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.