On Being a Fan – Why I Love West Bromwich Albion

I don’t really remember when I first became aware of football as a kid. It was just always there. Every scrap of wasteland was a pitch, every battered can a ball. WBA, Wolves and Villa graffiti was daubed on every pub car park wall and slashed into most of the red leather bus seats of the Midland Red fleet. In the Black Country, the heavily industrialised core of the West Midlands, football is totally tribal.

West Bromwich Albion were formed in 1880, one of the founder clubs of the first ever Football League, starting as the West Bromwich Strollers in 1878 formed by a dedicated group of manufacturing workers at the Salter Spring Works in West Bromwich. The club roots are therefore firmly knotted into the industrial heritage of the area and in its early years, workers from nearby heavy industry would flood through the turnstiles of the Hawthorns, their heavy industrial protective clothing giving rise to «the Baggies» tag which has been long used to refer to the club as well as the fans.

For me, football dominated childhood Saturdays during the season and talk was always of Albion. Legendary names like Jeff Astle and Ronnie Allen were as familiar as any other in the streets where I grew up. Our road was an ‘Albion road’ and all the scarves were navy and white. On home game Saturdays, garage doors would rise in unison and Ford Cortinas and Escorts would be reversed in formation before the mass driving over to West Bromwich to the ground we Albion fans now call «The Shrine.» Even to this day, 30 odd years later, the sight of those Hawthorns’ floodlights still send a shiver down my spine, sending me hurtling back to the days when the team ran out to the old reggae tune ‘The Liquidator’ by the Harry J Allstars and Bryan Robson wore the Captain’s no 7 shirt.

West Brom in the veins. That’s how it always been. The emotional attachment you feel to your local football club especially when its been handed down the family line is hard to explain to non-fans, but you can never walk away and my God at times you want to run. Supporting «The Baggies» is not for the lily-livered. You have to be stoical, very stoical.

Albion are as big a part of my family as any of us. Dad and Grandad were big Albion fans and this was passed to me and my brother like the family name via striped DNA. At games today, I often think about Dad, back in the 50s, sat on the railway sleepers that were wedged into the bank that is now the Birmingham «Brummie» Road End watching his beloved Throstles after leaving his bike down «someone’s entry» close to the ground. And then there’s my much beloved Grandad, Daniel Nock, long gone, who stood opposite where I sit now, in flat cap and rainmac, cigar in hand at the Hawthorns of the 60s when Albion flew high, winning the League Cup in ’66 and the FA Cup in ’68. The ground gives me the strangest feeling of being ‘at home’ it sounds corny but its true. For me, there is something very special about that place and I know that essential feeling won’t fade.

When I was growing up, football was everything and everywhere. Saturday afternoons were spent at my Nan and Grandad’s in Blackheath. Nan and I would listen to the match on the radio, waiting for Dad, Grandad, my brother and champion onion growing twin neighbours Ernie and Ivan, to return from the match. If we won, and in the late 70s this was more often than not, Grandad would come charging through the back door armed with chips and tales of my childhood hero Cyrille Regis and total Albion legend Tony ‘Bomber’ Brown. These were the days when I was told I was too young to go and Dad forbid it absolutely. I therefore had to rely on my brother’s tales of his experiences of the Smethwick End stand. Stories which I held in awe, tales of the crush of the terraces and the sporadic violence that by then was rising in the English game, of bricks and coins being thrown across thinly segregated fans.

In the late 1970s, West Brom were quite the golden team and this was a great time to be a fan, a welcome distraction for many from the pains of a severe economic depression that was hitting the Black Country hard, with the old steel and manufacturing industries that had propped up our communities for a century or more, beginning to falter and break down. Football took on an even stronger role for local people needing a focus and an escape.

In 1979, WBA finished third in the Old Division 1 and qualified for European football. This was the flair team still feted by fans today and only in the last two seasons have we seen (with some joy) an Albion side rise to anywhere near their level. Albion then fielded three black players in the same team, something that was then totally unknown in English football – Cyrille Regis, Brendon Batson and the wonderfully gifted, sadly late, Laurie Cunningham. These incredibly talented footballers became known to fans as ‘The Three Degrees’ and acted as pioneers of black players in football, inspiring a generation.

Cyrille was and still is a tower of a man and is still hugely loved and admired by Albion fans. A superbly strong, powerful player, he was to become for many the true benchmark of everything a centre forward should be. Brave, big, fast and the scorer of some absolute thumping belters from distance and beyond. He didn’t get knocked down very often. In late 2011, I was lucky enough to meet Cyrille while he was collecting for charity outside the Hawthorns before a home game. It was wonderful to tell him he was my Albion hero and I nervously but proudly showed him the back of my shirt as proof, emblazoned as it was with ‘Regis 9″. He seemed very surprised to see a fan with his name emblazoned on a recent home shirt and was as gracious as I’d always imagined him to be. It was a great moment for that WBA loving kid that’s still very much me.

Players like Regis, Batson and Cunningham had to face down hideous racism just to do what they did best, week in, week out. There is a much viewed video of West Brom’s famous 1978, 5-3 victory over Man Utd at Old Trafford on You Tube. In the footage, you can clearly hear Laurie Cunningham in particular, being booed repeatedly by the Man Utd fans. It is undoubtedly due to the colour of his skin and unusually for the times is even mentioned by commentator Gerald Sinstadt who makes reference to the «repeated booing of the black players’. The skill shown by Cunningham as he cuts through the United’s midfield is breathtaking. He simply carries on regardless and is described by Sinstadt as «booed but unperturbed», showing what a truly skilful and wonderful football player he was. All three of these players responded to racism in this way and let their football make their response to the ignorance and the mindless chants. To me and hordes of other fans, ‘the Three Degrees’ made our club that bit more special and we took them to our hearts.

In terms of the Albion story, the years that followed on from the success of the late 1970s were mixed and difficult for Baggies fans. My first ever league game was West Brom v Liverpool in February 1981. We won that game 2-0 against the then league champions with a Bryan Robson miraculous back heeled goal. I guess as a kid, I thought this was always how it was going to be. It didn’t work out quite like that. I had to wait thirty more years to sit and watch my club do something truly special, when I was lucky enough to watch Albion beat Arsenal at the Emirates in a Premier League game in September 2010. But it was worth the wait. It was a joy to hear Albion fans on the phone to their loved ones after the game shouting «I feel like we’ve won the Cup!»… other young fans in their 20s proudly proclaimed on Facebook «This is the best day of my life!» It seems ridiculous but I know what they mean. That day in 1981 in the old Rainbow Stand with my Dad with his packet soup packed tartan flask and mini pork pies was one of mine and I’ll never forget it.

In 1992, I persuaded my Dad to come with me to go and see the Albion together for the first time in years. By then they we were languishing in what was the old Division 3. The Hawthorns was tatty and attendance was poor. We were playing Leyton Orient and the performance was lack lustre to say the least. I remember feeling gutted to see the club on its knees after what we had been and I know it was even harder on my Dad who’d see the joyous days of Jeff Astle. But, I was still heartened by the singing of the Brummie Rd and Smethwick End stands and the fact that the hardcore of supporters had stuck with the club. At half time, I went and touched the grass of the Hawthorns pitch, no one seemed to care that I jumped the barrier. It wasn’t the wonderful flair football I’d watched Albion play as a kid but at least we’d scraped a draw. There were many ups and downs to follow – too many to catalogue here – as Albion were to be crowned the classic ‘yo yo’ club – with successive promotions and relegations stressing the hell out of Albion fans for season upon season.

I met one of Albion’s promotion winning bosses, Roberto di Matteo, at Wembley in August 2010. Albion had seen promotion back to the Premier League under Di Matteo during the 2009-2010 Championship season. My friend approached Di Matteo and brought him over to have a photograph with me ‘for my Dad’ as she told him. I remember greeting him mumbling something about being a West Brom fan, probably with the kind of face a Chilean miner might look at his rescuer. God knows what he thought but he obliged with good humoured grace, guess I was remembering that cold, dark day in November 1992 and being ever so grateful for what he and others like Ardilles and Megson and Roy Hodgson after him had brought back to our club.

In 2010, my annual WBA membership renewal came through with a promo leaflet from the club emblazoned with a picture of the Hawthorns and Jeff Astle and had the words, «You were born a Baggie and you’ve been part of the team ever since» written across it. At first I thought it was a bit cheesy then I was surprised that it brought half a tear to the eye, because it’s true enough. It is about belonging and this is what the local football clubs we love do for us.

The club I was ‘born’ into has sometimes been the bain of my life but I wouldn’t have it any other way. Blue and white striped veins, or «Albion ‘til I die», that’s just the way it is.

I hope to God the days of 1992 are banished for ever, but if they came back I know I’ll still love the club and always will. But I’d moan and we do like a good moan when we get going. That’s why we’ll keep singing Psalm 23 whatever the score – you never know when you are going to need some help to get to those green pastures and quiet waters. To this day, I’ll never tire of hearing thousands sing ‘The Lord’s My Shepherd’ in Black Country accents. It can be no coincidence that this is Albion’s football ‘hymn’ and you’ll hear it sung by fans at every match. If ever there was a hymn for the need for faith when you are facing the dark nights of the soul then this is it and my God there’s been a lot of those for us Albion fans. 3-0 up at half time, think you’re safe? Think again. Its what we call «typical bloody Albion» but try and make us stay away – we can’t. We are Albion.

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An Overview Of Serie A Teams

Serie A, also called as Serie A TIM, refers to the top level professional league in the Italian football league system. Founded during 1929-30 season, Serie A is now on its way to complete 87 seasons. Lega Calcio was the organizer of the Serie A competitions until 2010 but Lega Serie A was introduced during the 2010/11 season. It is widely regarded as one of the most competitive football leagues in the world. In accordance with a report by IFFHS, Serie A is the strongest national league all over the globe. Serie A teams have been the highest number of European Cup finalists till date.

The Italian outfits have reached the Europa competition final 26 times, which is a record in the continent. They have wrapped up the title in 12 seasons. As per UEFA’s league coefficient, Serie A ranks fourth among the European leagues and come only next to La Liga, Bundesliga and English Premier League. The ranking is based on the Italian clubs’ performance in the Europa League as well as the Champions League over the last five years. The league was the topper on the UEFA ranking between 1986 and 1988 and also from 1990 to 1339. Let us now take a closer look at the best Serie A clubs.

Serie A Competition

Before 1929, many Italian clubs participated in the top-most level. Till 1922, the earlier rounds were played on a regional basis. Inter is the only club that has played in every Serie A season since its inception.

Best Teams in Serie A

The top-tier Italian league hosts Juventus, Inter Milan and AC Milan which are considered three of the most popular clubs in the world. All of them are the founding members of G-14 which hosted the most famous and largest football clubs of Europe. It was the only league which had three representatives in the G-14 group. More players have been awarded the prestigious Ballon d’Or during their Serie A spell than any other country league. However, 18 players each from both Serie A and La Liga have received the award FIFA Ballon d’Or so far.

Juventus is considered the most successful Serie A club. The club, nicknamed as the Bianconeri, the Old Lady etc, is the only entity in the world football to have won every continental competition in Europe as well as the world title. Inter Milan became the first Serie A team to have won a treble following their 2009/10 achievement. Juventus, Inter Milan and AC Milan along with Roma, Lazio, Napoli and Fiorentina form famous Seven Sisters of Italian Football. Juventus is the current defending champions of Serie A title. However, Inter Milan are, at present, the topper on the league table.

Serie A Footballers

Serie A have produced some of the best names in the world football. Diego Maradona, the prince of football, also played in Serie A at Napoli. Paolo Maldini, Michel Platini are among other stalwarts who took retirement from international football. Serie A teams are also big spenders and don’t mind forking out a fortune to capture the star players.

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Using Zoning Laws to Protect Affordable Housing

After five years of negotiating with Mayor Mike Bloomberg's office, the New York City Council has approved extension of a zoning-law amendment aimed at protecting affordable housing units in several districts. Affected areas include the Garment District, West Chelsea and Hudson Yards – three areas that have seen a lot of new developments and increases in property prices.

The new zoning law prevents both landlords and developers from significantly changing more than twenty percent of existing units in multi-family buildings. Renovations and updates can be made, but can't significantly alter the unit's price.

Historically, when an apartment or townhome complex is renovated, the result is increased rental or purchase prices. The ability the charge higher prices is typically the motivating factor behind renovations and upgrades. While the city council doesn't want to interfere with a property owners right to make changes (or profits), it has also seen low-income people repeatedly forced to move out of renovated properties that they can no longer afford.

The Chelsea area, in particular, has become a popular place for new developments – both residential and commercial. City Council members were concerned that landlords – in an effort to capitalize on higher-end business – would renovate existing structures to the point that they would become unaffordable for current residents.

City Council members also hope the new zoning laws will preserve some of the older architecture in the affected districts. The new law extends an existing Special District amendment that was passed in 1974. It affects all multi-family buildings of three units or more that were built in 1974 or prior.

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FC Barcelona Player Profiles – Eric Abidal

Eric Abidal was signed in the summer of 2007 as a replacement for Gio. While he is a natural left back, Abidal can also play as a center back when necessary with his combination of footballing skill, positioning and tactical awareness as well as his semi-legendary runs up the wing in support of the forwards.

Futbol Club Barcelona is Abidal's first team outside France and he arrived at the club after strong interest from Arsenal. Despite being pursued by Italian clubs also, he refused to move there because he feels the game in Italy is still too racist. His move to Barcelona is under a four year deal and on arrival in his new team was unable to assume is usual number 20 due to it already being worn by Deco and he wears 22 instead.

He moved from Olympique Lyon, who Barcelona have faced in the 2007-08 Champions League, with who he won the French league title on three occasions in a row (2004-5, 2005-6, 2006-7), as well as the French Cup of Champions twice (2004-5, 2005-6). As part of the deal to move to Barcelona, ​​Lyon will gain half a million Euros if the Catalan team win the Champions League in the next four years. Previous clubs also include Lyon-La-Duchere, Monaco and Lille.

The player, who is of Martinique decent, was considered one of the best fullbacks in the country and played for the French national squad on more than 20 occasions, including being part of the team that were runners up in the 2006 World Cup.

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The Oldest International Stadium in Football – The Racecourse Ground

The Racecourse Ground: Wrexham

The Racecourse ground situated in Wrexham, North East Wales is the oldest International Football Stadium in the World and has been the venue for some of British Football’s most historic memories. The following article details the fascinating history of the stadium.

The Racecourse Ground («Y Cae Ras» in Welsh language) is the long term home of Wrexham Football Club who currently ply their trade in the Blue Square Premier league, the Racecourse is the largest stadium in this league with a capacity of 15,000, however this is currently reduced to 10,500 due to the kop stand being closed awaiting renovation to take the ground to being an all seater venue. In early 2010 Super League (Rugby League) side The Crusaders relocated to Wrexham and now use The Racecourse Ground as their home base.

In the 1800’s the Ground was owned by Wrexham Cricket Club and was a venue for Cricket and Horse Racing (hence the grounds name). In 1872 Wrexham Football Club was born and thus the ground became a football stadium. In those days however it was less of a «stadium» due to the lack of facilities. The first stand to be built was the kop terracing in the 1950’s whch is the oldest remaining part of the gound. The current away supporters stand (Eric Roberts Builders Stand) was built in 1978 following Wrexham’s most successful period on the pitch. By this time floodlights had already long been installed. In 1999 the ground was brought to it’s current standards with the completion of a 3500 capacity, modern designed stand including restaurant and bar facilities. The current capacity of 15000 is dwarfed by the record recorded attendance of amlost 35,000 people to witness an FA Cup tie against Manchester United in the 1950’s

The Racecourse Ground’s most distinguishing fact is that it is recorded in the Guinness Book of Records as being the oldest International Football Stadium in current use. Over the years it has hosted many Wales International matches meaning the roll call of world greats to have graced the Racecourse changing rooms is long and distinguished. The Raceourse ground was the venue when Wales beat England 4-1 in the then Home Nations Tournament, a game still oft referred to and featured on television programmes. Similarly the Racecourse ground is featured annually on the weekend of the FA Cup third round having been the venue for the greatest FA Cup giant killing of all time when Wrexham beat current league champions Arsenal 2-1 in 1990.

The ground is no stranger to club level European football either, Wrexham enjoyed many ventures in the European Cup Winners cup and in recent years Welsh sides Bangor City and Total Network Solutions have used the venue for their European ties.

The Racecourse ground is also a favourite rugby venture. Currently the home of Rugby league team «The Crusaders» it has also been used by Rugby Union region «The Scarlets» as well as playing host to World Cup Rugby League and International Rugby Union matches.

The future of the Racecourse ground is that Wrexham Football Clubs owners plan to redevelop land behind the top end of the ground into student accommodation whilst rebuilding the kop stand into a multi purpose stand. The future may be different from the past but it is certain that the history and memories of the ground will live forever.

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Why Choose Leftbank Apartments Above Any Other

The Spinningfields development is the largest single urban development in the North West, and one of the biggest in Europe. As well as the Leftbanks residential apartments, the Spinningfields area offers hotels, offices, restaurants, shops and bars. On top of that it is just a stone throw away from the city center.

Leftbank is a development by Persimmon Homes, a developer established in 1972 that has a number of buildings across Manchester. Persimmon are a mid to high end developers, and the Leftbank apartments are noted as being well appointed. The building – despite some criticism – is an attractive addition to the staid surroundings of Spinningfields. Development of Leftbank has made Manchester an economic hub.

Leftbank boasts high standards and it is located in the middle of the city. It is located at the bank of the river Irwell. You would enjoy an excellent view along with the refreshing river breeze. Many consider it to be just the right tranquil setting.

The building is home to almost four hundred apartments, from one bedroom up to large penthouses, and it took them almost four years to complete it. At the base of the building are commercial units and they are now home to some worthwhile restaurants. Leftbank has ample car parking space and it is equipped with many elevators placed thoughtfully, throughout the complex.

Leftbank has all the basic facilities; electricity, telephone, natural gas, and Internet connectivity (dispensed by an efficient broadband connection). There are Wi-Fi facilities for each apartment. There is a twenty-four hour room service available. Maintenance support is extremely efficient in handling any problems related to sanitation and telephone lines ..

The building has a well-designed lobby. There is an excellent fitness center in the building so you do not need to go out for exercise. There is a clubroom in the basement that provides an ideal location for cocktail parties. Leftbank apartments are not expensive, despite there prime location and outstanding amenities.

Each apartment is spacious, contemporary and features a large lounge and dining area leading out to a balcony, a modern fully-fitted state-of-the-art kitchen, a double bedroom with fitted wardrobes, a stylish bathroom, 24 hour concierge service along with high-speed wireless Internet access. A secure and private car parking space is also available. Laundry and grocery services can be availed.

The great thing about Leftbank is its location in the city center, as it is just a five minute walk to Deansgate – with its vibrant restaurants, trendy bars and clubs, featuring Harvey Nichols, Selfridges, Kendall's, the designer stores, boutiques of King Street along with the Arndale Center. Very close to the MEN Arena, G-Mex, Granada Studios and museums.

Thus, the apartments offer a lot to the people wishing to have a comfortable, and high standard living.

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Around the English Premier League – Round 30

Manchester United has reached its third week at the head of the Premier League and with its triumph at home has open up a bit more the gap between it and City.

On Saturday Manchester City visited Britannia Stadium to meet with Stoke City for their away match and after a pretty plain first half they finished in a 1-1 draw. Although the Sky Blues toughed it up in second half, at 59′ Peter Crouch grabbed the lead for the Potters with the help of Jermaine Pennant. First Asmir Begovic fired the ball with a powerful hit that Pennant intercepted and immediately headed to Crouch, who then struck it with a superb shot that send the ball over Joe Hart and straight to the bottom of the goal.

Right away Mancini responded by sending in Adam Johnson to substitute Silva, but even though Johnson made a couple of dangerous intents, he was stop each time. At 72′ the Citizens’ boss made another change calling in Carlos Tevez; however the Argentinean didn’t perform as well as in the last game. Instead the one in charge of leveled the scoreboard was Yaya Toure with a potent shot from a long-range within the last 15 minutes of the encounter.

The 1-1 left Roberto Mancini quiet upset and even made him keep for himself whatever thoughts he had about the performance of his men and how it affects the race they have with United for the championship title. The point earned by the Sky Blues placed them on the first position for more than a day, while they were waiting for the Red Devils fixture against the Cottagers on Monday. Unfortunately for Mancini’s side its nemesis won that match and distanced itself a bit more from City, which now has 70 points while United holds 73 points.

Manchester United is looking for its twentieth Premier League title and the winning streak that is experiencing is helping them secure the first spot -at least for now, because their track in the standings throughout this season is kind of similar to theirs 2009/10 season track, in which they fell within the last 3 fixtures. Be that as it may, on Monday the Red Devils grabbed their 12th triumph at home, beating a Fulham that stood up firmly and only were unable to stop one goal. At 42′ John Evans caught the ball following a close intent from Ashley Young, but when Evans was in the move to score, he realized that Wayne Rooney had a better chance to score, so passed it over and Wayne fired it to the bottom of the net.

On the other hand it looks like Tottenham might be reinforcing, although at the end of the encounter it couldn’t score once, at least they defended their goal perfectly from the tough Chelsea and even had the best chances to score. Indeed this London derby was very even and therefore the 0-0 result it was somewhat fair. The extra point saved the Blues from losing the fifth place to Newcastle that tied them with 50 points on the standings, while the Spurs ended up 3 points away from Arsenal, still with good chances to recover the third place. However it won’t be easy for Harry Redknapp’s men, for at this point they need Arsenal to make a mistake, while they have to be undefeatable -instead, that’s how the Gunners have been lately.

The other matches from round 30: Swansea 0-2 Everton; Sunderland 3-1 QPR; Norwich 2-1 Wolves; Liverpool 1-2 Wigan; Bolton 2-1 Blackburn; Arsenal 3-0 Aston Villa; West Bromwich 1-3 Newcastle.

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