Tuesday, March 20, 2012

English Leagues the 70s: Manchester United West Bromwich Albion Division One 1978 1979

30 December 1978
Old Trafford,

Attendance 45,091

  For Ron Atkinson, his team’s 5-3 victory over Manchester United at Old Trafford 30 years ago this December is memorable for one of the most pointless half-time team talks he ever delivered. ‘I went in and told them that they didn’t deserve to be losing 3-2 and that there was no reason in the world why we should not grab an equaliser,’ recalled Atkinson. ‘They all just sat there and looked at me like I was mad. ‘Then Tony Brown said: “Boss, it’s 3-3. I have just equalised.” ‘Bomber had just run through and put the ball in at the Stretford End but I had heard a whistle blow. 'I thought it had been too late. I thought it was half-time already. ‘And there he is staring at me as if I had just lost my marbles. ‘So I just told them: “Fair enough. Then go and get me a winner then”.’

Wherever you choose to watch your football today of this famous game first. As United and West Bromwich prepare to meet at Old Trafford again, it is guaranteed to send you to your team’s match in better spirits. There is an undeniable feel-good factor about it, even if it is hard to pinpoint exactly why. It may be commentator/presenter (you had to do both jobs back then) Gerald Sinstadt’s ridiculous moustache. Or the excited yelp with which he greets the final goal, crashed in to the roof of the net by Cyrille Regis. Maybe it’s the way that Laurie Cunningham ignores the racist booing from the terraces to set up Albion’s first goal , or the hilariously crude manner in which Stewart Houston shamelessly tries to hack him down en route to scoring in the second half. It could even be the way that United manager Dave Sexton nominates Steve Coppell as man of the match. Coppell doesn’t even appear to be playing on the highlights reel. But, more than likely, it will be the uninhibited, expressive nature of the football that grabs you. Of the eight goals, at least five are as good as anything the Barclays Premier League has offered so far this season. Atkinson’s Albion had a young Bryan Robson in the centre of midfield and were graced by three black players, Cunningham, Regis and Brendon Batson. It was unique at the time for an English team to be so racially mixed.

 The trio were then nicknamed —quite unbelievably — ‘The Three Degrees’. 'We arrived at Old Trafford playing great football,’ said Atkinson, who went on to manage United. ‘I look at the way Arsenal play now and think that’s the way that we used to knock it about. 'So I wasn’t really surprised to see us playing like that on the day at Old Trafford. ‘We had a very powerful team and could be quite direct when we needed to be. 'Robbo was beginning to come into his own and Derek Statham was one of the best left-backs I have seen. ‘But players like Laurie and big Cyrille were superb. 'Laurie was so light and so delicate. He could have run on snow without leaving footprints. 'We were capable of some smashing stuff and it was certainly one of the most enjoyable spells of my time in the game. 'My only regret was that we should really have gone on to win the league that year and we didn’t.’ Hindered by an end-of-season fixture pile-up, Albion finished third in the old First Division — United ended ninth — and they reached the last eight of the UEFA Cup. Atkinson moved to United as Sexton’s successor two years later, taking the likes of Robson with him. ‘I didn’t rate Robbo at first,’ is now Atkinson’s frank admission. ‘All I could see was the permed hair that made him look like Kevin Keegan. ‘At the time I thought that was all they had in common. 'But I was wrong. I had to play him as centre half in an FA Cup replay early in 1978 — ironically against United — and he obliterated Joe Jordan. ‘He was 19 and was magnificent. A brain-rocking revelation. He never looked back after that.’

Codec H264, 
Bitrate 1200
Sound 128 kbps
English Comments

On the 30th December, 1978, with Britain suffering its worst snowfalls for 15 years, Ron Atkinson's West Bromwich Albion travelled to Old Trafford to face the mighty Manchester United . The game that followed is remembered as one of the greatest ever, with both sides attacking at will and scoring for fun. 32 years on it is still referred to by both sets of supporters as the 5-3 game. Albion's side contained the future United and England captain, Bryan Robson, the affectionately titled 'Three Degrees' of Cyrille Regis, Brendan Batson and Laurie Cunningham, plus goal-scoring legend Tony Brown. Robson, Regis, Brown, Len Cantello and Big Ron look back on the highlights of the game that defined the Albion side of that era. A side agonisingly close to claiming the league title that season, had the bad weather not intervened.



No comments:

Post a Comment