Saturday’s visit of Middlesbrough to The Hawthorns, wasn’t a remarakable occasion in the big scheme of things football, Albion needing a win of course against middle of the table ‘Boro, but in terms of returning ‘Throstles’ that departed the nest many moons ago, to seek fame and fortune elsewhere, then 1960’s and 70’s mid-feld hardman Alan Merrick’s return from the States, was indeed a big deal around West Bromwich yesterday afternoon.
Alan left these shores in 1977 to join Minnesota Kicks in the USA after loan periods at Peterborough United and Kidderminster Harriers, also touring the States with LA Aztecs and San Jose Earthquakes, before returning to Minnesota, becomining heavily involved in ‘soccer’ coaching in the US Collegiate system, and I think it’s fair to say made a signifcant contribution to where US football is today.
Yesterday Alan and his family were guests of the club, with Alan joining his old ‘muckers’ Ray Wilson, Ally Robertson and Joe Mayo in the East stand suites, for rather special Q and A sessions, both before and after the game, and was presented to The Hawthorns faithful at half-time when Association Chairman and former team mate Ray Wilson was on hand to present Alan with his club cap. Hopefully he will be able to return to see us again in the very near future.
The Regis Suite was also full on match day, with David Ashman, son of F.A Cup winning manager Alan, joined by Bruce Collard, Micky Perry, Jimmy Cumbes and our esteeemed guests from the PFA, with cameo visits from Tony Brown, Andy Johnson, Ian Hamilton, Ally Brown and Chris Brunt.
On the pitch, things were not quite as successful, with Albion scoring a second half equaliser to grab a point in a tough game against the men from the North East, but as ‘Cumbsey’ said to me before he left the suite, “Half a loaf is better than none” which is so true, so we now move on to an international break before travelling to Huddersfield Town and Blackpool.”