I got goosebumps watching the FA Cup final yesterday, on so many levels. Seeing 20,000+ fans in Wembley Stadium, cheering on their team in numbers not seen since before Covid was just joyous. Add in the continued fairy tale of Leicester City, winning for the first time, the sheer jubilation from the players, their owner and the fans, and it truly showed why football can be life affirming and beautiful. And it got me so excited for this week…
My team is West Bromwich Albion. I have supported them all my life along with the rest of my family, including my twelve year old son. We now live in Wolverhampton, home of Wolves, one of West Brom’s biggest rivals, so it is safe to say my lad gets a fair bit of stick when he dons his WBA Covid mask in High School. But real football fans know that football is in the blood, and your team is your team, whatever state or league the club happens to be in.
It’s not been the easiest season for the Albion. After the jubilation of promotion last year, we have been relegated back to the Championship after just one season. We lost a manager known for his charismatic personality in Slaven Billic, and brought in one who has divided opinions in Sam Allardyce. Some key players and signings have disappointed, but in Sam Johnstone we’ve seen our first England cap since Jake Livermore, and Matheus Pereira has proved to be a magical wizard with the ball once again. Even though we have gone down, there has been some fight, and at least a couple of performances to savour – not least beating Chelsea 5-2!
On Wednesday we will be returning to the Hawthorns for the first time since the first lockdown, when, along with another 4,000 fans, we will see West Brom take on West Ham, who are riding high near the top of the division. I can’t even say how excited I am to be back at The Hawthorns. It’s the nearest my family has to a spiritual home, our shrine. If we have a religion, it is definitely football.
For my family, football is something that brings us together. From my dad to my sister and brother, from my brother-in-law to my seven year old niece, we all live, eat, sleep and breathe Albion. We have shared high points – Wembley for play off finals, 7-1 against QPR, winning in the last minute against Spurs to keep survival hopes alive, the ‘hand of Rod’, and low points like losing to local rivals Villa in the play offs in 2019, going down to the old Division three under Bobby Gould, and this season losing to both Leeds and Crystal palace by 5 goals. We have the same heroes -‘Astle is the King, and Cyrille Regis too, Super Bobby Taylor, we’ll sing this song for you.’ We’ve walked the same long walk along the Brummie road, taking in the songs and the smells of food along the way. My lad has been lucky enough to have been a mascot twice and has also stared in the WBA Christmas video in 2016. We love our club with a passion.
WBA is in our blood. The Lord is my Shepherd, and frankly, win, lose or draw, that will never change.