West Bromwich Albion are in the media limelight. No, really. And nothing to do with former heroes Jeff Astle, Tony ‘Bomber’ Brown or even Peter Odemwhinger who of course became the first player in their Premier League history to score in four consecutive games before embarking on a boxing career with Rotherham United. No; the Baggies are the current force to be reckoned with and nothing to do with electricity, chemistry or Calor Gas on the pitch.
Incredibly, production company Goalhanger Films has decided that the West Midlands is where it’s currently at. They’ve filmed a behind-the-scenes documentary about the club, with the first episode to be aired in the USA on March 5th. It will be narrated by East Midlands (you see, they know their English geography over there much better than they do the Middle East which is just too confusing for everyone) crisp maker, lingerie expert and camp eyebrow performance artist Gary Lineker.
Now, you may be thinking that not much in Tales from the Top Flight is true; that US soccer-mad executives have mistaken West Brom for some other club from the region (obviously not Port Vale because nobody can ever find it on the British coastline) just as they did when shipping London Bridge out to Arizona in the bad old days of the early 1970s (cue the Western theme music), only to wonder why, IKEA-style, the towers were missing.
But, I kid you not. Tony Pulis may not be your archetypal film star and, to be fair, he is Welsh but he does wear a baseball cap quite often. He may have no time for wishful thinking but he does think a lot and that’s important for all good actors.
The Birmingham Mail (I did mention the limelight didn’t I?) has revealed – well, coach Ben Garner apparently has – that each Albion player is sent a clip of the opponent they will be directly facing in their next match, directly to their mobile phone. In this way, they can prepare for the worst and play accordingly. Not that Tony ever does things directly, as we all know.
Garner also reveals that Gerry Francis – first-team coach – has still not had his hair cut properly; also that quite big booklets are made available “analysing the opposition in open play and from re-starts/set pieces.”
This behind-the-scenes stuff is riveting isn’t it and surely perfect for a film treatment? I wonder if Tony will use a stunt man? Oh, no, that was in his Crystal Palace days when royalties were expected before release. It was hardly an original production either, reminding me a bit of a play by George Graham some 20 years earlier.
So, having stuck to his word by not allowing Berahino to join a ‘big club,’ allowing him to go to Stoke City instead and then exchanging words in that dramatic and almost breath-taking scene with Ryan Shawcross where the true meaning of losing was revealed to the captivated audience, how will Tony’s new film play out?
Will the Hawthorns become the new Yankee Stadium? Oh, there already is a new one! Will West Bromwich be to Manhattan what Birmingham is to the Bronx? Will West Brom ever win anything again after their last success in the famous Tennent Caledonian Cup 40 years ago?
It all makes for a fascinating story and no doubt Ben Garner is already working on the book of the film.