Legendary West Bromwich PETER NASH explains how the Albion striker captured his heart…
Recalling a West Brom legend
ON MARCH 19, 1960, Derek Kevan scored five goals for West Bromwich Albion in a stunning 6-2 home win against Everton. The fact that one person could score five goals in a single game, especially for my team, left a massive impression on me that’s lasted all my life.
I was ten years old and, although a keen supporter of the club, I had never been to a West Bromwich Albion football match.
“You’re much too young for the big crowds,” my father would say.
It did cross my mind that he didn’t want to pay my entrance fee in order to fund his own pleasures, like smoking and his three-pints-anight ritual down the local pub.
Then again, maybe that’s too harsh because it was true that during those times the number of fans passing through the Hawthorns gates were far higher than today.
However, my inner passion for West Bromwich Albion and Derek Kevan had just been kick-started and I was desperate to see them.
After further requests and further refusals, I was very surprised just six months later, on September 5, 1960, when my sorrow turned to joy.
“OK son,” my father said, looking down at me.“You can come to the match tonight. It’s an evening game and since we’re bottom of the league I don’t expect a big crowd, about 25,000 at the most.”
I was thrilled: a moment I never forgot. Even though West Bromwich Albion had lost all of their opening five games of the new season, I couldn’t wait to see Derek Kevan in his Albion shirt.
Wearing my woolly blue and white hat and scarf and proudly displaying my Derek Kevan pin badge on my lapel, I was totally overwhelmed when I faced the inside of the ground.
The pitch was a vibrant green, illuminated by the rays shining down from the tall floodlights and I have to admit that a few tears slipped down my cheeks when the Baggies ran out of the tunnel and onto the pitch.
The match was a very one-sided affair (I’m glad to say). Not only did I see the great DK, but I witnessed West Bromwich Albion beat Newcastle United 6-0 in front of a crowd of 22,548 with goals from Alec Jackson (three), Dave Burnside, Bobby Robson and… Derek Kevan.
What a night and what a result for my first game!
“Right,” beamed my father,“you’re coming to every game now.” And I did. Derek Kevan joined WBA from Bradford Park Avenue in 1953 but had to wait for an injury to the great Ronnie Allen before he could wear the No.9 shirt for his league debut.
This was in August 1955 and he scored both goals in a 2-0 win over Everton. His Albion career had begun. He continued to score many goals for West Bromwich Albion, where he spent the majority of his illustrious playing career, scoring 173 times in 291 appearances.
This prolific scoring achievement, in addition to his powerful style of play, earned him the nickname of ‘The Tank’.
He was also rewarded with 14 caps for England, from which he scored eight goals, including a debut goal against Scotland in 1957.
During the 1961/62 season, he netted 33 goals and, probably as a result of that success, he left West Bromwich Albion in March 1963, much to my utmost distress and disappointment.
I could not believe that he would leave my beloved club. He did and Chelsea paid £50,000 for his services.
Downhearted, I still continued to monitor his progress.
After Chelsea, where he failed to achieve the same heights, he joined Preston North End, followed by a series of lower league teams and Non-League football, where his goals once again flowed in abundance, before he finally retired from football to become a landlord of a pub in Macclesfield.
Sadly, Derek Kevan died on January 4, 2013, aged 77 and, as a mark of respect, the Baggies team wore black armbands the very next day for their FA Cup match.
Whilst supporting West Bromwich Albion all my life, I have seen many wonderful goals and unforgettable moments, but none as memorable and emotional as hearing about those five in 1960 from my boyhood hero: Derek Kevan.
Hot-shot: West Brom striker Derek Kevan