The 1930 – 31 season followed on from the seven straight wins that had ended the previous season, this season started with four straight wins, with a 3-0 victory at home to Bristol City, a 4-0 win at Charlton and 6-3 at Ninian Park, Cardiff and a 1-0 win at home to Bradford City .
Those eight points put Albion right into a challenging position from the off, a fitting start to what turned out to be the decade’s star season and one of the club’s greatest ever.
The team which ended the excitement generated by that eleven game spell was ended by Everton who came to the Hawthorns as Second Division leaders. Cookson scored his sixth goal of the season to give his side a twentieth-minute lead but the Merseysiders snatched the points with two late goals in the space of a minute from White and the great ‘Dixie’ Dean.
This defeat took Albion from the top of the table but a week later following a 3-2 win at Bradford City they were back on top, again a week later following a 2-2 draw with Bury they were knocked of top spot again by Everton who then sat there for the next seven months.
The Hawthorns meeting with the Wolves came and went with a 2-1 victory and another two points in the bag, before a crowd of 40,065. The match was preceded with two minutes silence for the victims of the R101 Airship disaster and the singing of a hymn, and the funereal atmosphere which prevailed undoubtedly affected the play, particularly that of the Wolves side.
As the season wore on, the jigsaw of a successful side was gradually being pieced together, with the acquisition of a new full-back named Bert Trentham, an effective defender who was to play his part throughout the successful period of the ‘thirties, Bert was easily spotted on the pitch by the white handkerchief he always carried in his right hand, a relic of an old illness.
Jimmy Edwards was brought in to cover the left half position he had started the term at inside-left in the reserve side in that position, but was soon converted to a an aggressive defender, forming a tough partnership with centre-half William Richardson, the duo being nicknamed ‘Iron and Steel’ with Richardson providing the steel.
In November there was still that one player missing, at outside-left. Edwards started in that position but after a couple of games switched to his new defensive slot leaving Joe Carter to partner Wood on the left, allowing young Harry Boston to feature very effectively on the right with Glidden, a formation which lasted for several games.
The solution to the problem came with an injury to Carter which necessitated the drafting-in of a 17-year-old, Ted Sandford in the problem spot for the vital match against fellow promotion hopefuls Preston at Deep dale.
The young lad was an instant success and scored the clinching third goal in a narrow 3-2 win, the start of a formidable rise to fame six months previously Sandford, who had been born within fifty yards of the Albion ground, had been playing centre-half with a local Smethwick junior team within a year of joining the club.
Sandford won a Cup-winner’s medal the youngest Albion man to do so and promotion to the First Division; The final piece on the team sheet was the inclusion of W.G. Richardson. William, namesake of the centre-half was gifted with a second initial, ‘G’ for Ginger to distinguish the two men and those initials were to figure many times on an Albion score-sheet.
He had been signed from Hartlepool United in 1929 for a give-away £1,000 through the intervention of Jesse Pennington who had heard of his goal-grabbing feats even at that early stage of the young Richardson’s career. Breaking a club record with fifty goals for the Central League side which catapulted him into the first team for the home game with Millwall in December 1929 when Cookson was injured.
With the inclusion of the key piece, as it were, in the team, the task of the Albion management was complete. They just had to wait for the results to come and come they did. Once Richardson had joined the side he was on the losing side only once in two months as the team moved into second place in the division and progressed into the fourth round of the FA Cup after a tough marathon with Charlton.
In the first meeting at the Hawthorns Charlton raced into a 2-0 lead in twenty minutes and it was not until eight minutes from the end that young Teddy Sandford salvaged a draw. In the replay at Charlton a blunder from Magee let in Astley five minutes after Joe Carter had put the Albion in front the match went to extra time but the game ended 1-1.
The second replay was staged at Villa Park, this time with Ashmore in goal for the injured Pearson. Charlton went into the lead shortly after half-time but goals from Carter, Wood and Richardson finally ended the marathon and ensured a home tie with Tottenham three days later.
League form in January slipped slightly with only two wins and two loses and rather more shocking was the first ever visit to Plymouth they won the game 5-1 to complete a league double and down slipped Albion to third place.
Back in the Cup, Spurs were beaten with a Stan Wood goal, as were Portsmouth, at Fratton Park, The fifth-round Cup-tie was as difficult as could have been expected as the Wolves came to the Hawthorns, Albion had never been beaten in the FA Cup by their Staffordshire neighbours in forty-five years of trying.
“W.G.Richardson” sent the 52,000 spectator’s wild after thirty minutes, but George Shaw needlessly got his head to a harmless-looking shot and deflected it past the stranded Pearson to level for the Wolves. But the full-back made amends with a grand display in the replay when the Wolves, two down to Wood and Richardson pulled back a late goal and threw everything at the Albion rearguard.
The reward for the win was an challenging one a semi-final at neutral Old Trafford against Everton, who of course had already beaten Albion twice in the League and had just thrashed neighbours Southport 9-1 to reach the semi-final and were in tremendous form in fact they were almost certain of the Second Division championship
Not surprisingly, that semi-final tie generated interest all over the country, with both teams in with a chance of a Cup and promotion double and the massive crowd which turned up 69,241.
Provided new records for a semi-final so huge was the crowd that spectators encroached all along the outside track and several mounted policemen were situated around the playing area to keep order, which only served to constrict the players and make the passions even more intense many throw-ins had to be taken leaning against the flank of a police-horse.
Everton dominated the game, but Albion as before took the lead, after fifty-five minutes when a Glidden cross was pulled into the net by the brisk breeze, with Carter rushing in to make sure. With only thirty-five minutes between them and a Wembley appearance, Albion pulled back players as Everton mounted a wave of continuous attacks
But could not find the net Johnson had only Pearson to beat but tamely tapped the ball into the goalkeeper’s hands the usually infallible Dixie Dean missed a sitter shortly afterwards, blasting the ball over from five yards.
It hardly seemed possible that Everton could fail to score, as their players swarmed around Pearson’s goal, but fail they did and Albion were Wembley bound at last, their first Cup-final for nineteen years and became only the second Midland team to visit the new stadium. Everything seemed to be going their way.
With the semi-final out of the way, and six weeks to the final meeting with Birmingham, the Second Division promotion race, which was realistically of higher priority, could be given the attention it deserved.
Because of the pace-setting of Everton, all the trailing teams were chasing a single place and in third position, four points behind Tottenham, another consistent burst of form was essential.
There was only one defeat in the first six games immediately after the semi-final and the game at Port Vale, where only Everton had been successful that year Albion were defeated 1-0
The top of the table clash with Tottenham produced a thrilling match and finished 2-2 with Smailes equalizing for the Spurs in the last seven minutes. After the return game with Port Vale 4-1 on 6th April, the gap had been cut to one point, with Spurs having played one game more with five games left, Albion’s chances were good, especially as they had a slightly superior goal average – but it was crucial not to drop any more points, so things were taking a bleak turn when the very next match was lost 2-1 at Turf Moor, Burnley, although Plymouth were doing the Albion a favour by holding Spurs to a draw in London.
A 3-0 midweek win at Reading, Albion continued to live dangerously, dropping a home point to Bradford on the following Saturday, Albion’s luck still held out, for that point turned out to be a point gained, for Spurs were losing at Bristol City, but the game was hardly an adequate preparation for the following Saturday’s Cup-final, when the promotion worries were shelved for a week in favour of the greater glamour of the Cup.
Interest in the final had rarely been higher, as Albion clashed with Birmingham in the first all-Midland final since 1895. Both clubs were besieged with requests for tickets, with 100,000 applications being received within two days of the semi-final wins, a demand such that the stadium could have been filled several times over; the allocation of both clubs was a meagre 7,500, not even sufficient to meet the needs of the season-ticket holders.
The final was played in a downpour throughout with the eventual result being, decided on whether the referee was correct in disallowing an eighth-minute header from Birmingham’s Gregg for offside. Albion’s luck having held again, as the decision was undeniably questionable, but Albion’s dominance after that early scare was almost complete.
W.G. Richardson was brilliant and was well backed by his fellow forwards who linked together on the right side of the Stadium’s vast expanse to give Richardson the first goal after twenty-five minutes. From being a possible one goal up, Birmingham were a goal down in the space of seventeen minutes and that demoralized the First Division side and served to give the Albion even more of the match than they already had.
However, as often happens, after a half-time dressing-room team talk a new Birmingham side emerged from the tunnel after the interval. They ran and agitated their now-confident opponents and finally scored through centre-forward Joe Bradford following an Ernie Curtis cross first time past a mystified Pearson to put his team right back in with a shout.
But it was a shout that was stifled in the throat for straight from the kick-off Carter, Sandford and Richardson inter-passed their way through a bewildered defence with ‘W.G.’ giving the ball its final touch past the static Hibbs – the winner within thirty seconds of Birmingham’s equalizer – the perfect comeback.
From then on until the very end of the game, it was virtually ‘no contest’ as Birmingham reeled in the face of powerful Albion. The Cup could still have been taken from the grasp of those eager Baggies, on eighty-five minutes, Gregg shot from eighteen yards and Pearson slipped whilst collecting the greasy ball and could only push it onto the post for a corner.
From the resulting corner, Crosbie lobbed a clever shot which forced Pearson to punch clear and the ball was scrambled out only with difficulty it was a relieved Albion side that greeted the final whistle the players joyfully celebrated their completion of the first leg of a mighty double, winning the Cup for the first time in over thirty years.
The medals were presented by the Duke of Gloucester, standing in for the Prince of Wales who made good his omission by later visiting the players at the Hawthorns the incentive for winning at that time, was the win bonus collected by those Albion players was £8
As was the usual West Bromwich custom, the home-coming was a frenzied affair, with more that 200,000 people lining up to welcome the team in the town centre alone; but the celebrations were of necessity curtailed for the players, for the most important glittering prize promotion – had still to be won and Tottenham, one point ahead still had to be overhauled if the Albion were to re-write sporting history.
Just five days after the players, took the field of the Victoria grounds, Stoke-on-Trent, knowing that nothing less than an outright win would do. As on the previous Saturday, W.G. came into his own; in an uncompromising Staffordshire derby, Magee broke out of defence to lay on a half-chance for the centre-forward which he gratefully converted as the only goal of the game. With the odd game in hand played off, the stage was set for the final game of the year,
Albion were seven hundredths of a goal ahead of their rivals Tottenham in goal average, which could prove vital if a disaster occurred, but the pressure was really on Tottenham. At least Albion had a clear target – if they won the last game, they were promoted, whatever Tottenham’s result. However, if they, say, could only draw 2-2, Spurs would only require a 3-0 win to move into second place at the death on goal average.
Tottenham were at Burnley, never an easy place to visit, but they had the advantage of already having beaten Burnley 8-1 at White Hart Lane, so a three-goal win was well within their capabilities.
Albion, with Charlton Athletic being their visitors looked to have the best chance of gaining the much needed victory in the fifth clash between the clubs that year. A new record league crowd of 52,415 turned up for the game and provided a tremendous atmosphere for their team.
An atmosphere full of expectation and excitement. Imagine then the sense of anti-climax in the hushed stadium when that man Astley scored in the seventh minute, for Charlton were again to prove something of a thorn in the Albion flesh.
The lead lasted all of thirty minutes, despite Glidden and Sandford striking unstoppable drives against the bar, when Sandford lobbed into an empty net after keeper Robertson had imprudently advanced too far after a corner.
Within a couple of minutes came a carbon-copy of the visitors’ first goal, a Horton-Astley combination giving the latter his second goal. The pace, hectic at the start, noticeably quickened and the second equalizer was delayed only a few minutes and the Albion players were thankful to go in level at half-time after Glidden’s point.
At the start of the second half, Astley shot wide twice from good positions when he should really have broken the hearts of those fifty thousand supporters. Visibly relieved, the home team pressed onwards and gradually Charlton faded and finally after good work from Carter, Glidden was able to lay on a simple chance for – of course – W.G. Richardson, who in seven days had scored the four most important goals in the history of the club.
As it turned out, a win was not even needed, for Spurs had completed what had been a dismal run-in to the season by losing 1-0, and thus the Albion won their unique double, the only time before or since that any team has won both FA Cup and promotion in the same season