West Bromwich Strollers (later Albion) contested their earliest kick abouts at the field at Coopers Hill between Walsall Street and Beeches Road now occupied by St Phillips Church.
The changing rooms where at the White Hart Public House, now “The Drunken Duck”, which stood at the junction of Herbert Street, Bull Street and Walsall Road, also known locally as Charlie Lamper’s. Once changed the players went through a back yard jumped over a wall and on to the pitch. ( thoughts of Ronaldo, Rooney, Lampard, Beckham and co doing that now).
Coats and hats were used for goal posts (a bit like jumpers for goal posts today). Eventually two pieces of wood with a string tied across the top served as a cross bar the rules of the still in its infancy. A local cricket club shared the ground so the Strollers also used a pitch in Dartmouth Park, carrying the posts between grounds and erecting them as best they could using bricks. On occasions the pitch was being used so the posts would have to be carried back to Coopers Hill.
Although the Strollers had played two games previously November 23rd 1878 versus Hudson’s, a 0 – 0 draw was recorded this was the first organized game played by The Strollers and a 1 – 0 victory over Black Lake Victoria 23rd December, 1879.
Albion’s first recorded game at Coopers Hill was on 20th December 1879 with a 4 – 0 victory over Bullock’s Club, Albion contested 13 games while at Coopers Hill with no defeats recorded against them although four games have no score recorded.
Bob Roberts – “The Strollers” First League Goal Keeper
Bob Roberts was WBA’s star player in these early years. Standing 6ft 4in in height and weighing 13 stone and size 13 feet Roberts could deal comfortably with any player who dared try to push him aside.He was trialled in every position as an outfield player but then found his niche in between the posts.
He was the first Albion player to be caps by England winning his first against Scotland in 1886. Also played in three successive cup finals 1886, 1887, 1888, finally collecting a winners medal in 1888. He had two spell at the Albion, the second for just one season. It is thought that he made around 400 appearances including 84 in league and cup.
A local newspaper commented: “There is no player who has done more to make the Albion the club what it is, than Bob Roberts. It is not only his cleverness between the uprights, but the coolness and direction of others.”