- Born: 13 May 1942, Eastwood, England
- Died: 19 January 2002, Burton upon Trent, England
Jeff Astle proved a bargain buy for The Albion in 1964, a brilliant centre forward, exceptional in the air, a skill which he learned from Tommy Lawton while he was at Notts County.
Jeffs first ever league apperance Reading v Notts County September 21st 1961. He wore the number 7 shirt that day and Notts County lost 4 – 2 with Roy Horbin and Alan Withers scoring for County.
His first league goal for Notts County was against Colchester United in a 2 – 2 draw at Layer Road, 8th September 1962. His last game for Notts County was on Monday 28th September 1964 against Newport County.
Two days later he signed for The Albion. On Wednesday morning went home from training, told his wife he had signed for The Albion, then they both jumped in the car, drove to Leicester City and made his debut for The Albion v Leicester. That night, 30th September 1964, Albion lost 4 – 2 in front of a 17,218 crowd.
The Second Game of his Albion career was away again, at Sheffield United on the following Saturday 3rd October, in front of 17,592 in a 1 – 1 draw.
His Home debut proved to be the start of a long love affair with the fans: 2 goals against The Wolves and a “KING” was born, in a 5 – 1 victory against the old enemy from Staffordshire. The first of 174 goals he was to score for The Albion.
Of his 174 goals for the Baggies, the most notable was probably the only goal in the 1968 FA Cup final, with which he completed the feat of scoring in every round of the competition. 22nd November 1969 Jeff reached a personal milestone his 100th league goal in a 3 – 0 victory over Sheffield Wednesday.
One of Jeffs goals proved to be one of the most controversial in football. Albion had not won away for 18 months and they had to face Don Revies Leeds United, who were favorite’s to win everything that season and were virtually unbeatable at home.
Tony Brown ran from his own half with Colin Suggett running back to his own goal in the Leeds half . Brown ran then stopped noticed the ref had waved play on then carried on then with Sprake coming to him passed to Jeff who did what he was paid to do just put the ball in the net.
The Leeds fans invaded the pitch arrests were made but the goal was allowed to stand ending the away run of defeats. The inquiries ran for days after resulting in The Leeds ground being shut at he start of the next season, Leeds missing out on the Championship not only that season but the following season because of playing there first 6 home games away .
Jack Charlton a few years later was giving a talk about his days at Leeds, at a football writers presentation he was half way through stopped pointed to Jeff and said: “And that bastard cost us the Championship twice”. Jeff just smiled and shouted back: “Come on Jack you know you should always play to the whistle”.
Jeff scored his last ever league goal for Albion 23rd February 1974 in a 2 -2 draw against Bristol City in front of 18,928 fans. Jeffs last game came on 30th March 1974, in a Division 2, game which ended in a 2 – 2 draw with Cardiff City in front of 11,528 fans.
However, Jeff made one last apperance in an Albion shirt in his testimonial, involving the present day team and the class of 68, which included his old friend George Best, 29th October 1974 just over 10 years since he had made his debut.
George Best had a reputation around that time of enjoying a little drink and would often promise to be somewhere and then forget to go. Jeff had asked George to play in his testimonial but knew of his reputation and was a bit worried that he would not turn up.
On arrival at the Ground Jeff asked the commissionaire to let him know when George arrived. The commisionaire then told Jeff that George was already there waiting for him. Such was the respect others had for Jeff in the football world.