- Born: 3 October 1945, Oldham, England
Anthony John Brown played as a wing half and an inside forward. He joined West Brom as a youth in 1961 and turned professional in 1963. In the late 1960s and early 1970s Brown was part of an Albion team that built a reputation as a successful cup side, winning the 1966 Football League Cup Final and the 1968 FA Cup Final and finishing as runners-up in the League Cup in 1967 and 1970. He was the top scorer in Division One in 1970-71 and received his only England cap at the end of that season.
After relegation in 1973, he helped Albion to win promotion back to Division One in 1976. He scored 279 goals in 720 competitive games for Albion, both club records. He is often referred to by his nickname “Bomber”.
Brown joined West Brom as an apprentice professional on 13 April 1961, earning a wage of £6 a week. After two seasons playing youth football, he made his reserve team debut in the final Central League game of 1962-63, scoring in a 3-2 defeat to Manchester United reserves.
He turned professional on 27 September 1963 and was immediately called up to the first team squad for the away match at Ipswich Town the following day. Eddie Readfern was unable to participate in the game due to illness, which meant that Brown was given his league debut, just a few days before his 18th birthday; his equalising goal helped Albion to a 2-1 away win.
Readfern was recalled for the next game however, meaning that Brown immediately returned to the reserves, although Brown did return to the first team in mid-October, when he scored on his home debut against Aston Villa. He was selected sporadically by Albion manager Jimmy Hagan during the remainder of 1963-64 and finished the campaign on five goals in thirteen appearances.
In the latter part of the season he missed four league games when he was called up to the England Youth squad for the UEFA European Youth Tournament in the Netherlands. England won the competition but Brown was not selected for any of the games. Brown became a regular first team player during the early part of the 1964-65 campaign, appearing in Albion’s first 12 league games of the season.
During this period he scored six goals, including his first professional hat-trick, which came in a 4-1 win against Sunderland. However he lost his place shortly after the signing of Jeff Astle and played just five more games that season. A desire to play first team football led him to submit a transfer request, which Jimmy Hagan turned down, but Brown continued his scoring run in the reserve team, hitting 22 goals in 20 games.
At the start of the 1965-66 season, Brown was still playing in the reserves, but an injury to Clive Clark in September 1965 gave him the opportunity to reclaim his first team place. Brown scored against Everton on his return and remained a regular in the side for the rest of the season, scoring 17 goals in 35 league games.
His tally in the league was just short of team mates John Kaye and Jeff Astle, who each scored 18 times, but Brown finished as the club’s top scorer overall-with 27 goals-due to his goals in the Football League Cup. Albion were taking part in the competition for the first time, after the FA offered the winners a place in the Inter-Cities Fairs Cup.
Brown became the first player to score in every round of the League Cup, including a hat-trick in the semi-final, second leg against Peterborough United. In the final, Brown’s goal helped his team to a 4-1 second leg victory over West Ham United. Albion won 5-3 on aggregate to take the trophy and secure Brown his first major honour. He has since said of the game:
Brown missed two months of the following season due to a back injury. He made his return in the second leg of the Inter-Cities Fairs Cup against DOS Utrecht, when he took-and scored-his first penalty kick in senior football; he went on to become Albion’s regular penalty taker, scoring 51 of 61 spot-kicks during his time at the club.
He scored twice more in the Utrecht match and as of September 2008 remains the only Albion player to have scored a hat-trick in a European competition. Albion again reached the League Cup Final, which was played at Wembley for the first time.
This time however, Brown was on the losing side as Albion lost 3-2 to Third Division Queens Park Rangers, having led 2-0 at half-time. In May 1968 he won an FA Cup winners medal as Albion beat Everton 1-0 after extra time.
Brown played for the young England side in April 1969 against the full England side. He played in the 1970 League Cup Final, where he picked up his second runners-up tankard as Albion lost 2-1 to Manchester City.
In 1970-71 Brown was the leading scorer in Division One with 28 goals, and was rewarded with his only full England cap on 19 May 1971, playing in a goalless draw against Wales at Wembley.
He remained at Albion after their relegation to Division Two at the end of 1972-73. A testimonial match was staged for Brown at the Hawthorns on 6 May 1974, an Albion / Aston Villa side taking on a Wolves / Birmingham side.
He played a major role in Albion’s return to the top flight in 1976, scoring the goal that clinched promotion in a 1-0 win away at his home town club Oldham Athletic. In 1977-78, he played in the FA Cup semi-final against Ipswich at Highbury. He scored a penalty but Albion lost the match 3-1 and Brown called it “the worst day of my life”.
Brown remained at the Hawthorns until the summer of 1980 when he moved to the United States to join the New England Tea Men. In a seventeen year career at the Hawthorns, Brown had broken both the appearance and goalscoring records for the Baggies, scoring 218 goals in 574 league games.
Brown is currently a football commentator for Beacon Radio, mainly commentating from The Hawthorns when West Bromwich Albion play at home. Brown was named as one of West Bromwich Albion’s 16 greatest players in a poll organised as part of the club’s 125th anniversary celebrations in 2004. In July 2007 he was voted into the PFA Centenary Hall of Fame.