Just why are West Bromwich Albion called the Baggies? There are a lot of theory’s behind this question. Villa fans calling Albion fans Baggies after the baggy trousers the foundry working fans of the Albion wore.
The baggy shorts worn by the players if that is correct then every team in the country would be called the Baggies, could it be that Albion fans went round local pubs to collect for their hard-up team, who at the time were staring extinction in the face collecting money in bags.
However, to understand the real meaning behind the name the Baggies you have to go back before the team were even formed.
Victorian England was a much different place than today, moral and ethically in fact their whole way of life was different. West Bromwich in early Victorian times was a dirty, drunk ridden town nothing to do except work, drink, make children and knock the wife about.
For leisure time bare knuckle fighting, dog fighting, cock fighting, rat batting were the local sports, then along came Victorian middle-class society who thought it would be a good idea to change things a little.
The Victorian thinking was healthy body promotes a healthy mind, healthy mind, promotes healthy living, healthy living promotes a grateful workforce who will work better for their employer.
In 1878 at the time when West Bromwich Albion were being formed there were already a few large companies in West Bromwich. Kenrick and Jefferson printing works had recently opened, Chances Glass with its school for its workers children already well established, George Salter Spring works busy making springs and the Hudson soap factory who at the time were probably the largest employers in the town and in a small way were a reason behind the Baggies nickname.
West Bromwich was becoming a boom town five of the country’s top six spring manufacturers had established them,selves in the town and West Bromwich started to clean up its act.
The Rechabites anti drink campaigners of the time even moved to an office opposite the Wine Stores in Sandwell Road in an effort to stop people drinking.
To promote the Victorian ideals even further each of the firms and local churches started to organise clubs for its workers, Cricket, Bowls, Band practice anything to stop the workers going to the pub and get them active. Cricket became the popular sport. This was ok during the summer months but what about the winter no one had got a sport to play September to April.
Around this time a new sport although it had been around for some time had been given a face lift, proper rules were drawn up and football was born. It was catching on quickly as the ideal sport to keep the workforce from the demon drink in the long autumn and winter months.
Workers at Hudson’s soap factory quickly formed a team as did other works and church organisations. George Salters workers formed their team West Bromwich Strollers. The word strollers was a Victorian word coming from the fact that they had nowhere to play as a fixed ground and they strolled around looking for a suitable playing area.
Bloxwich strollers and other teams in the local areas were already formed Wednesbury had a few teams and West Bromwich itself boasted seven teams all bigger and better than West Bromwich Strollers but that’s another story.
Victorians were also interested in a new media advertising, with the advent of the railways. Movement of goods around the country was getting better and goods could be shipped out to a wider audience. Hudson’s were one of the companies at the forefront of advertising and as such had contacts all over the country.
Robert Spear Hudson the owner of Hudson’s Soap was a great friend of the owners of Reckitts soap in Hull. Robert Reckitt often advertised their products on stage coaches from Hull to Liverpool and Hull to Birmingham.
On his visit’s to West Bromwich to meet with Hudson’s, Reckett became interested in football and in particular West Bromwich Albion who had now become one of the bigger teams in the area.
Sponsorship had not been thought of however, many of the newly formed teams chose the colours of the founding churches or works colours. Albion still did not have a regular strip they had used 6 different colours from 1878 – 1883. Around 1885 funds had dried up and collections began taking place around the town to try and keep the club afloat, even Aston Villa chipped in with a small loan!
Reckitts were now advertising all over the country as the leaders in Blue soap, which washed clothes whiter! It may have been suggested as part of a sponsorship deal to help Albion out of financial difficulties, promoting Reckitts blue bag that the Albion adopted the wearing of Blue and White stripes signifying the Blue and White stripes of the Reckitts Blue bags.
Thereby not breaking any rules in the amateur sport for payment or a financial inducement. The new strip was then open for a bit of banter from the local rivals Villa and Wolves. A bit like Wolves call Albion Tesco Bags today, to shout here’s the Baggies however it was quickly picked up by the Albion faithful as Baggies. Just another theory but more plausible than Baggy trousers.
Article by John Nicholls