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Thursday 14 January 2021

Treasures From The Attic No 6: The night Eric Clapton paid West Bromwich Albion to play

Another treasure from the keepsakes box.

It was September 27, 1978 the night Eric Clapton paid for a West Bromwich Albion football match.

I'd only been at the town's Sandwell Evening Mail for just over a month when the news editor asked if I'd do a colour piece on Albion's second round UEFA Cup tie against Galatasary.

And, by the way, could I see if I could get a chat with Eric Clapton, who was sponsoring the whole shebang?

I dutifully headed for the Hawthorns more in hope than expectation and came back with an exclusive.

I met Eric and other members of his family, headed by his 70-year-old gran Rose, who he'd brought up for the game in a minibus.

"It's a family tradition to support Albion," he told me before the kick-off. "Rose has been a fan as long as I can remember. No-one really knows what started it.

"I grew up in this Albion atmosphere and played a bit of soccer at school. My football never really took off but I've always really wanted to play for West Brom. Albion are simply the best..."

They certainly were on the night. Already leading Galatasary 3-1 from the first leg in Istanbul, the Baggies replicated that scoreline with goals from Bryan Robson, Laurie Cunningham and John Trewick.

Eric later presented gold discs of his Slowhand album to each member of the team.
There was a sting in the tale. Eric later played a 'secret' gig at West Bromwich Gala Baths for John Wile's testimonial year, and I organised tickets for the Mail.

My news editor pulled rank, took the tickets and got to see the show!

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