The 1990/91 season ended in disappointment for Albion but for 27-year-old Bryan Wade, the visit of Newcastle United in January 1991 was unforgettable.
After a topsy-turvy start to the season, we were in tenth position after 23 games. A 3-2 win at Wolves the previous week was cause for optimism, but manager Barry Lloyd used his programme notes to discuss another hot topic of the time.
The recent FA Cup match between Manchester United and Queens Park Rangers had been moved to a Monday night, to suit the requirements of the satellite broadcasting company British Sky Broadcasting.
Lloyd says that, while inconvenient, “we must be in the business of selling our sport to the general public”. He goes on to say “Major sponsorship has played a big part in the game and we must also recognise the advantage of television when attracting multi-national companies to support football”
I wonder what happened to that embryonic broadcaster...?
Back to the match in hand and Lloyd named an unchanged team. Perry Digweed was between the sticks, behind a back-four of John Crumplin (Football Genius), Steve Gatting, Gary Chivers and Paul McCarthy. The midfield was Dean Wilkins, Clive Walker and Mark Barham, with Robert Codner, Mike Small and Wade up front.
Wade was making his full home debut. After being released by Swansea City, he was playing for Havorfordwest before Lloyd offered him a trial in September 1990. He scored a hat-trick for the reserves in a 5-0 defeat of Southampton and was offered a contract.
He signed, only to suffer a hamstring injury which kept him out for a number of weeks. After scoring in the win at Molineux the previous week, Lloyd kept him in the side for the visit of the Magpies.
The small crowd of 7,684 on a Wednesday night saw something not done since the heyday of Peter Ward, as Wade scored all four goals in the 4-2 win. There was little sign of what was to come, as just one goal separated the sides at the interval. Wade pounced just before the break, controlling the ball smartly, beating a defender and slotting the ball past John Burridge in the Newcastle goal.
In the second half, Newcastle scored twice, before Wade scored again, rounding Burridge to finish with style. Then came the best of the night. A cross from the right-hand side was flicked on by Wade at the near post, his header looping over the keeper and into the net.
Newcastle threw everything at the Albion defence in search of an equaliser but with just over a minute to go, Robert Codner broke through and could have gone on to score himself.
Instead, he flicked the ball with the outside of his right boot into the path of Wade. He slid in and thumped the ball home, sparking wild scenes of celebration in the North Stand.
Wade never really hit those heights again, and was released at the end of May 1992, following our relegation to the Third Division. Despite just 22 appearances, he will always be remembered for that January night of magic.
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