Ian Hart: I'm still riding the Albion rollercoaster

Harold Wilson once famously said that a week in politics is a long time. Never mind seven days, I'm still riding the Albion roller-coaster with no indication when it's coming to an end.

Albion celebrate earlier this season. Picture by Phil Westlake (PW Sporting Photography)
Albion celebrate earlier this season. Picture by Phil Westlake (PW Sporting Photography)

Even before the Albion kicked off at Carrow Road, Friday was one of those landmark days for me.

The annual Worthing St George’s Day Lunch, excellently organised by Messrs Kennard and Steel, had Eric Bristow, one of my personal boyhood idols, as the guest speaker.

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They say you should never meet your idols, because they ultimately disappoint and I can vouch for that with Rusty Lee, but The Crafty Cockney certainly didn’t.

A proper bloke, perhaps like most of us hankering for the 70s and 80s, he spoke well after lunch and then chatted to a number of us at the bar.

The media and to a degree the establishment have hung him out to dry, all very unfairly, but whoever thinks life is fair is naive. He’s not bitter but very philosophical and on the day we celebrated all things England, for me was a classic Englishman.

Anyway I digress, back to the Albion, was I disappointed we lost at Norwich?

In the grand scheme of things, NO.

Promotion for Newcastle? Like a Take That reunion, it doesn’t really effect me.

Ultimately Ant and Dec, the bloke from AC/DC and Toon fans all around the globe can get excited, but Albion are going to win the title, pure and simple.

And while clinching it on Saturday would be great, I’m still convinced we will be champions before we all go to bed on Friday night as Cardiff will beat Newcastle.

Away from the pitch but still on the Albion theme, I have to report something which is quite unique and I’m pretty sure has never happened in football before.

Sadly, we lost long-time Albion supporter, Gull’s Eye writer and fan activist Paul Whelch earlier this month at the relatively young age of 57.

Uber fan is one of the those tacky phrases trotted out at the Albion along with Johnny Come Lately (ultimately we all have to start supporting the Albion, so why criticise people coming for the first time?). But Paul was a super fan and was dedicated to his football club from an early age. His hard work in the struggle to save the club can never be understated and, like many others, will never be forgotten.

An only child, of two only children, aside from his partner, Erica, he had no family, except for the fact that the Albion was his family. Testament to this was the fact his funeral service on Monday was attended by not only a large number of Albion supporters but also chairman Tony Bloom and the entire board of club directors.

Has there ever been a football fan’s funeral which has been attended by an entire board of directors? I doubt it, but Paul Whelch deserved nothing less.

Returning to the pitch, and an FAQ by various readers over the last couple of weeks. “Football or boxing Harty, what are you going to do?” Both but it’s going to be hard. Heineken will have to be rationed early on, but at my funeral I hope Harty Jnr in his eulogy will recount “The day my dad saw Albion lift the Championship and then witnessed the biggest outdoor gate in British boxing history”.

Whatever you’re doing Saturday, enjoy the experience, we are only here once.

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