Boing boing

THE obvious line on West Brom’s promotion to the Premier League is that the Boing Boing Baggies have bounced back to the top. But how do you explain this to someone who hasn’t got a clue about that chant?

I’ve heard the “Boing Boing Baggies” chant whenever I’ve attended a West Brom game. I just had no idea where it came from. Before Albion’s match at Doncaster yesterday, I asked a Midlands journalist for some enlightenment.

He wasn’t able to give me a definitive answer, as apparently there are a number of tales regarding the chant’s origin. But the one which has the most currency is this: During the 1992/93 season, a group of Albion fans went to Amsterdam on a stag do, and on a visit to a club, took a shine to a 2Unlimited-style Dutch rave tune that went ‘Boing Boing’.

On their return, these fans started chanting ‘Boing Boing’, it morphed into “Boing Boing Baggies” and caught on. And 17 years later, they’re still singing it.

They’ve had reason to sing it for most of this season. Albion might have feared the worst after losing their Premier League status, then losing manager Tony Mowbray to Celtic.

Chairman Jeremy Peace took a gamble by replacing Mowbray with Roberto Di Matteo, who had just one season in management with MK Dons under his belt. But promotion was achieved yesterday with three games to spare, and a bagful of goals to go with it. Albion have scored 85 league goals this season, more than any other team in the Championship. Their tally in all competitions stands at 101.

The game at the Keepmoat was considered significant enough by the BBC’s Football League Show to send along their roving reporter Mark Clemmit, who did a few vox pops with fans outside the ground, chatted to celebrity Albion fans Frank Skinner and Adrian Chiles, and then dodged the flying champagne in the dressing room to grab a post-match chat with Di Matteo.

Clemmit has come a long way since I first encountered him in 2002. I was sports editor of the Macclesfield Express back then, and heard of a freelance Radio Five Live reporter who was coming to the Moss Rose as part of a weekly feature called ‘The 92 Club’, in which he intended to attend a match at all of the Premier and Football League clubs in a single season. So I phoned him up and wrote an article about him.

“I work as a freelance, and the 92 Club idea was one of several I pitched to Radio Five Live,” Clemmit told me at the time.

“I pitched so many ideas, it was a bit like the I’m Alan Partridge episode where he goes to see the Head of Light Entertainment. After they’d rejected monkey tennis, I pitched this 92 Club idea, and it was accepted.”

But whereas Partridge’s career has been on a downward spiral ever since the monkey tennis episode, Clemmit’s has gone the other way. As I watched him do a piece to camera outside the Keepmoat Stadium for last night’s Football League Show, I noticed a fan in the background filming him with a cameraphone. That freelance journalist is now a celebrity. He’s doing well if that kind of fame isn’t going to his head. I suspect it would go to mine.

The West Brom fans were ready to party before kick-off yesterday, to the extent that the club’s public address announcer had to ask them to let down their inflatables. That wasn’t a euphemism, by the way. I think Donny were just worried about having a Darren Bent beachball incident on their hands. Judging by the inflatables being waved around in the away end throughout the match, the appeal was ignored.

Albion started slowly – Scott Carson had to make a smart early save to deny James Hayter. Yet by half-time, they were well on course for promotion, thanks to their stand-out player of the season and their man for the big occasion.

Their stand-out performer has been midfielder Graham Dorrans, arguably the best player in the Championship this season. Dorrans, signed for just £200,000 from Livingston in January 2008, has been a driving force, a regular source of goals and – generally – a cool converter of the seemingly endless stream of penalties Albion have been awarded this season.

On the half-hour mark, he pitched up for a free kick five yards outside the penalty area and hammered an unstoppable shot into the far corner, for the 17th goal of the season. Boing boing.

Di Matteo would probably have taken a 1-0 lead at half-time, given that Donny had edged the opening 45 minutes. Indeed, he would have been grateful for any lead when Doncaster’s former Albion defender Shelton Martis glanced Jay Emmanuel-Thomas’ free kick goalwards, forcing Carson to bail out his team again.

As it was, West Brom went in 2-0 up, thanks to Chris Brunt, the player who has a habit of scoring crucial goals for them.

Two seasons ago, Brunt struck the late equaliser against Southampton that secured Albion’s last promotion to the Premier League. He then scored the second goal in a 2-0 win at QPR which confirmed them as champions of the Championship. Last Monday, he got the equaliser at Watford five minutes into stoppage time that pushed West Brom to the brink of the Premier League.

And yesterday, he latched on to an awful back header from Doncaster full-back James Chambers – who started his career at The Hawthorns – and bundled the ball in at the second attempt. Boing boing.

It still wasn’t straight-forward, though. Doncaster have over-achieved in climbing into the top half of the Championship this season, something manager Sean O’Driscoll has pointed out repeatedly. They’ve done it playing attractive football, too.

Emmanuel-Thomas, on loan from Arsenal, cut inside from the right flank to score a classy goal two minutes after the break, and set the 3,200 travelling fans on edge again.

But with 17 minutes left, Brunt’s cross was volleyed in at the far post by Roman Bednar to make it 3-1. Boing Boing Baggies, bouncing back to the Premier League.

A sweet moment for Bednar, whose future in English football was cast into doubt last May when Albion suspended him following Sunday tabloid revelations about his off-field behaviour. He hasn’t always been a first-choice striker this season, but he’s still managed 10 goals.

There was still time for James Hayter to pull one back for Doncaster, and he was within inches of equalising right at the end. But Albion deserve their promotion.

Their task now is to stay up. This is the fourth time in nine seasons that West Brom have gone up to the Premier League. But they’ve never been able to make it stick. Di Matteo was making no promises after yesterday’s win. He just wanted to relax with the family and a glass of Italian red.

“It’s like when you’re a baby, and you start to learn to walk,” Di Matteo said. “Next year, we have to learn to run.”

They have, at least, learned to bounce. Boing boing.

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