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A-Z of West Midlands Football

By Black Country Bugle  |  Posted: July 06, 2014

By Tony Matthews

  • Robbie Savage

  • Romaine Sawyers

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WILF SAUNDERS was a goalkeeper with Albion from March 1938 until May 1946 during which time he appeared in 34 first team games.

Born near Banbury in April 1916, Wilf played for his local team, Banbury Spencer, before moving to The Hawthorns. During the Second World War he guested for Luton Town and Watford and on leaving the Baggies, unable to oust new signing Jimmy Sanders, he returned to his first club, Banbury Spencer, eventually announcing his retirement in 1950. It is believed Wilf died circa 2002.

JOHN SAVAGE was a giant of a goalkeeper who was understudy to the great German custodian Bert Trautmann at Manchester City before joining Walsall in January 1958.

He remained with the Saddlers until May 1959, making over 50 League and Cup appearances. He then rounded off his career by playing one season for Wigan Athletic in the old Lancashire Combination.

Born in Bromley, Kent in December 1929, John started out as a professional with Hull City in September 1950. He then assisted Halifax Town (from March 1952) before moving to Maine Road in November 1953.

He amassed just over 160 club appearances during his playing days … and had the misfortune to stand between the posts when Albion thrashed Manchester City 9-2 in a League game at The Hawthorns in September 1957. When he conceded the ninth goal – a penalty taken by Derek Kevan – he picked the ball up and booted it out of the ground in disgust!

ROBBIE SAVAGE had an excellent career as a midfield destroyer before retiring in 2012 to take up soccer punditry on TV.

Born in Wrexham in October 1974, he played for Manchester United (for three seasons: 1991-94), Crewe Alexandra (seasons 1994-97), Leicester City (for five seasons: 1997-2002), Birmingham City (signed for £1.25million in June 2002: 88 games, 12 goals), Blackburn Rovers (signed from Blues for £3 million, January 2005), Brighton and Hove Albion (on loan, 2008) and Derby County (seasons 2008-12). He amassed a grand total of 623 club appearances and scored 41 goals. He also won 39 caps and netted twice for Wales (1995-2002).

A Division Two Play-off winner with Crewe and a League Cup winner with Leicester in 2000, Robbie was released by Alex Ferguson at Old Trafford without ever making the first XI.

ANDY SAVILLE was a very useful striker, a great target man, who certainly did his bit for both Walsall and Birmingham City.

Born in Hull in December 1964, he started out with his home club, the Tigers, before joining the Saddlers for £100,000 in March 1989.

He scored five goals in 38 League appearances prior to leaving Fellows Park for Barnsley in March 1990. From Oakwell he switched to Hartlepool United and in March 1993, he became a Blues player, secured for £155,000.

He netted 18 times in 65 outings for Blues who, after a loan spell with Burnley, subsequently sold him to Preston North End for £100,000 in July 1995.

Thereafter, Andy served with Wigan Athletic (from October 1996), Cardiff City (October 1997-March 1999), Hull City (on loan) and Gainsborough Trinity, he joined his last club Goole Town in 2001 and retired the following year having scored a career total of almost 150 goals, 122 of which came in 449 League games.

He helped both Preston (1996) and Wigan (1997) win the Third Division championship. Andy now lives on Humberside.

PAT SAWARD scored twice in 170 first-class appearances for Aston Villa, whom he served as a left-half from August 1955 until March 1961.

Born in County Cork in August 1928, he played his early football for Beckenham FC (Kent) and served in the Army in Singapore and Malta.

After an unsuccessful trial with Crystal Palace, he joined Millwall as a professional in July 1951, switching to Villa Park for £7,000. A member of Villa's 1957 FA Cup-winning team, he also helped the club win the Second Division championship in 1960.

Capped 18 times by the Republic of Ireland, he was transferred to Huddersfield Town from Villa and thereafter was engaged by Coventry City as player-coach, retiring as a player in 1967 to become assistant-manager at Highfield Road.

He then bossed Brighton & Hove Albion (1970-73), leading the Gulls to promotion from Division Three in 1972, and was employed by NASR A1 (Saudi Arabia) as general manager/coach, 1973-75). He left football to run a café/bar on the island of Menorca, and was 74 when he died from Alzheimer's disease in September 2002.

ROMAINE SAWYERS was born in Birmingham on 2 November 1991. An Academy player with West Bromwich Albion (no first team games) he had brief loan spells with Port Vale, Shrewsbury Town and Walsall before joining the Saddlers on a permanent basis in July 2013.

He has so far scored seven goals in 53 senior appearances for Walsall, and has also represented Saint Kitts and Nevis U23s in the second round of the Caribbean Football Union's qualifying phase for the 2012 CONCACAF pre-Olympic Tournament.

In the three games the team played, he struck four goals. Sawyers was then called up to the full team for the qualification for the 2012 Caribbean Cup and netted on his debut, in a 2–0 win over Anguilla at the Warner Park Sporting Complex in Basseterre.

RICKY SBRAGIA made 17 appearances (one goal scored) for Birmingham City with whom he was registered from June 1972 until October 1978 when he joined Walsall for £15,000, having earlier had a loan spell with Morton.

A defender, strong and capable, Sbragia was born in Lennoxtown, Scotland in May 1956 and played for Glasgow Amateurs before moving south to join the staff at St Andrew's.

He made over 80 appearances for the Saddlers (77 at League level) before going on to play for Blackpool, York City and Darlington. He retired as a player in 1989 to become youth team coach at York, took a similar position with Sunderland, 1994-2002 during which time he also acted as reserve team manager.

In 2002-03 he was engaged as Manchester United's second XI boss, a position he held for two years, took a coaching job with Bolton Wanderers after that, and in 2007 returned to Sunderland as coach, taking over as first team manager within a year, and remaining as coach/scout until 2011 when he became head coach of Scotland's U17 and U19 teams.

Sbragia's playing career realised a total of 320 club appearances, 275 of which came in the Football League.

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