CAN you imagine the furore there would be if it was announced that West Bromwich Albion were to merge with their near neighbours and rivals Aston Villa? Or if Wolverhampton Wanderers were to combine with Birmingham City?
Fortunately, for football fans in our region, there is little prospect of what could be termed an unholy alliance taking place, such is the fervour of partisan support in the Black Country and our second city. At least, not on a permanent basis, but just such a union of deadly rivals did occur 40 years ago and for a very special reason.
The date was Monday, May 6, 1974, and the occasion was a testimonial match for Albion's record-breaking legend Tony 'Bomber' Brown.
Tony Brown was born in Oldham on October 3, 1945, and he joined Albion as an amateur in April 1961. He turned professional on his 18th birthday in 1963 and then stayed with the club until 1980.
Tony broke a string of club records; he played in more first team games than anyone else (826) and scored more goals than any other Albion player (313). In the league he scored 218 goals in 574 appearances. He also played 66 times for the reserves. Another impressive statistic is the 51 goals he scored from 61 penalty kicks.
He was a regular in the first team and played in Albion's winning League Cup team of 1966 and winning FA Cup team of 1968; to this he added runners-up medals in the 1967 and 1970 League Cup finals.
Tony was capped by England at youth level but only made one full international appearance, against Wales in 1971, and there are a legion of fans who will tell you it should have been many more.
Tony's last game for Albion was on January 8, 1980, when he scored his last goal in a 2-1 defeat to West Ham in the third round of the FA Cup.
Tony then played in America before joining Torquay United in 1981, scoring 11 goals in 50 outings for the seaside club. He then returned to the Midlands and finished his playing career with Stafford Rangers.
Fans that attended Bomber Brown's testimonial at the Hawthorns would have seen a veritable panoply of local legends in the combined teams.
Taking the field for the Albion/Villa team were Peter Latchford (WBA 1969-75), John Gidman (Aston Villa 1971-79), Ray Wilson (WBA 1964-76), Len Cantello (WBA 1968-79), John Wile (WBA 1970-83), Ian Ross (Aston Villa 1972-76), Ray Graydon (Aston Villa 1971-77), Tony Brown (WBA 1963-80), Jeff Astle (WBA 1964-74), Trevor Hockey (Aston Villa 1973-74), Asa Hartford (WBA 1967-74) and Willie Johnston (WBA 1972-79). Playing for the Blues/Wolves team were Dave Latchford (Birmingham City 1966-77), Ray Martin (Birmingham City 1962-76), Derek Parkin (Wolves 1968-82), Mike Bailey (Wolves 1966-77), Frank Munro (Wolves 1968-77), Roger Hynd (Birmingham City 1970-75), Trevor Francis (Birmingham City 1971-79), Bob Hatton (Wolves 1964-67 and Birmingham City 1971-76), Derek Dougan (Wolves 1967-75), Howard Kendall (Birmingham City 1974-77), Dave Wagstaffe (Wolves 1964-76), and Kenny Burns (Birmingham City 1971-77).
Despite scouring the record books we have been unable to find the result!
Were you at the Bomber Brown testimonial in 1974? What are your memories of the night and of the Albion legend? Contact firstname.lastname@example.org or write in to our usual address.