Captains, My Captains
Albion News|WBA v Crystal Palace on 04.03.2017 in the Premier League

‘Very much a leader, someone never frightened to dig somebody out when it needed it, he commanded respect too, not out of fear but out of recognition that whatever he was saying was for the good of the team’

From the very outset, it was clear that John Wile was captaincy material. Brought into the football club in December 1970 from lowly Peterborough United, joining a side that routinely competed for cup finals and had been a fixture in the First Division for decades, the 23 year old Wile took to the new surroundings immediately, slotting in at centre-half in succession to John Talbut and looking born to do the job.

Coming from the lower leagues to join a successful dressing room, full of giant characters such as John Kaye, Jeff Astle and Sir Robert Hope was no easy endeavour, but Wile was assimilated into the group almost immediately and quickly made it apparent that he was going to be at the heart of the Albion side for years to come.

Very much a leader, someone never frightened to dig somebody out when it needed it, he commanded respect too, not out of fear but out of recognition that whatever he was saying was for the good of the team. He could speak his mind fearlessly too. I can’t think of too many other players who, when dropped by John Giles for being out of form, would have responded with, “That’s fair enough, but what about yourself? You’re not playing very well either.”

Wile was brought to The Hawthorns by Alan Ashman but, within months, he was replaced by Don Howe, a move which ultimately backfired for the club in the short-term but which was ultimately of huge benefit to Wile – and his defensive partner Alistair Robertson – and put in the foundations upon which Giles and then Ron Atkinson later built. For while they played in an era that was to become synonymous with Cyrille Regis, Laurie Cunningham, Tony Brown, Willie Johnston, Bryan Robson and Derek Statham, it was the rock solid defensive platform that Wile and Robertson offered that was really the launching pad for Albion’s magnificent football that so illuminated the late 1970s.

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