With a gracious agreement from the Barclays Premier League, West Bromwich Albion have been granted permission to wear a special kit in the game against Leicester City on April 11th, a replica of the 1968 FA Cup Final kit which Jeff Astle wore when he scored the only goal in an historic 1-0 victory over Everton.
It is only the second time that the Premier League have sanctioned such a move, after allowing Manchester United to recognise the Munich Air Disaster victims in a similar way in 2008.
West Brom chairman Jeremy Peace spoke to the Express & Star about the idea: “It is the kit still synonymous with Jeff and his famous goal at Wembley. To our great delight the Premier League have approved it.
“It’s the real deal – no names, no brands, just numbers and the traditional throstle crest."
Astle scored 174 goals for the Baggies in 361 appearances, and also played five times for England, most notably in the Mexico World Cup finals of 1970. Astle is also famous for the 'offside' goal that denied Leeds United the league title in 1971, but it was his cup final goal that West Brom fans remember most, and they still applaud the iconic striker on the ninth minute of every home game.
In 2002 Astle died from what was first thought to be the onset of Alzheimer's, but was later diagnosed as chronic traumatic encephalopathy (CTE) – a progressive degeneration caused by repeated head trauma, in this case - and confirmed by a coroner - the result of heading heavy footballs.
It was a twist that alerted many to the hidden dangers of simply playing football and is a condition normally associated with boxing. The verdict has also prompted the 'Justice for Jeff' campaign which many rival clubs have very publicly supported - including Aston Villa in the recent FA Cup quarter-final - which seeks to research and highlight the dangers that playing football presents.
The Astle family have also set up the 'Astle Foundation' to carry out research into the condition, and this will be officially launched on April 11th, an occasion that should be an emotional one for the West Brom fans and particularly the Astle family.
Football has a unique way of celebrating its own in a fitting manner, and everybody involved should be applauded for what should be a remarkable day at The Hawthorns.