Albion were today mourning Hawthorns legend Derek Kevan, who has died at the age of 77.
Fans and ex-team-mates paid tribute to the former England striker, who passed away in hospital in Birmingham yesterday following a lengthy illness.
Kevan scored 173 goals in 291 matches for Albion from 1953-1963 and netted eight times in 14 appearances for England, including two goals in the 1958 World Cup finals. The Yorkshireman, who was nicknamed ‘The Tank’ by supporters, is the fifth highest goalscorer in Baggies history.
Albion 1968 FA Cup-winning captain Graham Williams said: “Derek was the dream centre-forward. He was big, he was strong, he could play with either foot and he could head the ball as hard as most players could kick it. He wasn’t rapid but he was mobile enough and his goals record speaks for itself.
“He was at the club when I first joined, he was an England international and he was an unbelievable player.
“And he was a Jekyll and Hyde figure, because on the pitch he was a frightening prospect to play against but off the field he was a big softy. He was a huge man and those Albion striped shirts made him look even bigger. I was lucky that I never had to play against him, because I don’t think I would have enjoyed it.”
Baggies great Bobby Hope added: “I played with ‘Kev’ for a few years when I first moved down from Scotland to join the club and he looked after me. He was like a guardian for me on the pitch, because I was just a young kid learning the game.
“He was one of the two best headers of a ball I ever saw. Him and Jeff Astle would be very hard to separate. He was part of a great team at the club when I joined. Don Howe, Bobby Robson, Johnny Nicholls, Ronnie Allen and Derek were all England internationals. Derek was a great goalscorer and he was a real old-style centre-forward – big and strong and able to look after himself. And he was a great man to have in the dressing room because he used to lift people.”
Ripon-born Kevan, who leaves a widow, Connie, became Vic Buckingham’s first signing as Albion manager when he joined from Bradford Park Avenue for £3,000 in 1953.
He scored more England goals while an Albion player than anyone else, and he remains the last Baggies player to score for England at the World Cup, having netted twice at the 1958 tournament in Sweden, against the Soviet Union and Austria.
He joined Chelsea for £50,000 in 1963 but soon moved again to Manchester City, where he set a post-war club record by scoring 36 goals in a season in 1963-64.
He also had spells with Crystal Palace, Peterborough, Luton and Stockport and, following retirement, returned to the West Midlands and worked in a pub and as a delivery driver. John Homer, chairman of West Bromwich Albion Supporters’ Club, said: “Derek is up there among the Albion greats as far as supporters are concerned.”
Albion’s players were due to wear black armbands in today’s FA Cup tie against QPR.
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