Robert Earnshaw retires: His time at West Brom
Former West Brom striker Robert Earnshaw called time on his playing career today - with his former club among those to congratulate him on his career.
The 34-year-old, who was at the Hawthorns between 2004 and 2006, has announced his retirement after finishing his time in Major League Soccer with Vancouver Whitecaps.
The Wales international, who moved to the country from his native Zambia aged five, commanded over £12.65m in transfer fees when he was in his pomp.
The trademark somersault after finding the net became his calling card, writes Craig Birch.
Albion themselves shelled out a club-record £3.62m, including add-ons, to bring him in for their first season in the Premier League.
The move ended his seven-year stay at first club Cardiff City that brought 107 goals, coming through the youth ranks and helping the club into Division One.
Big things were expected of the goal-getter, but it has to be stated that he never quite shone on a regular basis for the Baggies, either under Gary Megson or his successor Bryan Robson.
It took him seven games to score his first goal for the club, but he then netted twice to earn a point in a 2-2 draw away to Southampton.
He struck again in the next league game, a 2-1 defeat at home to Middlesbrough, and got the equaliser in the following fixture at Arsenal that gleaned another point.
There was just one more goal before 2004 was up, though, and it proved a mere consolation in a 3-2 defeat on the road against Portsmouth.
It proved that 2005 would prove to be his only full year with Albion, first bagging a brace to send his side into the FA Cup fourth round with a 2-0 victory at Preston.
His leveller in the next phase at home to Tottenham Hotspur earned a replay, where Spurs prevailed 3-1 with Earnshaw drawing a blank.
League goals in-between the ties helped Albion to a home draw with Crystal Palace, but he couldn't prevent losing 3-2 to Norwich City at Carrow Road.
Then came arguably Earnshaw's finest day in the top-flight and definitely his best in an Albion shirt, away to Charlton in March.
That day is widely regarded as where 'the Great Escape' of 2004-05 began. The visitors came into play on 21 points and firmly in the relegation zone.
The odds were stacked against them in the battle to beat the drop. They left the Valley still second from bottom, but with three extra points and a massive injection of fresh hope.
It came thanks to Earnshaw's hat-trick in the final 17 minutes, after Geoff Horsfield's opener had been cancelled out by Jonatan Johansson's equaliser for the 10-man Addicks.
Earnshaw, who had been left among the substitutes with Kevin Campbell chosen to partner Horsfield, took just nine minutes to make his mark and put his side 2-1 ahead.
By the 84th minute, he had extended the lead to 3-1 and he completed his hat-trick, still his sole Premier League treble, in the dying moments.
And the whole dramatic tale was witnessed by 3,000 travelling Baggies fans, two thirds of whom travelled to South London on free coaches.
He would only score one more goal between then and the end of the season, as the club did indeed escape the drop on the last day of the campaign.
In what was becoming typical 'Earnie' fashion, it was to be memorable.
He earned Robson's side a share of the spoils from the penalty spot, at Old Trafford against Manchester United in the last away game of the season.
Despite being in and out of the side, he still finished 2004-05 as the club's top scorer with 14 goals, earning him the Ronnie Allen Trophy.
But that was as good as it got for him at the Hawthorns, particularly when Robson went out and signed Diomansy Kamara and Nathan Ellington in the summer.
Increasingly becoming a bit-part player resulted in just three goals in the first half of 2005-06, in League Cup victories at home to Bradford City and away to Fulham.
A last-minute strike in a 4-0 rout of Everton at the Hawthorns on Saturday 19 November 2005 proved to be his last for the club and he submitted two transfer requests in December.
Robson sold him to Championship side Norwich City on transfer deadline day in January 2006 for £2.75million, rising to £3.5million. Albion were relegated that season.
Earnshaw went on to turn out for the Canaries, Derby County and Nottingham Forest, before returning to Cardiff for a second spell. He would also have a stint with Blackpool at the tail end of his playing days.
He would also spend time overseas, playing in Israel for Maccabi Tel-Aviv and in the MLS for Chicago Fire, Toronto and then Vancouver.
That marked the end of a storied career, with made some Albion memories on the way. The 16 strikes in 59 caps for Wales also makes him their seventh-highest goalscorer of all time.
Thank you, football. Today, I announce the end of my playing career.
First, I am thankful to the people who have been a part of my journey: my friends, my dear family - my son, my three sisters, brother, and my beautiful and strong mother.
Your support means the world to me. We have memories and experiences that we will forever cherish.
Second, thank you to all my previous clubs: Cardiff City, Greenock Morton, West Brom, Norwich City, Derby, Nottingham Forest, Maccabi Tel Aviv, Toronto FC, Blackpool, Chicago Fire, and Vancouver Whitecaps FC.
Thank you to all the players that I have shared the football pitch with, the coaches and support staff for their endless of hours of support, and most important thank you to the fans.
I have fond memories of watching my mum play football in Zambia and then in Malawi where I went to school, making footballs with plastic bags, having crocodiles as school pets, and living in an African coal mine village.
was raised by my mum, who was working two jobs and still managed the time to support me. I have no doubt that this is where I get my energy and drive. I lost my father when I was nine so I never had a father figure.
In a way, football has been like a father to me. It has taught me about life, about working hard and staying focused.
Football has taught me about the world, about religion, nationalities and communities, and how regardless of our numerous backgrounds we can all come together to play a game we all love.
Football taught me how to be a man on and off the field and to be a better person. Football has given me a chance to play on the same team as some of my heroes.
It has also given me the opportunity to play against and share the pitch with some of the best players to have played the game.
People like Ronaldinho, Del Piero, Kaka, Pirlo, Giggs, Ronaldo, Bergkamp, Henry, and Beckham – I could go on.
From kicking footballs against our garage door in Caerphilly, Wales, to growing up and playing in the English Premier League, to gracing the international stage with Wales – I'll never forget any of it.
Being able to represent every fan and every football supporter in Wales 59 times, and scoring the winning goal against Germany on my debut are great moments I share with my country and are truly special to me.
At a young age, I knew my passion for this game when I watched football on TV and specifically when I watched the USA World Cup '94, so it's fitting that my playing career has come full circle to end in Major League Soccer.
After 579 matches and 236 goals later in my 19th year, I can now say this chapter is turning to give me a chance to start a different role and give back what I've learned and experienced.
I've always been scared to see the end of my playing days and now that it's here I'm sad but excited.
Vancouver Whitecaps FC have given me a chance to become the head coach of the U-14 Pre-Residency team, as well as the club's strikers coach.
They say your life starts when you retire from football, and now I can't wait to get started and really enjoy my other passions.
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