Where Albion's Great Escape began in 2005

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A decade ago today, West Brom began to believe.

The Great Escape went down as one of the most famous moments in Baggies history. And in spirit, March 19, 2005 was when it all began.

Albion went to Charlton on 21 points, in the Premier League relegation zone and with the odds 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 substitute Robert Earnshaw's hat-trick in the final 17 minutes earned Bryan Robson's men a 4-1 win.

And the whole dramatic tale was witnessed by 3,000 travelling Baggies fans, two thirds of whom travelled to South London on free coaches and bought into the 'Great Escape' theme.

The inflatable hands and Premier League route planners handed out on the coaches sewed the seeds of an idea in supporters' heads.

But it was events on the pitch with truly fuelled their imagination and that of the players, as defender Darren Moore recalls.

"In the dressing room we always had belief," said Moore, who stepped off the bench at The Valley to replace Thomas Gaardsoe on 22 minutes.


"But I think that game really fired it up to a different level. I don't remember us shouting, singing and celebrating on the coach home.

"But I do remember us having some quite long, serious conversations about what we had in the dressing room and the fact we were capable of doing something really special that season.

"I think that game was massive for our confidence. I remember a real belief in the group coming back from that game."

For much of the afternoon, things looked good for Albion and their huge travelling army.


They took the lead on nine minutes through Geoff Horsfield, although they were pegged back to 1-1 by Jonatan Johansson on 24.

They were handed a huge advantage five minutes later when defender Talal El Karkouri was sent off for a high, two-footed lunge on Zoltan Gera.

Albion hero Robert Earnshaw,holding the match ball, milks the fans applause after the final whistle.

However, they laboured in search of a winning goal and nerves were becoming frayed among fans and players alike.

That's was until Robson turned to Earnshaw, who had been left among the substitutes with Kevin Campbell chosen to partner Horsfield.

The Wales international took nine minutes to make his mark and put his side 2-1 ahead, and by the 84th minute he had extended the lead to 3-1.

Earnshaw completed his hat-trick in the dying moments to seal a momentous win and breathe new life into their survival campaign.

Two months later they became the first side in Premier League history to stay up having been bottom at Christmas.

"It was typical Robbie Earnshaw," recalled Moore. "That was 'Earnie' all over.

"If you wanted somebody to come on and sniff out a goal for you there was no-one better at that time. He had that natural goalscorer's instinct.

"He probably wasn't as good in other areas as some strikers are and he wasn't the best trainer, but when it came to getting chances and scoring goals he was as good as anyone.

"I remember the game because when they had a man sent off people thought it would be easy for us, but in a way that just added more pressure and teams can get a little bit nervy in those situations.

"It definitely got a bit tense, but that is where Earnie was brilliant because he loved situations like that, and he came on and made the difference."

The game in South London provided the inspiration for an famous period in Baggies history, although Moore recalls how another trip a few weeks earlier was also vital.

"The team spirit that season was unbelievable and that was the key to us staying up," said Moore.

"But Bryan Robson took us away to Florida just before that Charlton game and when we came back we had bonded even more.

"From the moment we got home from that trip, we could feel the momentum building, and that win at Charlton really gave us an extra push.

"It was a special season and that was a big game for us."

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