Chapter and verse: Genesis of Psalm 23 at West Brom?
It is the anthem that every Albion fan knows word-for-word, but there has long been mystery shrouding the origin of The Lord’s My Shepherd.
For years it has been thought Psalm 23 was first sung by Baggies fans on Sunday, January 27, 1974, when Albion travelled to Goodison Park for an FA Cup fourth round clash.
It was uncommon at the time to play on a Sunday but that match, which finished goalless, was moved because of the miners’ strike and – so the legend goes – a group of Albion supporters from Smethwick responded with a tongue-in-cheek rendition of the hymn.
But few fans can remember singing the famous chant on that day, and now a different story has emerged.
Keith White, a 63-year-old season ticket holder in the Birmingham Road End, believes he first sang the hymn in the early months of 1976 but changed the words to ‘Giles Is My Shepherd’.
“I’ve always loved the Albion and I believe in God,” White told the Express & Star this week. “Without sounding blasphemous, I just wanted to show how much we all loved Johnny Giles.
“We used to go to The Britannia pub in Tipton before the matches, and one day I was in the pub and came up with ‘Giles Is My Shepherd, I shall not want’.
“He turned a dying club around, we might have gone bust. He turned us into a promotion-winning side and laid the foundations for the next few years. It was a song that we could all get behind.
“When he left the club we just reverted to the normal Psalm 23 words.”
Keith was 21 at the time, and used to go to all the games with a group from Tipton.
“I used to make a few little songs up in my younger days,” he said. “We tried to create things that other people didn’t do.
“I also created a song about Len Cantello, but those other chants have died a death now.”
This particular version of the chant’s origin has been left untold for so long because Keith has spent the past 20 years living abroad in China, Vietnam, Turkey, Egypt and Saudi Arabia. This year’s season ticket is his first for decades.
However, his version of events has been backed up by Paul Roberts, 62, of Tipton, whose first Albion game was in 1965 against Liverpool.
“We used to meet in Tipton and gradually it got bigger,” said Paul. “People used to come from West Bromwich and we’d jump on the train to the game.
“Keith White came up with ‘Giles Is My Shepherd’. As far as I know that’s the origin of it. Giles moved on and it went back to his original state.”
Psalm 23 faded out of use in the 1980s but rose back to prominence in the 1990s and is now sung after every Albion goal at The Hawthorns.
“It’s emotional, because of the way the crowd gets behind it,” said White. “It’s an awe-inspiring song when you’ve got 25,000 people on Saturday and we score.
“I won’t call it a chant, it’s a hymn and everybody joins in with it. Young and old, whatever faith.
“I did meet Giles once when he left the Albion. Alan Everiss was secretary then, and I asked if I could go in and present him with a parting gift.
“We had a big collection and we brought him a decanter and some whisky glasses. They took me into the dressing room and looked after me. But I didn’t tell him about the chant.”
This season, The Lord’s My Shepherd has taken on even more significance, with Darren Moore at the helm.
Albion’s new head coach is a man of faith who attended the same church in Solihull as Cyrille Regis.
“When I was at church last year I prayed that we wouldn’t get relegated, but the Lord decided that we did,” said Keith. “Then a man of faith like Darren appeared.
“They say the Lord works in mysterious ways. You’ve got to be in the pits before you can see the sunlight. I think it’s an act of God, without sounding over the top.”
Keith is aware there are other stories out there of the song’s origin, and he’s not looking for any recognition.
“Whoever creates these things can sometimes get lost in time,” he said. “It becomes part of the legend of the club.
"I was at that game against Everton and don’t remember The Lord’s My Shepherd being sung. But I wouldn’t argue with anyone over it.”
Another anecdotal version passed down through the years claims a set of fans found a hymn book on a bus to a game and started singing all the songs inside.
The Lord’s My Shepherd was the most popular one and it stuck.
As Paul says: “Perhaps there’s a bit of truth in each version.”