Express & Star

The battle that threatened to rock West Brom's famous 2002 Premier League promotion

Sunday April 21, 2002. It still remains one of the greatest days in West Brom's history.

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The long wait for a return to the top flight, the first promotion to the promised land since it became the Premier League, and all at the expense of the old rivals and their ten point lead.

It was a magical day and one that will never be forgotten by those of an Albion persuasion.

But as the champagne was popping and players and fans alike were dreaming of Old Trafford, Anfield and Highbury, a storm was brewing at The Hawthorns.

In the weeks leading up to the end of the campaign - rumours were rife regarding a rift between boss Gary Megson and the board, in particular, chairman Paul Thompson.

Thompson had been a director at Albion prior to being re-installed on the board and taking over from Tony Hale as chairman in 1999, following unrest in the boardroom.

Under Thompson's stewardship, Albion were growing as a club and coming out of the dark 90s period that many describe as one of the worst in the club's history.

At the turn of the millennium, Megson had arrived to steer them away from another drop to the third tier, before going on to reach the play-offs the following season.

Then came the famous promotion campaign - with Albion turning the dreams of the Premier League into a reality.

But just 24 hours after promotion had been achieved, and following on from weeks of talk regarding a rift, things behind the scenes were about to boil over.

Megson spoke to the club's website to deny he had been publicly critical of the board or of Thompson.

Reports leading up to the end of the campaign had claimed Megson was unhappy about his lack of control of the club's scouting system, his lack of input into the retained list and of the training facilities.

On the other side of the row, Thompson was less than impressed with comments from Megson in his programme notes and to the press.

Thompson and Megson alongside club legend and former chief executive John Wile.

Speaking just after Albion's promotion was sealed, Megson: "I realise I am going to have to be much more careful and selective in what I say and who I speak to.

"I feel sorry for our supporters because I won't be able to keep them as informed as I would wish for fear of continually being misquoted and, at times, having comments attributed to me I didn't even say.

"I have not been publicly critical of the chairman or the board. I have not criticised anybody directly."

The black cloud over Albion's promotion party didn't show any signs of going away.

There was even talk of Megson potentially leaving the club due to differences with the board - with Thompson stating: "I think in the end it will be down to Gary if he stays or not.

"We've operated in a certain way for the past 28 months and we'll continue to do things that way."

In the days following that famous victory over Crystal Palace, the party atmosphere among the fans could not have been more different from the one behind the scenes at the club.

Then, less than two weeks later, the situation had reached breaking point and Thompson resigned. Just nine days had passed since the Baggies' chairman was celebrating in the stands at The Hawthorns, watching his side reach the Premier League.

In a letter to supporters confirming he would leave the club as soon as he could sell his shares, he said: "It is obvious from Gary Megson's comments in the press, and from comments he has made to me personally, that he wishes to see me step down as chairman - and now he has got his wish."