Jeff Astle

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Jeff Astle
Jeff Astle Gates.jpg
The Jeff Astle Gates at The Hawthorns
Personal information
Full name Jeffrey Astle
Date of birth (1942-05-13)13 May 1942
Place of birth Eastwood, England
Date of death 19 January 2002(2002-01-19) (aged 59)
Place of death Burton upon Trent, England
Playing position(s) Striker
Senior career*
Years Team Apps (Gls)
1959–1964 Notts County 103 (31)
1964–1974 West Bromwich Albion 292 (137)
1974 Hellenic FC
1974–1975 Dunstable Town (25)
1975–1976 Weymouth (20)
1976–1977 Atherstone Town
1977Hillingdon Borough (loan)
Total 395 (168)
National team
1969–1970 England 5 (0)
* Senior club appearances and goals counted for the domestic league only

Jeffrey Astle (13 May 1942 – 19 January 2002) was an English professional footballer who played the majority of his career as a centre forward for West Bromwich Albion. Nicknamed "the King" by the club's fans, he played 361 games for them and scored 174 goals. He also won five caps for England without scoring.

Football career[edit]

Born in Eastwood, Nottinghamshire, Astle turned professional with Notts County when he was 17. His style was that of a classic centre forward; he was a protégé of Tommy Lawton. In 1964 he signed for West Brom for a fee of £25,000. He scored 174 goals in 361 games for the Baggies,[1] including the only goal in the 1968 FA Cup Final, in which he completed the feat of scoring in every round of the competition.

Two years later, Astle scored in Albion's 2–1 defeat by Manchester City in the League Cup final, becoming the first player to score in the finals of both of the major English cup competitions at Wembley. He had already scored in the first leg of the 1966 League Cup Final four years previously, but that was at West Ham United's Upton Park.

At the height of Astle's Albion career, the words "ASTLE IS THE KING" appeared in large white letters on the brickwork of Primrose Bridge, which carries Cradley Road over a canal in Netherton, in the heart of the Black Country. The bridge quickly became known locally as "the Astle Bridge". When the council removed the letters, they re-appeared a few days later. Following Astle's death in 2002, a campaign was launched to have the bridge officially named in his honour, but this has so far been rejected over fears of vandal attacks by supporters of rival teams, as the area also has many Wolverhampton Wanderers fans.

In 1969–1970 Astle was the leading scorer in Division One with 25 goals.[2] In 1970, he was called up to the England squad for the World Cup finals tournament in Mexico. He won the fourth of his five caps, as a substitute, when England were a goal down against eventual champions Brazil.

In subsequent years his fitness deteriorated through repeated injuries, and in 1974 he left Albion to join the South African club Hellenic. His final bow came with a brief spell at the English non-league side Dunstable Town, where he teamed up with former Manchester United star George Best.

Retirement, death and legacy[edit]

After his retirement, Astle launched an industrial cleaning business, working around the Burton upon Trent area. He also made television comedy appearances with Frank Skinner and David Baddiel on Fantasy Football League.

On 19 January 2002, Astle choked to death at his daughter's home aged 59.[3] The cause of death was a degenerative brain disease that had first become apparent as much as five years earlier. He had been described as an exceptional header of the ball, and the coroner found that the repeated minor traumas had been the cause of his death, as the leather footballs used in Astle's playing days were considerably heavier than the plastic ones used later, especially when wet. This was not the first case of a footballer's illness or death (particularly in the form of Alzheimer's or dementia type symptoms) being connected to heading old-fashioned footballs, another example being the former Tottenham Hotspur captain Danny Blanchflower who died of Alzheimer's disease in December 1993.[4] A verdict of death by industrial injury was recorded. In 2014, the Justice for Jeff campaign was launched, calling for an independent inquiry into a possible link between degenerative brain disease and heading footballs.[5] Subsequently, he was confirmed as the first British footballer known to have died as a result of heading a football.[6] In the same year it was claimed by a neurosurgeon that Astle had died as a result of chronic traumatic encephalopathy (CTE), a disease previously associated with boxers.[7]

On the day after his death, West Bromwich Albion held a minute's silence in honour of Astle, before their home match against Walsall. Albion striker Jason Roberts scored the only goal of the game and celebrated by removing his jersey to reveal a T-shirt bearing Astle's image.[8]

His funeral in Derbyshire was attended by hundreds of football fans.[9] Fantasy Football League returned for a number of special editions after Astle's death; the first programme being preceded by a minute's silence, in the style of those held at football matches. In November 2002, Astle's widow Laraine said that she would take legal action over his death.[10] [11]

Astle had been worshipped as a hero by the Albion fans, who would often sing (to the tune of Camptown Races): "Astle is the king, Astle is the king, the Brummie Road will sing this song, Astle is the king". The chant is still heard at the Hawthorns.[citation needed] Following his death, a campaign was launched to fund a set of gates dedicated to his memory at the ground. The gates, which are situated on the Birmingham Road, close to the Woodman Corner, were unveiled on 11 July 2003.[12] In April 2003, Midland Metro named a AnsaldoBreda T-69 tram in his honour.[13][14]

In 2004, he was named as one of West Bromwich Albion's 16 greatest players, in a poll organised as part of the club's 125th anniversary celebrations.[15] Astle was also voted as one of Albion's five "FA Cup heroes", receiving the most votes for a striker in the poll organised by the club's official website in 2006.[16]

Since early 2013, for around a year, West Brom fans make it a point at every home game to applaud on the ninth minute of the game for the entire minute in tribute to Jeff Astle and in support of the Justice for Jeff campaign. This is because he wore the No. 9 shirt for the club. During the minute the screens at the Hawthorns would have an image of Jeff Astle with the caption 'If in doubt, Sit them out.'[17] Albion's fierce rivals Aston Villa and Birmingham City also showed a picture of Astle on their screens when the Baggies played there that season.

Jeff Astle Foundation[edit]

It was announced on 26 March 2015 that the club would be holding "Astle Day" in his memory on 11 April at The Hawthorns, when the club hosted Leicester City FC. The team sported the 1968 FA Cup Final kit that Astle wore when he scored the only goal in a 1–0 victory over Everton FC. Albion became only the second club to have been granted express permission from the Premier League for a kit change, after Manchester United donned a retro kit in honour of the 50th anniversary of the Munich air disaster in 2008. This day also marked the beginning of the Jeff Astle Foundation, an organisation dedicated to raising awareness of brain injury in all sports and to helping those afflicted.[18][19]

In May 2016, in the 50th anniversary year of England's World Cup victory, The Daily Telegraph compared football with the 1960s tobacco industry. It said the authorities risked legal action because of a "scandalous" failure to research dementia amongst former players, due to a combination of repeated heading of the ball and from collisions that might have occurred during a game. The newspaper also criticised the non-appearance of a risk study following Astle's death and launched a campaign to investigate football related brain injuries. The Telegraph called for research to answer the question, "Does playing football increase your risk of dementia and other degenerative brain diseases?"[20] In November 2017, a BBC documentary on the subject presented by former England striker Alan Shearer included an interview with Astle's daughter where she spoke of the deterioration in her father's condition.[21]

In 2019 it was reported that football players were three and a half times more likely to die from dementia.[22]





  1. ^ "Baggies honor Astle with retro kit". Belfast Telegraph. 26 March 2015.
  2. ^ "English League Leading Goalscorers 1889–2007". RSSSF. 14 June 2007. Archived from the original on 8 June 2009. Retrieved 2 September 2007.
  3. ^ "Jeff Astle Day: West Brom legend's daughter reveals the true horror of his death". Birmingham Mail. 9 April 2015. Retrieved 29 March 2017.
  4. ^ Minogue, Tim (17 December 1995). "Alzheimer's link with football". The Independent. London.
  5. ^ Irving, Lee (2 May 2014). "'Justice for Jeff' campaign launched". Dorset Echo. Retrieved 27 May 2014.
  6. ^ "Jeff Astle's family unhappy with authorities following research over his death". Sky Sports. Retrieved 20 July 2014.
  7. ^ "Jeff Astle: West Brom legend 'killed by boxing brain condition'". BBC. 1 June 2014. Retrieved 16 April 2015.
  8. ^ "Albion 1 Walsall 0 – FULL MATCH REPORT". West Bromwich Albion F.C. 20 January 2002. Archived from the original on 11 February 2012. Retrieved 21 May 2008.
  9. ^ "Fond farewell for football hero". BBC News. 30 January 2002. Retrieved 28 October 2007.
  10. ^ "Widow to sue over Astle's death". BBC News. 22 November 2002. Retrieved 28 October 2007.
  11. ^ "Laraine Astle was struck during Saturday's clash with Leicester City". BBC News. 12 March 2018. Retrieved 13 March 2018.
  12. ^ "Astle Gates". BOING. 11 July 2003. Archived from the original on 28 September 2007. Retrieved 7 August 2007.
  13. ^ "Tram named for Baggies hero". BBC News. 8 April 2003. Retrieved 28 October 2007.
  14. ^ "Comic unveils Astle tram". BBC News. 12 April 2003. Retrieved 28 October 2007.
  15. ^ "The wraps come off 125th anniversary mural". West Bromwich Albion F.C. 4 August 2004. Archived from the original on 2 February 2008. Retrieved 27 April 2008.
  16. ^ "Albion's all-time FA Cup heroes". West Bromwich Albion F.C. 18 February 2006. Archived from the original on 11 February 2012. Retrieved 27 April 2008.
  17. ^ "EXCLUSIVE: FA Chairman Dyke issues apology to family of Jeff Astle". Daily Mail.
  18. ^ "Jeff Astle: West Brom to wear FA Cup tribute kit against Leicester". BBC Sport. 15 March 2015. Retrieved 14 February 2016.
  19. ^ "OUR GAME PLAN". Retrieved 21 October 2019.
  20. ^ Jeremy Wilson (30 May 2016). "Football's silent shame: Dementia 'conspiracy' is a stain on the game". The Daily Telegraph. Retrieved 5 June 2016.
  21. ^ "Alan Shearer: Dementia, Football and Me review – an impassioned and thoughtful documentary". The Daily Telegraph. 12 November 2017. Retrieved 3 January 2018.
  22. ^ "Dementia in football: Ex-players three and a half times more likely to die of condition". BBC Sport. 21 October 2019. Retrieved 21 October 2019.


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