Silent fans, black eggs, 90-hour trip: recalling West Brom’s tour of China

Brendon Batson was part of the Albion squad that played in China 40 years ago. As he prepares to head back for a Great Wall charity walk he remembers an extraordinary visit

In 1978 West Bromwich Albion ended their season with a five-game tour of China considered so important to the nation that before their departure they were given a special briefing by the prime minister at Downing Street. To celebrate its 40th anniversary Brendon Batson, then a freshly signed right-back but who over the course of 220 competitive appearances would come to be remembered as one of the club’s legends, is returning to the country to walk part of the Great Wall for charity.

Ron Atkinson, then West Brom’s manager, recalled the original trip without much affection – “I thought it was a nightmare,” he said. “Personally, I hated it” – but Batson’s memory is considerably more forgiving. “It had its moments,” he says now. “There were lots of banquets and it was very formal at times – and the food wasn’t to everybody’s liking – but when you put a group of lads together we’re all like overgrown schoolboys. There’s that camaraderie that you have. I think I quite enjoyed the whole thing. It was one of those trips you reflect on and it became a better trip as the years went by.”

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