Everybody loves a clown. Bill Cassidy didn't need greasepaint to lighten periods of gloom at the Goldstone, he had a natural flair for the comic.

Albion team-mates and supporters depended on him for laughs. When Bill donned the cap and bells it did more for morale than a torrent of invective from manager Archie Macaulay. Flagging spirits soared when Bill was up to his pranks.

Being a good pro, Bill took his football very seriously but was blessed with an intuitive knack of relieving tension by a timely quip or gesture.

The high point of Bill's self-appointed role as court jester convulsed the Goldstone in a match, I think, against Darlington. As the referee called for a ball he thought had gone into touch, Bill, grinning broadly, waddled around like a pregnant duck with it stuffed up his shirt.

The referee saw the funny side, so did the players and spectators and Bill had rendered another five-star performance on what hitherto had been a drab and featureless stage.

Archie, a fellow Scot, valued his joker in the pack. He knew full well that a happy dressing room can often be the launch pad of a successful side. This proved to be the case in the 1964-65 Fourth Division championship campaign when Bill's ten goals in 24 games proved a most acceptable ratio amid so much competition for places.

Bill played every game as though it was the cup final. The highly-charged 90 minutes that he put in either at wing half, inside forward or occasionally centre-forward, were particularly effective in the lower divisions where the need to fight for the right to play was paramount.

Moreover, Bill knew full well that he had to make up for lack of pace by extra physical effort. A tackle from Cassidy did not contain an option of coming back for more although there was not a bad bone in his body and a joke was never very far away from a stream of Scottish oaths.

For five years at the Goldstone Jimmy Collins and Bill Cassidy were inseparable. Bill was Sancho Panza to Jimmy's Don Quixote and the double-act became part of Albion folklore.

It used to be said in the old days of pre-overseas imports that a manager needed to guard against getting too many players from north of the border at one time in case they formed a too powerful group. That was not a problem for Archie. After all he was one of them, although he tended to treat some of the players like a laird might boss his tenants.

He had inherited Bill and Jimmy from the George Curtis era and Collins will surely go down as one of the best post-war signings made by the club. At £8,000 he was an absolute steal from Tottenham. Jimmy arrived from Spurs in August, 1962, while Cassidy checked-in a couple of months later. The £6,000 fee to Rotherham United was quite high by Albion's standards.

A pedigree with Glasgow Rangers, whom Bill had joined as a kid, bore scrutiny although his future at Ibrox ended with a free to Millmoor. And there, as a 21-year-old, Bill had not always commanded a regular first team place but word reached Curtis that here was a player to do a good job in a variety of positions and youth was on his side.

When Collins and Cassidy were starting to settle down there were further new faces - Allan Jackson from Bury, who played up front, and right winger George Waites from Orient.

George Curtis pinned his hopes in a magic formula amid mounting unrest. Pressure from the terraces brought about a bloodless revolution at board room level, toppling chairman Gerald Paling and senior director Cyril Clarke.

Not surprisingly Curtis parted company with the club in February. Joe Wilson took over as caretaker manager before Archie agreed to accept the challenge after resigning from West Brom.

There were eight games remaining when Archie arrived and Albion were hanging just above the relegation zone. Northampton, who went on to win the championship, virtually sealed Albion's fate with a 5-0 thrashing. This first of three Easter games plunged Albion into the bottom four from which they were unable to escape.

There was no truth in a persistent rumour that Archie viewed relegation pragmatically, but it was a fact that the next season meant he could not do worse.

In that first season Cassidy toiled away at left-half and was one of 29 players of which no fewer than 17 made their debuts. Reeling-off 25 games on the trot, Cassidy showed a disdain for injuries. Archie valued this quality in a player and gradually started to assemble a side that not only rose from the lowest division the following season but did so in style.

By December 1963, he had landed Dave Turner from Newcastle and he made the No.6 shirt his own. Cassidy donned No.10 and after Wally Gould and Jack Smith were signed the team managed 19 wins for a comfortable eighth spot. In a more attacking role Cassidy scored six goals in 29 games.

Perhaps Cassidy tended to be overshadowed by the star quality of the championship side. But there was not the slightest doubt that his 24 appearances yielding ten vital goals had an important bearing on the destination of the pennant.

He banged in the winner against Halifax on Boxing Day to delight a 19,000 Goldstone crowd. Injury prevented him from figuring in all but two of the last 14 matches.

Old knocks were catching up. He came back after a hernia the previous season and then broke a small bone in his back while there were a spate of knee problems.

By the summer it was time for Cassidy to leave the Albion. Archie gave him a free and Jimmy's career at the club was also up. Bill and his wife decided that a move to Southern League Chelmsford City would suit, but Jimmy had other ideas and went to Wimbledon.

The change of scene was to Cassidy's liking as he appeared in three successive Southern League championship teams beginning with Chelmsford and then at Cambridge United. At Cambridge his Albion nickname of Thunderboots stuck as he scored 56 goals in 120 outings.

Ron Atkinson was Cambridge manager in 1971-72 and he valued Cassidy as a crash-bang-wallop centre-forward and Bill was with United when they entered the Football League 31 years ago.

At Chelmsford, Bill achieved cult figure status. His team-mates used to sing a song about him, with words by ex-player George Duncan to the tune usually associated with the line, "How can you buy Killarney?".

'A Scotsman landed in New Writtle Street, To watch Bill Cassidy's twinkling feet, How can I buy him? he said to the boss, England's gain is Scotland's loss.

How can you buy all the goals he has claimed?

How can you buy the King, as he's named?

How can you buy Bill Cassidy?'

During his time at Cambridge, Bill had a spell during the summer with Detroit Cougars. After United's initial season in the Fourth Division he joined Kettering Town and then Ramsgate followed by a return to Scotland as player-manager of Ross County.

Then tragedy struck. Aged 42 he was afflicted by thrombosis. He was registered as an invalid. And, in the Eighties, Bill was sentenced to a term of imprisonment after being convicted on burglary and handling charges.

Bill Cassidy's luck had run out and he died aged 54. Jimmy Collins said: "A man couldn't have had a better friend. He had his down spells, but he made you laugh. I loved that man."