Neil Emblen became our honorary member following on from Don Goodman. Neil was recommended as a suitable successor as our man in the dressing room, and also won our Player of the Year around the same time. He was pleased to come along to the Dinner at Staverton accepting his award with a speech that saw him getting our initials right first time!
Neil had been signed by Graham Taylor from Milwall for a £600,000. Unheard of by the majority of Wolves fans at the time of his signing he quickly became a firm favourite with the fans. The old fashioned term of utility player certainly applied to him as he played for Wolves in just about all outfield positions, always in a determined and committed style never giving less than 100% for the club.
Neil took on his role with the DDCWWFCSC as he did playing on the pitch, with great enthusiasm.
The first time Coxy met him was in unusual circumstances. It was at Carrow Road in 1997 for the first game of the season; the day that Robbie Keane made his league debut. Neil was not playing – which was a major surprise, in fact he’d been given a ticket to watch the game in with the Wolves fans. Coxy spotted him in the crowd near the pies zeroed in on him and demanded to know why he wasn’t playing. It turned out that there was an offer in for him (from Crystal Palace as it turned out) and so he was not playing.
Neil did join the then Premier side Crystal Palace for £2m but was to return to Molineux after only a few months and just 13 games, as Palace were running out of cash. In the 2 spells at Molineux he played over 200 league games scoring 16 goals.
Neil took on his role with the DDCWWFCSC as he did playing on the pitch, with great enthusiasm. He spoke regularly by phone with Coxy and Coxy recalls one epic conversation that lasted for over 2 hours! He brought Northampton boy Darren Bazeley along to the dinner when he collected his award, and later was to emigrate to play football down under in New Zealand with Darren.
Neil left Wolves for Norwich City and was quickly appointed Captain Canary, but unfortunately he suffered a bad knee injury early in his Norwich career so they never saw Neil at his best or for very long. He then returned to West Midlands football with Walsall where he played with Darren Bazeley again before heading down under.
Neil’s story does not end there though, he keeps in touch with Coxy from New Zealand where he still lives with his family and as last season’s championship came to a head he was keeping a very close eye on events at Molineux. Having now hung up his boots he has now moved into management, still in New Zealand.
In the Summer of 2012 Neil had the honour of being the coach (Manager) of the New Zealand Olympic football team, and given that their first game was at Coventry he got in touch with Coxy and invited him to the team hotel the evening before their first game. Coxy was thrilled to hear from Neil and jumped at the chance to visit and catch up.
Once the extensive security network had been negotiated Neil and Coxy had a good old chat, finding out about Neil’s life down under and Coxy giving his verdict on events at Molineux. Time passed really quickly and Neil had to break off to do his team talk to the squad ahead of their evening meal and the game the following day. He was wise enough to leave Coxy out of the team talk, but then invited Coxy to join the squad in their evening meal, which he was pleased to do.
Sitting on the management table Coxy met the Management team, which was including the New Zealand World Cup Coach Ricky Herbert another former Wolves player. An interesting discussion over the meal revealed that two of the back room boys had had a Mac Donalds eating contest when they were in the Olympic Village with one winning by 14 burgers to 13! They had all given up something for the trip – unfortunately for Coxy, Neil had given up alcohol so only one pint was consumed in 4 hours!
But Neil is still the same talkative friendly guy he always was, still takes his role as Honorary Member seriously and wishes all the members well. He also hopes that relegation is just a temporary blip and Wolves make a speedy return to the top flight.