WHAT WOLVES MEANS TO ME
By David Instone (Creator of www.wolvesheroes.com and author of Billy & Bully)
Charles Ross once wrote, during my 16 years of following Wolves home and away for the Express & Star, that some fans thought I had the best job in the world. He reckoned I had the worst.
In reviewing one of my books (that’s another pint I still owe him!), he made the point that his own emotions and passions would never allow him to produce considered copy during a game or soon after the end of one and he’d hate having to try.
My own view is that I had one of the best jobs in Wolverhampton at least, if not one of the best-paid.
I didn’t grow up a Wolves fan, though I always had a bit of a draw towards them in the early 1970s, when my banter-filled loathing was reserved for the likes of Villa, Man United and Stoke – the teams my closest school mates supported.
Maybe it was those shirts or that goal-filled run to the UEFA Cup final that carried some appeal, or perhaps it was being lucky enough to be at Molineux for THAT game against Leeds in 1972 and at Wembley for the 1974 League Cup final. But I never had a problem with seeing Wolves do well. On the quiet, I actually quite liked them.
Even so, my heart was hardly pumping when I stumbled into the role of following them all over the country, and beyond, from the Easter of 1986.
At the time, I was quite happy covering an entertaining Walsall side on their Third Division travels – certainly a lot happier than Alan Buckley seemed at having me on board – and it didn’t appear such a step-up to be given the Wolves ‘gig’, at least not in terms of job security.
More front-page stories were written about the club than back-page ones in those days and I recall turning up for a pre-season friendly at Southport in 1986 – I’d been covering golf down the road at Birkdale all day – not knowing whether a winding-up order had been issued in the High Court that afternoon and the team coach turned back at Knutsford as a consequence.
Watching a patched-up side in a decaying Molineux was a shock to the system after cosy Fellows Park and I question the ‘We were always too big to go under’ stance some supporters now take because that’s not my memory of the mood of the time.
Anyway, some bloke called Bull arrived and, even during the months prior to the two successive promotions, reporting Wolves’ games and fortunes quickly became fun.
As quickly as fans had deserted the club, they flooded back, high-spirited and hopeful just like Graham Turner’s team, and I felt lucky to be the man in place to describe the rebirth; the giant stirs!
Thank goodness we had no idea how difficult subsequent promotions would be but, with regained respectability, came Sir Jack Hayward, a rebuilt stadium and a club to be proud of once more.
Reporters do ‘root’ for the sides they follow, honest! It might not always appear so but why wouldn’t it be more rewarding, more entertaining and downright easier to be describing and discussing victories than a trail of defeats?
It was about the autumn of 1987, this side of those nightmare crowd disorder stories, that I’d say the first serious traces of gold and black dripped into my bloodstream.
I was present at the inaugural meeting of the club’s Former Players Association and to meet Billy and Bert, Johnny Hancocks, Peter Broadbent and Ron Flowers was to learn that this place was actually a bit special.
Did that game against Honved mean THAT much? Could Stan Cullis really be as dedicated as that to the Wolves cause? And what did it feel like to be looking down on Manchester United in the 1950s?
Okay, I’ve derived a decent living in post-E&S years from various Molineux nostalgia projects but I’ve thrown myself into them because the story needs telling for the sake of current and future generations; in some cases for the reading of the grandkids of Wright, Flowers, Williams, Slater et al.
I’m proud of those League titles, FA Cup triumphs and floodlit spectaculars, even though I didn’t see a ball kicked in any of them. All that tradition, pride, appeal and fame is a heady mix!
Wolverhampton Wanderers now means much more than just pounds, shillings and pence to me.