John Richards writes….
Interesting challenge from the chairman – just do a piece about ‘what Wolves means to me’, that should be easy enough.
My first attempt was all about when I first came to Wolves, but it was becoming a familiar and much repeated story of my time at Molineux, so I scrapped that approach, and thought about it a bit more personally.
my involvement with Wolves, has given me some genuine friendships which will remain with me for the rest of my life.
Great times, great pals, adventures, hilarious coach journeys, going on a plane for the first time, visiting undreamed of places, the thrill of preparing for a match. In a nutshell, it means memories that no amount of money could buy.
Great times, you might be surprised to learn, are not match related, but are all about the camaraderie within the dressing room, the banter, the characters, getting to know people on tours – people such as John Ireland (my first chairman at Wolves) who ‘fathered’ the players like they were his own sons; the entertainers such as Hughie Curran and Doog, who could both warble a more than passable song; the comedians such as Steve Kindon and Steve Daley (hardly surprising that both are now top rated after dinner speakers); and the rogues (who will remain unnamed) who did their best, not always intentionally, to disrupt the dynamics of the team and the dressing room.
I count myself fortunate that I was in era when a successful team was based on a core of players who stayed with the club for a decent length of time. There was enough time to build genuine friendships. Of the team in the early seventies, I would say that probably seven or eight of them stayed with the club for ten years or more. And I know Wolves wasn’t unique in that respect, it was the norm at other clubs as well. I don’t know what today’s statistics are, but I can’t believe that any team has that number of players staying together for five years never mind ten.
Football, and mainly as a result of my involvement with Wolves, has given me some genuine friendships which will remain with me for the rest of my life. Some of the friends still live locally, but there are others who live in various parts of the country. Even though we may not see each other on a regular basis, these are people who I know would drop everything to be here if I ever needed any help. I count myself very fortunate to be in such a position.
Coach journeys to and from away games were always great fun with Sid Kipping as our unforgettable driver. Big and mischievous, he achieved legendary status by trapping Bill McGarry’s head in the automatic closing door and by driving over his suitcase as we embarked on an overseas trip. At mealtimes it was easy to convince the hotel staff that the immaculately attired Sid was the club chairman. As such, they made a fuss of him and he got served ahead of everyone else – he made a token effort to deny his position, but gladly accepted the attention he was given – he was a gem.
Zambia was the destination for the youth team tour in 1970 – my first time on a plane, my first trip to a foreign country and my first visit to a different continent. I was 19 – my youngest granddaughter, who is two, has already passed those milestones! The trip was a real eye-opener. We stayed with families, ex-pats working in the copper industry and, other than when we went to training and matches, that’s where we were advised to remain, for our own safety. We played against lads in bare feet who could kick the ball harder than most of us and, in the shanty towns surrounding the prosperous areas, I saw a level of poverty I could never have imagined. Difficult though it was, for many reasons, I would say it was the most memorable of all my trips abroad.
Of course, there were many more trips to follow, to some fantastic places and even to countries which were, at the time, restricted. East Germany stood out, our UEFA Cup game against Carl Zeiss of Jena. After going through the checkpoint between West and East Berlin, we were suddenly in a world where there seemed to be almost as many gun-carrying police as there were normal citizens. I can’t say I ever felt frightened in any way, but it was strange to have armed officers stationed around the pitch during the game.
I could carry on – there are so many things that have happened to me or that I have been involved in as a result of my signing for Wolves. The club has been a determining factor in my life for the last forty years.
So, what does Wolves mean to me? Memories – millions of them.