A Post-Molineux Legend
Wolves Release Was The Catalyst
John Rutter comes from the same town as John Richards, has the same initials and is of a similar generation. As far as their Wolverhampton Wanderers careers go, though, they are chalk and cheese.
One went on to score 194 goals for the club in 486 matches; the other was given a free transfer in 1971-72 without kicking a ball in a senior game.
Rutter, restricted to the captaincy of the youth team and several seasons of Central League football, was able to go no further in first-team terms than two nights on the substitutes’ bench. He nevertheless has a rich story to tell and, at Stockport County, is an absolute legend.
He is the League One club’s third highest appearance maker of all time and followed up his 453 outings in their colours with no fewer than 20 years as their commercial manager. That’s quite a stint!
And his giant-sized imprint on Edgeley Park history, complete with Hall of Fame status, all came about because being shown the door by Bill McGarry did not shatter his youthful confidence.
Rutter had short spells with Bournemouth and Exeter before finding himself club-less again. His response, again, was to meet the challenge head-on rather than retreat and possibly consider a career outside the game.
“I literally drove around knocking on the doors of managers at about 20 clubs in the north-west,” he said. “Oldham, Blackpool, Bolton, Blackburn, Stockport…..there was a long list.
“I was soon offered trials by a couple of them purely because they admired my initiative and I opted for Stockport as they had a lad called Ian Holbrook who I could share lifts into training with.
“He was from Warrington as well, as were John Richards and Steve Kindon. I played in the same town team as Steve’s brother but didn’t know John then as he went to the grammar school and was a couple of years older than me.
“I was handed my debut in the second leg of a League Cup tie at Workington when the regular full-back Ian Buckley was injured – and I didn’t miss a game for four years.
“I played mainly at right-back or left-back and was lucky enough with injuries as to remain a regular for many years until I retired gracefully at 33 in 1986.
“Then I had six months with Barratt’s the builders before going back to Stockport as commercial manager. In that job, I organised sportsmen’s dinners, golf days and TV deals, and helped Dave Jones get a nice sponsored car when he was manager there.”
Rutter is now 56 and ‘getting my life back’ after football’s six-days-a-week demands. He works these days in the office solutions firm Egan Reid, which has County’s current chairman as its driving force.
But he reveals that it was his Molineux upbringing that lay behind his own fierce determination to succeed in and out of the game.
“I had four years there from 1968,” he adds, “the first two as an apprentice, and grew up with lads like Alan Sunderland, Barry Powell, Steve Daley, Peter Eastoe, Kevin Charlton, Doug Devlin and Micky Collins.
“I was an unused substitute for the second leg of the UEFA Cup game against Ferencvaros at Molineux and was also named in the side for a Texaco Cup game at Ipswich a few months later before Bill McGarry changed his mind and put Bernard Shaw back in.
“I had a go at him for that and paid the penalty for speaking my mind.
“My chances of breaking through ended there but McGarry was good enough to fix me up with a club when he freed me early from my Wolves contract.
“It is a big regret that I didn’t make it with them but I’m grateful for the discipline and the need to always give 100 per cent that he and Sammy Chung always drummed into us.
“Those qualities have served me well and I’m very proud of what I’ve done in my life, in football and now outside it.”