A Ford Without The Necessary Drive
Forward Admits: ‘I Lacked Hunger ‘
‘Dream debut for Wolves 19-year-old’ read the main headline on the back page of the Express & Star on Friday, August 21, 1964.
Alas, the exciting build-up fell a little flat for a lad snatched from under the noses of Albion.
Oldbury-born Clive Ford, a member of the Wolves squad who reached the final of the FA Youth Cup in 1961-62 and a regular in the reserve side in 1963-64, played only twice in the club’s senior team and now admits he didn’t quite have what it took in terms of mental make-up.
“I don’t think there was any worry about my ability but I wasn’t hungry enough,” he says more than four and a half decades on.
“I loved playing but, when we went to Aldersley on Tuesdays and Thursdays for circuit training, it was a nightmare for me. I wasn’t mentally cut out to be a professional footballer.
“I was into late nights and enjoyed gambling, although I have never drunk. I was a smoker, so I wasn’t a great trainer and I didn’t like it.
“Peter Knowles stayed for a while at our place in Hateley Heath, West Bromwich, and you might have thought we’d really get on. But he was an early bird and would catch the number 90 bus to Wolverhampton to go and play golf. I was out half the night doing my things, so we didn’t really mix.
“We signed pro on the same day in 1962 and, as we walked out of the office, Peter said to me: ‘Think of the money I can save now.’ My thoughts were slightly different – along the lines of: ‘Think of the money I can spend.’”
Ford, a boyhood Baggies fan, had been discovered by Wolves playing for West Bromwich schoolboys and turned out on the wing at home to Chelsea in the first match of Stan Cullis’s last season as manager after Dick Le Flem was ruled out with jaundice.
Chelsea, having had the better of that summer’s series of friendly matches against Wolves in the Caribbean, wore what Phil Morgan in the Star called ‘a gay all blue strip’ and were two up in 16 minutes, running out 3-0 winners as Bobby Tambling scored twice. Ford had a difficult time against Ken Shellito but still brought two saves from Peter Bonetti.
The new boy was sidelined for the 3-2 midweek defeat at Leicester as Knowles came in and scored but he played again on September 26, this time for a manager-less side in a 2-0 defeat at Sheffield Wednesday, where he missed the side’s best chance after only five minutes.
His route back into the team was made harder the following week when Paddy Buckley was given his debut at home to Birmingham, the 2-0 defeat underlining that Wolves were heading for a relegation scrap.
“I had two games for Wolves and suffered two injuries,” the 65-year-old added. “I broke a rib against Chelsea when I went up for a header and Terry Wharton caught my thigh, causing me to land heavily.
“Then I tore my groin muscle at Sheffield Wednesday. That injury has plagued me to this day.
“I was centre-forward at Hillsborough and loved playing in that position. It’s the one I mostly filled later in my career, especially at Lincoln.
“That was my happiest time as a player because I was married and a lot more sensible by then. I scored approaching 20 goals for Lincoln, including what were meant to have been the two fastest ever scored at the start of a game – against Bradford Park Avenue in 1967.”
Ford had had a spell at Walsall by then as well, moving there from Wolves in December, 1964, and making 15 Saddlers appearances. It might have been more but for a certain future England striker.
“I once scored four in a mid-season friendly against a team from Switzerland called St Gallen but Allan Clarke recovered from injury for the following League game and I was left out again,” he reflects.
“I left Walsall in February, 1967, for Lincoln and spent one and a half years there before going to the USA on Independence Day in 1968 and playing for Los Angeles Wolves the year after Ronnie Allen’s side had done so well out there.”
Ford now lives with his second wife in St Bees, the tiny Cumbrian village that serves as the starting point on the west side for the Coast To Coast walk.
They have worked in foster care for the last 15 years, Clive having followed service at the end of his career with the two Cambridge clubs, plus Blakenall and Hednesford, by making a living from playing cards on the local club circuit.
More conventionally, he has run two boarding houses and set up a steel erecting firm and was flattered that – through the ‘detective work’ of Charles Bamforth – we tracked him down before he dropped in on Shropshire for his nephew’s recent wedding.
“I have had no contact with any of my old football mates in 35 years,” Ford admitted. “That’s much to my chagrin. I am not the type to auger fame and found it hard to cope on the few occasions it came my way.
“Reading this site has brought back so many truly happy memories because I have searched in the past to try and locate some of my old colleagues. The waves of nostalgia are quite intoxicating.”