A Blooming Good Time!
Eventful Career Of Lad Cullis Rejected
He never played in Wolves’ first team and admits his young heart was broken when Stan Cullis showed him the door.
But, by being chauffeured into training as a Blackpool youngster by Stanley Matthews and helping put Manchester City’s team of champions in the shade during one of his countless trips to the USA, Graham Newton can point to a very colourful life in football.
“I was distraught walking up Molineux Alley after Wolves let me go,” the 68-year-old says. “I’m from Bilston, a lifelong Wolves fan, and was a similar age to Terry Wharton, John Galley and Alan Hinton.
“My uncle had persuaded George Noakes to give me a chance and I could always score goals. I played in most of the seven teams the club put out and it was quite an event when Stan pinned the teams up in the home dressing room on a Thursday.
“I’ve still got championship medals somewhere from the Worcestershire Combination, Birmingham League and Wolverhampton Amateur League from that season in the late 1950s when the club won everything.
“A year or two later, I scored something like 14 goals in six matches at Castlecroft over seven days at the end of a season and we all had to go to see Stan on the following Monday.
“John Galley was among the lads who went in before me to be signed as a professional. Terry and Alan were already signed up and I assumed I’d be taken on as well. But Stan told me he had enough forwards and was releasing me.
“My dad tried to lift my spirits by telling me I’d be okay and, within a fortnight, Blackpool came in and gave me a month’s trial – and a contract pretty soon after that.”
Newton, who now makes a living through the knowledge he gained from the floristry business run by his then-in-laws’ early in his playing days, lasted only ten months at Bloomfield Road, then a year and a half at Walsall and considerably less at Coventry.
The goals still flowed, though…..so do the anecdotes.
“Blackpool were managed by Ronnie Suart and had players like Bill Perry, Ray Charnley, Tony Waiters, Gordon West and Jimmy Armfield,” he added.
“I played alongside Alan Ball when he was given his first game for the club – against Everton’s third team in Stanley Park.
“I never played with Stanley Matthews but I used to catch the bus in from near Squires Gate with two Scottish lads I’m still in touch with and he would sometimes pick us up at the bus stop in his big Austin.
“I only got as far as Blackpool’s reserves and think I got a bit homesick. Bill Moore brought me back to Walsall, where I had my first taste of first-team football.
“My debut was against Chelsea, with Peter Bonetti in goal, and I scored 12 goals in 34 games, as well as loads in the reserves.
“I did well in the Second Division and we came to the last game of the season needing only a point at home to Charlton to stay up. We were all over them but the game was abandoned at half-time because of waterlogging with the scores level.
“When it was rearranged, Alan Boswell had to go off with a depressed cheekbone, Granville Palin went in goal, and I hobbled around on the wing with a broken ankle because there were no substitutes. We lost 2-1.
“My trouble was that I probably knew everything. I was a bit trappy and didn’t get on with Bill Moore’s replacement, Alf Wood. I headed our goal of the season in an FA Cup defeat at Southport, then moved, out of the blue, to Coventry soon after I had played my last Walsall game at Highfield Road and hit the post a couple of times.
“Jimmy Hill and Arthur Cox were in charge and I loved it. They were going for promotion from the Third Division and attracted big crowds.
“I had a decent scoring record, although I only played about ten games, and went with them to South Africa for three weeks in the summer and to Poland. We even went to Iceland to train and play a couple of times when the weather was bad at home!
“When I joined Bournemouth, I held out for a £2,000 signing fee and bought a brand new Triumph Vitesse out of it. Most of my Wolves mates were driving round in Morris Minors and Norman Deeley had a van! I suppose that showed you could be better off financially changing clubs.
“I was playing half-back by now because I’d put some weight on and also had a sciatic problem that kept me out for months.
“I was just about to join Bristol Rovers and pocket another £2,000 when I got back to my mom’s house and found Phil Woosnam and Vic Crowe there.
“I’d met Phil at Bisham Abbey on a course and he invited me to the restaurant above the Odeon Cinema in Birmingham for a meeting.
“He offered single lads like me $18,000 (about £12,000) for going with him to Atlanta Chiefs for a season. I was punching the air running down New Street after the meeting because I was only on £3,000 in England. I got married the following month.
“Mind you, when we got out there, we found players such as the West Ham keeper Jim Standen were meant to be on $30,000 in Detroit!
“Peter McParland was at Atlanta as well and I loved it. I came back to England and did well in a few games for Gordon Lee at Port Vale but it was the happiest call of my life when Vic asked me to go back to Atlanta.
“I’d got my weight down again and we won the NASL Championship and played Manchester City twice in 1968 when they were champions. We beat them twice and I scored each time.
“The trips gave me the taste for America and I’ve been fortunate to go back many times to coach, even in the last few years.
“I must have been 70 or 80 times in all and hope to be able to go back again in the future.”
What with many years in non-League football with the likes of Worcester, Stourbridge, Willenhall and Hednesford, Newton’s football story is a rich one.
Drop in on him at Perton on Fridays and Saturdays and he will rustle up an anecdote or two in no time!