Priceless Memories Of Much-Loved Keeper
For those who had any doubts at all about the wacky, weird world of John Burridge, a read of his autobiography will do the trick.
The life story brought out by the former Wolves Player of the Year is laugh-out-loud stuff…..hugely entertaining and candid.
What it also shows, though, is that the keeper capers were only part of the package. Budgie was totally devoted to his trade and also appears to have been highly driven in getting what he wanted.
No-one who plays for 29 clubs in 30 years can be said to have allowed the grass to grow under their feet but there is a strong theme throughout of a man who signs, falls in love with the place, has a barney with the manager over what he thinks he’s worth, falls out of love and moves on.
His Molineux stay from 1982 to 1984 included ever-present status in the first season (the unlikely promotion under Graham Hawkins) and then a dip in form which contributed to Paul Bradshaw taking his place in the top flight.
It was then that Budgie made a none-too-subtle point by inviting the Express & Star round to take a picture of him with all of his Player of the Year trophies from the previous summer.
He couldn’t have been easy to manage but the caring side that has also led to a lengthy career in coaching surfaced in his support of a young pretender to his throne, Tim Flowers.
“I had taken him under my wing and worked with him since he was 16,” the author writes. “He used to travel from Coventry every day and I would give him lifts to and from our reserve games, let him have a quick nap at our house before he played, give him some egg and toast and a cup of tea, then go to watch him play.”
Burridge, who was signed by Hawkins in the face of strong interest from Coventry manager Gerry Francis, added of his Wolves stay: “I really loved the fans. When I wasn’t playing, I would pay my way into the game and watch with the crowd.”
Now 60 and working on TV in the Middle East, the Workington-born keeper has emerged from a spell of depression in which he admitted he had suicidal tendencies.
He remains the Premier League’s oldest ever player and his appearance on loan for Manchester City against his parent club Newcastle is well worth the read for the fall-out involving Kevin Keegan.
So is his relationship with Andy Gray, one that began at Aston Villa and blossomed further at Wolves. Burridge’s first impressions of him in the mid-1970s were: “He’s a cracking lad but Villa have got themselves a bit of a dud here.”
His opinion rapidly rose and he now says of the Scot: “He is one of the best players I ever played with. If I had to go to war and could take only one man, it would be him. He was an absolute warrior and will always be like a brother to me.”
This being a piece about a John Burridge book, how could we not finish on a humorous note? The man who donned a Superman outfit at Molineux, had his wife throw oranges at him in the lounge to sharpen his reflexes and accused a 16-year-old Alan Shearer of ‘playing like a woman,’ once avoided signing for Arthur Cox by climbing out of his office window to escape. Great stuff!
‘Budgie’ is published by John Blake and costs £16.99.