Festive Treat We Savoured For 12 Years
By John Richards
It’s the turn of Dave Wagstaffe to step on to the ‘hot spot’ in our popular Q & A area. As ever, the questions come both from Wolves Heroes and from members of Molineux Mix.
Q: I believe your arrival at Molineux was something of an eye-opener? (From JR)
A: I was sold by the Manchester City manager George Poyser, who had scouted for Wolves many years earlier. It was Boxing Day, 1964. I signed at 12 noon and played at 3pm! I’d brought my one pair of boots with me but went out on to the pitch before the game and it was rock-hard. It had iced up overnight and I didn’t have a rubber-soled pair with me. Joe Gardiner and Jack Dowen brought in this sack of old boots and tipped them on the floor in front of me. I ended up playing in a pair of old baseball boots. During the game (at home to Aston Villa), I kept wondering what I’d done, what sort of team had I signed for.
Q: What do you consider was your greatest performance? To help, the first time I saw you play was on TV highlights of a League Cup match v Spurs at Molineux in September, 1969. It was special. You were on a mission! I also recall your performance in a home game against Chelsea, with Osgood etc. (From Wagstaffe Was Magic)
A: I remember those Spurs and Chelsea games but I can think of one that was better. It was at West Bromwich Albion in the early 1970s. We beat them 4-2. I was up against John Kaye, who was normally a centre-half. Their usual right back was injured, so they switched John to play there. He was a very good player but not used to playing there and I was on song at the time. It’s always good to win at The Hawthorns!
Q: What was your favourite Wolves goal? I bet the 25-yard screamer v Arsenal is up there. You scored in the UEFA Cup final, too, for us against Spurs away – not a bad shot either! (From Reanswolf)
A: I have to agree. I think the one against Arsenal at Molineux was my best goal. I’d been over on the right in front of the North Bank to take a corner, which was cleared back out to me. I was approaching the edge of the box and cut inside on to my left foot and fired it into the top corner. We won 5-1, so it was a great result for us. Arsenal were one of the top teams at that time, so beating them so comfortably was quite a performance. The goal against Spurs in the UEFA Cup final was very similar but, of course, the outcome to the match was different.
Q: It was fantastic watching you play for Wolves and making mincemeat out of full-backs. Which opposing defender was the most difficult to play against? (From Berlin Wolf)
Q: Which defender was the most brutal in your time? (From Anglian Wolf)
A: There was a lad who played for Leicester, Steve Whitworth, and the right-back for Coventry, Mick Coop. Both really good players. They never dived in and always stood two or three yards off me. They didn’t commit to a tackle, which made it more difficult for me to go past them. Brutal? Most of them were! You expected a kicking and defenders taking away your legs. That’s the way it was in those days. Referees didn’t punish players. They were able to get away with tackles which nowadays would be seen as sending-off offences. I was watching the 1974 League Cup final tape the other day and Franny Lee hit Gary Pierce when he was up in the air. It was a dreadful challenge but the referee just waved play on. It was unbelievable. There were no restrictions.
Q: In THAT game against Leeds in 1972, the rumour was that a fix was in, and Bill McGarry read the riot act to the players before the game. What was going through your mind at the time? Did you think the fix was in? (From Singwolf_1)
A: I remember being frightened of making a mistake. McGarry had warned us that anyone involved in throwing the match would have him and the FA to answer to. Going into the game, there was the worry of bringing someone down in the penalty area. It was a frightening thought. There was one point when the ball bounced up in the area and hit Bernard Shaw on the hand. It was accidental and, fortunately, that’s how the referee saw it as well. It was ironic because Bernard was the one who brought the matter to the club’s attention because he was the player who had been approached. The whole situation actually made us more determined to win, plus there was the fact that we didn’t like Leeds United. I don’t think there were many people in football who did. I don’t mean the players – off the field, they were fine but, as a team, they were arrogant and nasty. We wanted to make sure they didn’t get the double.
Q: What was said in the dressing room at half-time in the Arsenal game that motivated the team to score five in the second half? (From Waggy’s Boots)
A: I can’t remember McGarry saying anything different to get the team motivated. He just did as he always did, rollicking players he felt were not doing what he wanted. We’d been playing well but not converting the chances. In the second half, the chances we created went in.
Q: In the 1974 League Cup final, what were your initial thoughts about having to leave the pitch at that crucial time? (From Burton Wolf)
A: I was carrying an injury that we had kept quiet about. I got injured on the Wednesday before the final. McGarry had us playing golf in the morning, with the promise that we would all be having a massage in the afternoon. In the golf, it was me and Mike Bailey against Sammy Chung and McGarry, and we beat them. We were sat on the coach waiting to go back to the hotel and McGarry was very quiet. When all the players were on, he stood up and said: ‘Everyone on the field at 2pm.’ ‘What about the massage?’ I asked. He just repeated that everyone should be on the field at 2pm. When we got out, he threw me a bag of balls and told me to knock them up to the front men. I pulled a muscle doing it. We didn’t do a warm-up or anything. I couldn’t believe it.
At Wembley, it was playing up and gradually got worse, and I came off with ten minutes to go. When I’m asked about the final, I say that, in some respects, it was the best day of my football life. But, in others, it was the worst because I didn’t do myself justice. I was up against Glyn Pardoe and always felt I had the beating of him but, on the day, I struggled kicking the ball.
Q: When playing at Molineux, were you aware of the crowd’s buzz of anticipation when you got the ball? (From Berlin Wolf)
A: It was a great feeling playing there. I always had this great rapport with the fans. There was this feeling of all of them being behind you. The crowd were very vocal and really gave me a lift.
Q: Do you think Bill McGarry’s strict, disciplined style of management was beneficial for you as a player and for Wolves in general? (From Beowulf)
A: His style of play didn’t suit me. I never gained any benefit from Bill McGarry at all. He never told me how he wanted me to play. He just left it up to me. Then, if I made a mistake, he’d argue that he had told me to do something else. It was difficult because I only knew one way of playing. He couldn’t make allowances for different types of player – not everyone was a natural runner like John McAlle or Derek Parkin, yet he expected all of us to be able to do the same training. There was one good example when Peter Withe was at Wolves and we went to Cannock Chase. Peter could run all day and he finished about ten minutes ahead of people like me and Frank Munro. McGarry gave us a rollicking, using Peter as the example of what we should be doing. Fair enough. That afternoon, we were back at Molineux, doing sprints along the side of the pitch and I happened to be partnered by Peter. In a sprint, I left him trailing by five yards. McGarry said nothing and I lost my temper. I asked McGarry why he hadn’t given Peter a rollicking for finishing well behind me. He just ignored me. He couldn’t see the point I was making.
Q: Wolves were within touching distance of greatness in the early 1970s. What, in your opinion, was the missing link for the side to have made the step-up from being a very good team to a great one? (From Beowulf)
A: For McGarry to give us a bit more freedom to play; something like the Leeds team who moved about and switched positions. Their defenders went on runs up front and other players filled in for them. We weren’t allowed to do that. We had a rigid formation. Ours was a regimented system and that held us back. It didn’t affect me a great deal, with being wide on the left, although there were times when I wandered over to the right and McGarry would shout at me to get back in position. It restricted us. With the players we had, we could beat anybody on our day – and we did. But we just lacked that flexibility and freedom to do it consistently.
Q: Unfortunately, you didn’t win an England cap. Is there any truth in the suggestion that Sir Alf wouldn’t pick you because you liked a beer and a fag? (From Fleet Wolf)
A: No, not at all. Don’t forget, there were a lot of players in those days who enjoyed a fag and a beer, and some of them were in the England squad. Sir Alf Ramsey actually spoke to me about not being selected for his England team. I was called up to play for the Football League team and he more or less told me that my inclusion wouldn’t be permanent, that he would be reverting to his preferred system, which was without wingers. He appreciated the fact that I’d made the effort to join the squad. I got called in because someone was injured. It was good to be in the team. Sir Alf was a very nice man and I respected the fact he took the time to explain his decision to me.
Q: I seem to recall Derek Dougan saying he had a bet with someone that you were able to cross the ball from the corner flag and land nine out of ten bang on the penalty spot. He got it wrong because you managed all ten! Was this true? (From Big Nosed Wolf)
A: No, nothing like that. The only similar bet I can remember was a challenge to Sammy Chung to knock a golf ball over the South Bank Stand from the dead-ball line at the North Bank end – and he did it first time. It frightens me now when I think about the ball landing in the Molineux Hotel car park.
Q: How did you get on with The Doog? (From JR)
A: Very well. Mike Bailey, him and me were the oldest in the team. We were together a long time and played in virtually every game together. On the pitch, he was quite awkward and, in some ways, didn’t look like a player. He wasn’t very elegant. If you had watched him during shooting sessions, and you didn’t know him, you’d say he wasn’t a footballer. He was long and ungainly, and quite weak at striking a ball. But he scored goals, caused all sorts of problems for defenders. He was good to have in your team.
Q: How do you think you, Doog and JR would get on in the Premiership these days? (From Waggy’s Boots)
A: No problem at all. The two of them would be able to fit in any kind of team.
Q: Who would get into the 1974 team from today’s squad? (From Waggy’s Boots)
A: Possibly the only one is Matt Jarvis. He’s a good player and I’d like to see him playing in a good team. Don’t forget: he has been in a struggling team and been defending more than attacking. It could be that he’ll move on now the club have been relegated and we’ll be able to see more of what he can do. The previous season, I would have said Kevin Doyle because he played really well but last season he was awful. Hennessey is a decent goalkeeper and could come into the reckoning but, realistically, none of the rest would be in with a shout of getting in.
Q: What are your thoughts about our four current wingers? (From Goldeneyed)
A: With Kightly, it was a shame he got that injury. He was on fire before that and looked ever so good. Since the injury, he has done all right playing on the right. Hunt is not a consideration; he’s too injury prone.
Q: How did you feel about the club’s relegation? (From JR)
A: I expected it and, in the end, I was glad. I’d rather them be a good Championship team than a bad Premier League team. It’s no fun knowing you’re going to some places and expecting a good hiding. For the fans, it will be a lot more exciting, knowing you’ve got a chance of going up. If they’d stayed up, they would only be making the numbers up, so what’s the point?
Q: Do you go to any of the games? (From JR)
A: Yes, I go regularly but I also know there are a lot of the former players who are just not interested. I know we get complimentary tickets but there is a difference when you go to other clubs. I was at the Manchester City away game last season and just going through one of the lounges when I was stopped and introduced to the supporters. I was then invited into the directors’ room for a drink; absolutely brilliant. I had a chat with Mike Summerbee, Joe Corrigan, Colin Bell – they were all ambassadors of the club. It’s done at a lot of clubs. At Molineux, you have to look really hard even to find any pictures of the 1970s team.
Q: Were you happy with your playing career or is there something you wished you’d done differently? Any regrets? (From JR)
A: Yes, there is, and I don’t really know how to put this. Just after I left Manchester City and came to Wolves, Joe Mercer and Malcolm Alison went to Maine Road and built a brilliant team who won the League in 1967-68. That was the last time they had won it before last season. I would have been part of that team. In saying that, I’ve had some success and I really enjoyed my time at Wolves. I wish I’d had the opportunity to play in that City team but you can’t have it both ways. It’s a case of ‘if only.’ In the end, it worked out well and I’m still here in Wolverhampton after nearly 50 years! Actually, there are lots of players from the 70s team still around here. There must be something about Wolverhampton.