Dear Diary, Entry 18
When Times Were Somewhat Better…….
An elegant celebration of Wolves’ glorious past, lengthy interviews with Wolves players, a hand in a possible reunion of old mates and a chance meeting with one of the Academy graduates on the Premier League stage…….our month has had a bit of everything.
Thursday, January 17: As tough as it currently is watching the present-day Wolves trying to escape the Championship’s lower reaches, another reminder of the club’s glorious past was provided at the 2013 Hall of Fame dinner tonight. What a quality occasion! Nice to have chance for a chat with the likes of John McAlle, Phil Parkes, Dave Wagstaffe and Robbie Dennison and to reminisce again over some quality footage on the big screens in the Hayward Suite. A word, too, about the guys from London Wolves and their unbelievable backing. Not only did they buy a table and squeeze in an afternoon visit round the Molineux Museum, they were keeping an anxious eye on the heavy snowfall and wondering whether Saturday’s game at Sheffield Wednesday will be on.
Saturday, January 19: Had a couple of copies of issue 26 of Backpass sent to John Richards, who was flattered to find his photograph adorning its front cover. We had the pleasure of conducting a question-and-answer feature with Wolves’ former record goalscorer, who was chuffed to spot a photo of one of his old Round Table colleagues – himself briefly a player at Scunthorpe in Kevin Keegan’s time – on another page. True to form, Wolves Heroes’ co-owner thought it would be a nice idea to write to the thriving magazine to point out the connection.
Tuesday, January 22: Interviewed Alan Ainscow by phone at his home near Southport for a feature in the programme for Wolves’ home game against Blackpool this Saturday. The midfielder was one of the brighter lights of Molineux’s darkest days in the mid-1980s and was good for a few stories about the likes of Andy King, Steve Stoutt, Tony Evans and Tommy Docherty. The feature also has to reflect the player’s time with the day’s visitors and Alan didn’t disappoint in describing how the Seasiders’ Anglo Italian Cup success had played a big part in his formative days in the game.
Saturday, January 26: Still on a Blackpool theme, was delighted to get the go-ahead from Bill Slater – via his daughter Barbara – to put him in contact with the historians at Bloomfield Road who are setting up a Former Players Association there for the first time. Met up with one of them on his visit to Molineux this afternoon and would love to hear more some time about how Bill played in the 1951 FA Cup final for them as an amateur in the defeat against Newcastle. The man himself once told me how he had sunk, quietly and unrecognised, into his seat in the railway carriage he shared with celebrating Geordie fans as he was heading straight back after the game to Leeds, where he was on a physical education course.
Tuesday, January 29: Renewed acquaintances for the first time in many years with Keith Andrews, who, while sidelined at Bolton with a thigh injury, is putting some bricks in place for a possible post-playing career in the media. He was at Aston Villa tonight to summarise with Pat Murphy on BBC 5 Live on the Premier League game with Newcastle – an assignment that is by no means a one-off. It seems Keith, who is also a columnist in the Cork-based Irish Examiner, might have been kept on at Albion last summer had Roy Hodgson remained in charge there. On an evening when Brian Little was also in the press room before kick-off as he was working for Sky Sports, also had a quick meeting with the Express & Star’s former Wolves correspondent Mark Douglas – now based in the north-east and following Newcastle’s travels round the country.
Friday, February 1: Took another stroll past the old club shop at Molineux to view the brick we helped organise in memory of Wolves Heroes’ good friend, Jim Heath. It’s next to the ones in tribute to referee Jack Taylor and to John Lansley, the father of author and Wolves-supporting Times sports writer Peter Lansley not far from the corner of the Billy Wright and Stan Cullis Stands.
Sunday, February 3: It’s always gratifying when we can play a part in reconnecting Wolves pals of decades ago and now we wait to see whether Alan Hinton and Ken Sill might just plan their first meeting in several decades. The two were groundstaff colleagues and good mates at Molineux more than half a century ago but have re-established contact this winter after Ken approached us following a Hinton-based Google search in December and was subsequently featured by us on January 2. Alan, of course, lives in Seattle these days and has sent a long email from which we are happy to quote the following excerpts: “Ken…….so happy you are having a good life. You were one of my best mates when we were at Wolves together from 1957. I can remember you so well. You always dressed smartly and were so proud, like me, to be a Wolves player. No cars in those days….I came from Wednesbury and I think you came from Birmingham by train. Cleaning that South Bank at Wolves is still my biggest nightmare. It took one and a half days, I think. Singing, sweeping – it was all so much fun. So lovely to chat after so many years because good memories remain. You take care. Best Regards, Alan. PS I tend to visit the UK once a year and would love to see you.
Tuesday, February 12: Made sure a copy of Saturday’s Wolves v Leeds programme has been sent on to Mike O’Grady, who we interviewed last week in a ‘he played for both sides’ article. I’ve never met Mike but he’s unfailingly helpful and interesting, always eager to know what his old Molineux mates are up to. And it doesn’t half help the conversation and words flow when players have such a good memory for names as he has.