Dressing-Room Dressing-Down Haunts Gerry
Jim’s Gesture Softened Financial Blow
Gerry O’Hara has revealed how the intervention of the man dubbed ‘Hadleigh’ lifted him from the doldrums of a pre-Wembley skirmish in 1974.
The reserve midfielder was one of four Wolves youngsters carpeted by Bill McGarry after a night out in the build-up to the League Cup final against Manchester City turned sour.
But his spirits were raised by the generosity of a senior player who was going through disappointments of his own at the time.
“Some time after the lads beat Norwich in the semi-final, I recall being out at a supporters’ night in Cannock with Norman Bell, Sammy Wright and a Geordie left-back called Alan Niven, who was a good player and a lot like Scott Golbourne from the present Wolves side,” said the Wolverhampton-born 57-year-old.
“It was one of several meet-the-fans evenings the club arranged but there was some trouble when a chap there wondered why we couldn’t get him tickets for the final.
“Sammy Wright said he would be able to get some for him but added that they would cost more than face value. That didn’t go down well and things kicked off enough for the police to be called.
“Unfortunately, McGarry got to hear about it and had all of us reserves and apprentices lined up in the away dressing room to quiz us. He had a good idea what had happened and asked the players present to identify themselves.
“I stepped forward, so did Norman and eventually the four of us had owned up. He suspended the four of us and told us we were being fined a week’s wages. I was absolutely gutted and worried about what I was going to tell my mum and dad.
“I set off on foot to where we lived near West Park and was obviously looking down because Jim McCalliog stopped when he saw me and asked how I was.
“He seemed so sophisticated to all of us; always well dressed and looking the part in his sporty red Alfa Romeo Spider. Mike Bailey called him Hadleigh after a TV series of that name at the time featuring a suave character called Gerald Harper.
“Jim was great when I told him my news. He drove me home and, as he dropped me off at the door, reached into his pocket for a £20 note and told me just to pay him back when I could.
“He was having his own problems with McGarry by then and wasn’t chosen in the 12 for Wembley. In fact his last game for the club was at Old Trafford the week before the final and he joined Manchester United shortly afterwards.
“I didn’t get chance to repay him before he was transferred and it was about 12 months later when he returned to the town to see one of his mates and I could get out of his debt.
“I’ve never forgotten his kindness in bailing me out. He was more than just a very good player.”
O’Hara’s bit-part in the rumpus did not unduly impede his progress. He signed professional later that year, acquired some captaincy experience in a long career in the Molineux reserves and made the first of his 11 first-team appearances when playing in a winning side at home to Stoke in January, 1976.
Wright subsequently moved to Australia and received a generous mention in the recently published Frank Munro biography – written by Dave Wagstaffe.
Niven, a little older than O’Hara, also emigrated Down Under and enjoyed a fine career there, highlighted by the winning of more than a dozen Australian caps. He is reported to have died some years ago.
‘Hadleigh’ was made by Yorkshire Television, ran from 1969 to 1976 and attracted around 17 million viewers at its peak.