Tears And Surprises
Fitting Tribute To ‘Warrior’ Who Is An Inspiration To Us All
So now we know……the nickname ‘Iggy’ wasn’t the product of fertile dressing-room minds at all. Nor was it anything to do with the name Ian.
Mind you, there is a lot we are still learning about an inspiring, utterly courageous character.
Wolves Heroes’ final pre-Christmas piece should really have been written by Simon Dunkley. In many ways, it has been because it was his outstanding 30-minute eulogy that forms the backbone to this posthumous tribute.
He and the central subject of our thoughts yesterday were friends from the age of six and best mates to the end. “I classed him as my brother,” Dunkley told a full house at St James Church, Wollaston.
The Wolves year started with our farewells to Roy Swinbourne a few hundred yards away on the edge of Stourbridge town centre and draws towards an end with the toughest of send-offs; that of someone taken well before his time. Ian Cartwright was 52.
“I know I am not going to reach 70 but I wouldn’t mind seeing 45,” said the West Midlander at a fund-raising function in his honour at Wolverhampton’s Connaught Hotel in the early stages of his cancer battle.
The words were recalled by Doug Hope, a Wolves director in the Bhatti-Dougan era in which Iggy took his initial steps as a first-team player.
Thankfully, the outcome was much better than that. The tenacity Molineux regulars recognised from the midfielder’s playing days were matched in his post-football life by a determination to delay the final whistle for as long as possible.
“He did everything with a passion and a single-mindedness,” Simon said, referring at the same time to an ‘unforgiving illness’. “He regarded anything less than 100 per cent as not good enough.
“He was diagnosed in 2005 and said: ‘I will fight it and do everything possible to beat it’. We expected nothing less of this warrior. He was given the all-clear 12 months later but it returned nine months after that, more aggressively.”
In a man whose playing days had been ended at 22 by a seriously damaged ankle and whose follow-up career as an officer at Wormwood Scrubs prison was terminated before 30 by a head injury, there was no room for self-pity. “He crammed lots into his 52 years,” Simon told us.
There were numerous operations and The Doog supported efforts to persuade the NHS to provide him with the £3,000-a-month drug he needed. Without it, he was expected to last between two and five years. With it, he was looking at more than five years.
They failed in their mission but family and friends trawled the Internet and found this lifeline at half the cost. The pictures forming the slide show on the screen at the front of the church, dominated as they were by holiday snaps, showed that he savoured his remaining time to the limit.
Just as we were pleased yesterday to have others filling in some of the gaps in our grasp of the story, we are delighted now to share a few snippets our readers may not be familiar with.
Contrary to some reports, Cartwright was born in Birmingham, not Brierley Hill. But he died in an apartment next to the Merry Hill shopping centre that had been home for many years and he was essentially a Black Country boy. For reasons no-one can seem to explain, though, he was a childhood Leicester fan, so he will have cherished the Premier League title ending up at the King Power Stadium even more than most.
He grew up in Darby End, Netherton, and overcome a broken leg when only 14 to prompt John Barnwell to point his Jaguar in the direction of that tough estate in 1978. The deal should have been completed at Molineux but Fred Cartwright, the driving force behind the player, did not take kindly to the manager saying he was departing on a prior engagement and had to leave his only son in the company of Wolves’ youth development officer John Jarman. Fred insisted on the formalities being finalised by Barnwell, who therefore had to make an unscheduled trip across the Black Country to ensure Wolves secured the important signatures. All the West Midlands clubs, plus Arsenal and Oxford, had been on the same trail.
He had emerged via Crestwood Colts, the prolific local club whose other exports to League football included Ian Painter. Iggy was described by Dunkley as ‘the hardest kid in the school’ and was a champion or captain there in every sport he took part in.
Dunkley followed his mate to Wolves, in his case as a 16-year-old trialist, and needed help when an attack of nerves necessitated a visit to some town centre public conveniences and caused him to be late for training. Iggy was summoned to help get him to Cosford and was late in himself, although Jarman and Ian Ross ‘bought’ the dramatic excuse the two came up with.
Cartwright played in the Wolves side who reached the semi-final of the 1981-82 FA Youth Cup before losing to a John Barnes-inspired Watford.
The club were recognised at the time as excellent producers of young players and for giving them a clear path-way to the senior game. His first-team debut was from the bench in a defeat at Oldham in November of the surprise promotion triumph under Graham Hawkins and Jim Barron. His first start was in a 4-3 win at Crystal Palace and his first goal a week later when Middlesbrough were hammered 4-0 at Molineux.
He would play 16 times in the unhappy top-flight campaign that followed and was in and out for another couple of years after that, the last of his 61 appearances for the club coming in a snow-hit 1-1 Third Division draw at Walsall in February, 1986.
Barnwell had been told by Fred Cartwright on the visit to the family home: “Sit there by the wife….she likes you.” Tommy Docherty wasn’t as lucky. During some heated contract negotiations, Fred angrily chased the manager round his office until Ian jumped on his back and eventually calmed him.
Injury played a big part in the latter’s life and caused him to pull out of an invite to train with England Youths at Lilleshall. A call-up with the under-21s went the same way when he was suffering with a thigh problem.
His high pain threshold, no doubt very useful in recent years, meant he often played through injuries, with cortisone injections a part of his routine. Eventually, he was told it was all over after he was caught by a challenge from a trialist at Castlecroft.
In another diversion from what we may have read about him in the past, he didn’t play non-League football, except for ten minutes in a Sunday side. One big regret was that he didn’t even play for the Wolves All Stars.
He had the pleasure, though, of welcoming sons Danny and Matt into the world from his first marriage. The latter now stands at 6ft 5in. Danny was part of Wolves’ academy before going off to study at university.
His no 1 supporter and rock through the toughest of times was Julie, a ‘modern-day Florence Nightingale’ in Dunkley’s words. They married two years ago, when Ian was in pain and struggling to walk.
Iggy died on December 7, ten years to the week since 2,500 turned up at Tividale for a meeting of Wolves and Albion legends in his benefit. The turn-out was large again yesterday. Among the personnel he knew from Molineux were Barron, Neil Edwards, Phil Parkes, Mel Eves, Dale Rudge, Jon Purdie, Phil Nicholls plus Hope, former physio Dennis Conyerd and The Doog’s long-time partner, Merlin – further confirmation that the bond with London Wolves was very strong.
It was difficult not to be touched by the choice of Matt Monro’s The Impossible Dream as entrance music. And that eulogy…. wow! If any funeral service tribute deserved the ovation it received, that one did. Mr and Mrs Cartwright Snr must have been filled with pride as well as racked with grief.
Finally, back to the nickname. ‘Iggy’ stuck after his school was visited by an employee from Dudley Zoo, armed with an iguana. As befitting his status, Ian held the creature longer than most. It was as simple as that.