Botham, McClaren And DJ In Midfielder’s Varied Past
The name ‘Moss’ was prominent on Wolves’ payroll in the 1970s…..partly because there were two of them. Charles Bamforth kicks off his two-part series on these Molineux brothers by talking to the one who had to wait for moves elsewhere for his initial taste of first-team football.
His headmaster was decidedly unhappy. He wanted as many students as possible to be heading to university. But Paul Moss was quite certain: he wanted to be a footballer.
And for a goodly while, that looked as if it was going to be in Everton blue. It was home sickness that brought him to Wolverhampton Wanderers.
“I was born in King’s Norton and attended the Grammar School,” Paul said. “I played for the school, always as a central or right-sided midfielder, and also for the Northfield Town youth side, alongside Colin Brazier.
“We played against a Wolves side and they took an interest in both Colin and I. However, I had made my mind up that I was going to Goodison Park and, instead of playing for the school, I would play in their B team in the Lancashire League Division Two on a Saturday morning.
“One of my team-mates was Dave Jones, who, of course, went on to manage the Wolves. I really didn’t enjoy living in Liverpool, so I called the Wolves and they took me on as a non-contract player for the first year.
“Being a year younger than Colin, I was still eligible for the youth team, although he was too old. I stayed on into the sixth form as I was determined to complete my A levels, which I did in English Literature, French, Latin and General Studies.
“But I did not accept the offer of a place from Birmingham University and eventually I signed professional form at Molineux close to my 19th birthday in 1976.
“All of us young players were sitting in the dressing room to be summoned one-by-one by Bill McGarry. Were we going to get a contract or be released? I was fortunate to be offered a two-year deal. You didn’t negotiate. You just looked up, nodded and took it.
“There were 40 professionals at that time and it was really difficult to get into the reserve team. The club had all those internationals, some of them in the Central League side recovering from injury and the like.
“We did well in the FA Youth Cup in 1975-76, getting to the final, but in the following season I was approaching 20 and starting to get impatient.
“I had quite a few games in the second team but Martin Patching from that youth side was getting his first-team chance and I was eager to get in there myself. Remember, though, that we had Mike Bailey, Kenny Hibbitt, Willie Carr and Peter Daniel on the books.
“The coaches took me to one side and wondered if I would switch to right-back to back up Geoff Palmer. I agreed and played every game in the Central League that season.
“Brian Garvey even gave me an award at the end of it. But on the few occasions Geoff was absent, they always reshuffled the back four and I wasn’t brought in.
“The next season, I decided I wanted to get back into midfield and fight for a place from there. I made it on to the bench a couple of times but then fractured a couple of metatarsals and was out for 11 weeks.
“In the game I returned in, I did the same thing. It was very frustrating, particularly having had a very successful tour with the first team to Norway in 1978.”
Moss didn’t make a single League or cup appearance in Wolves’ first team but totalled more than 100 matches for the two clubs who followed.
“I went to Hull on loan and had a really good couple of months,” he said. “John Barnwell came in as manager at Molineux and the first time he saw me play was in a Hull jersey. He spoke to me afterwards, told me I was the best player on the pitch and that he wanted me to sign a new contract at Wolves. But I knew it would be back to the reserves and I’d had enough of that, so I agreed to a transfer to Hull in September, 1979.”
The transfer fee leading to the three-year contract was £50,000, a considerable sum in those days for someone with such limited Football League experience but Paul Moss repaid his Boothferry Park employers well as a goal-scoring midfielder.
In his time at Hull, he shared digs with Steve McClaren and added: “We used to play Scrabble on a Friday evening – I used to beat him, of course! The glamorous life of a professional footballer….
“I liked the manager Ken Houghton but he was replaced by the old Wales manager, Mike Smith, with whom I did not get on at all. He just wanted workhorses to get out of the division.
“I fell out big time with his assistant, Cyril Lea, in training one day, when a drill in which I was teamed up with Brian Marwood did not go according to the coach’s expectations.
“I guess I was a bit of a thinker and if I disagreed with tactics, I would say so. That was not always the best career move. Lea made me train with the kids for a couple of weeks.
“It was around this time I started to think about what life would hold after my playing days. John Duncan at Scunthorpe came in for me and I had a good season there in 1981-82.
“Ian Botham was a team-mate. They made me captain and I won player of the season. They wanted to re-sign me but I was determined to go part-time and did not want to live permanently on Humberside.
“I approached Nobby Clark at Worcester. I hadn’t known it but they had been sniffing around before I went to Hull. Now it would work and I had five great seasons there while I also studied for my accountancy degree with City of Birmingham University.
“I qualified in 1989 and have been in finance ever since – for 20 years, in private equity. These days, I am finance director for Eden Futures, which is dedicated to helping people with disabilities.
“The ironic thing is that when I went to Worcester, I was better off than when I played full-time, what with the day job as well as the wage from City. I loved it at St George’s Lane, playing up front.”
Julian Pugh, historian of the club, offers: “Paul is certainly a legend here at Worcester and, for me, one of the best players I’ve seen at our level.
“He joined us in the summer of 1982 and went on to give City four and a half excellent seasons with many memorable goals. He relished the opportunity to play against various Football League clubs in the FA Cup and scored the goals that defeated Wrexham in 1982-83 and Aldershot in 1983-84.
“He made 213 appearances for City and scored 105 goals. The first three seasons were spent playing in what is now known as the Conference, followed by one more season in the Southern League after we were relegated in 1984-85.”
After that Wrexham game, Paul was hurried straight off to a BBC van to talk to a radio reporter by the name of Des Lynam.
Paul Moss, who lives in the Solihull area at Hollywood, has one more Wolves tale to tell.
“Before my current position, I was finance director for LM Funerals Ltd, the UK’s third largest group of funeral directors. One of our companies was Jennings in Wolverhampton and I was based there, where my secretary was a massive Wolves fan who idolised Kenny Hibbitt.
“This was around 2008 and many years after I had played for the club with Kenny. But I got in touch with him to ask if he would sign a birthday card for her.
“As soon as he picked up the phone, we got chatting and went on non-stop. The years just fell away. All the old dressing room banter started to flow. He was good as gold and signed the card. That made my secretary’s birthday.”