City Hall Of Famer Saw Molineux Door Ajar
Opportunity Knocked For Record-Breaking Icon
By David Instone
Long before Michael Oakes arrived at Molineux as the man who would eventually end Mike Stowell’s lengthy monopoly of the goalkeeper jersey, Wolves fans might have come to know another man of the same surname.
On the very day recently that 44-year-old Michael made plans to take his partner into hospital in preparation to give birth to their second child, I found myself at the Cheshire home of his father, Alan, and learning that he, too, could well have signed here.
Oakes Snr achieved immortality as Manchester City’s all-time record appearance maker but quickly illuminated our chat with the surprise revelation that he was a boyhood Wolves fan who had what might have been viewed as the dream chance of signing in the West Midlands.
“Yes, I could have joined them,” the former wing-half said. “I went down there for talks with Stan Cullis in about 1955 when they were top of the pile and were known all over the country for beating Honved, Spartak and Dynamo under their new floodlights.
“That’s how they grew on me. They were my team and I assume someone from Molineux saw me playing in boys football up here in Cheshire, where I am from.
“We were invited for talks with Stan in his office but we found him quite intense if I am being honest. I remember Jimmy Murray coming up to play for City towards the end of his career and he told me he found it strange for a manager to sweat so much during games that he would need a shower afterwards.
“I had quite a few other clubs interested, like Manchester United, Stoke, Blackpool, Bolton and West Brom, but Manchester City were always keen as well and said they were prepared to wait for me to finish my school education.
“Obviously I made the right decision as I had so many happy years there. I loved playing football but I got to Wolves eventually in the sense that I went to watch quite a few games there when our Michael was playing for them.”
Oakes played an incredible 680 League and cup games for City, the last of them from the bench in the League derby at neighbours United a few weeks after the 1976 League Cup final victory against Newcastle had brought him his final major honour.
He had sat out the 1974 Wembley defeat at the hands of Wolves as an unused substitute but also won the League Championship, FA Cup, European Cup Winners Cup, Charity Shield and another League Cup, this time at the expense of Albion in 1970.
Our conversation, based around his kindness in agreeing to an autograph signing session, also had its sad moments.
Alan, now 75 and still resident not far from his Winsford birthplace, was able to reel off the names of any number of Wolves players from the era in which they reigned supreme.
And that meant he was not aware of which of them had passed away over the decade or so since Michael left Molineux, although he knew we had lost Dave Wagstaffe, a long-time team-mate of his who he was surprised to see sold to Wolves at Christmas, 1964.
The other names on the list saddened him……Barry Stobart (another Maine Road colleague) and Eddie Clamp among them.
Clearly, his interest and affection and interest in Wolverhampton Wanderers is lifelong.