Dennis A Menace In Stripes, Too

And Even Cloughie Felt The Force!

Dennis Wilshaw walks off proudly after his debut-day hat-trick against Newcastle in 1949.

It is well known that Dennis Wilshaw went on to become a prolific scorer for Stoke after his outstanding contribution at Molineux.

Also that he made a big success of his post-playing career as well by serving as a school teacher in his native Potteries and helping develop another generation of stars including Victoria Ground legends Denis Smith and Jackie Marsh.

But there are other aspects of the playing days he spent 45 minutes or so up the M6 that are probably nothing like as well known to our readers, such as how he got over his disappointment of never facing his former Wolves colleagues when in red and white stripes.

In a custom that is unrecognisable in today’s football, he still returned to Molineux twice to play for Stoke – in games that did not involve Wolves.

He made the killer second goal when the Potters ended Villa’s spell as FA Cup holders by beating them 2-0 in a third-round second replay there in January, 1958.

The same famous arena was used as a neutral venue when he hit a brace to settle a drawn-out fourth-round tie against Aldershot in 1961.

Those two visits back to these parts book-ended Wilshaw’s time with Stoke, the Villa tie falling a few weeks after he had called time on his outstanding Wolves career of 117 goals in 232 League and cup appearances.

And the joy of his match-winning role against Aldershot soon turned to sadness when Stoke’s trip to Newcastle in the next round brought him a badly broken leg that was to spell the end of his career.

It also created some unusual symmetry as it had been at home to the Geordies that Wilshaw marked his Wolves debut with a hat-trick in 1949.

Goals came at the same sort of rate for him at the Victoria Ground as they had at Molineux and he signed off in North Staffordshire with the excellent scoring record of exactly 50 in more than 100 games.

Now for something very unexpected…….gentleman Dennis is once reputed to have kicked Brian Clough up the backside during a game.

The incident came during a Stoke fixture against another set of north-east opponents, Middlesbrough, their tearaway young striker and all.

Wilshaw was still waiting to open his account for the club before this FA Cup fourth-round clash but delivered a hat-trick in a 3-1 win – and then the carefully aimed boot that had Clough, the game’s first scorer, turning round in a huff.

The new signing was then approaching his 32nd birthday and had been taken to the Potteries by Frank Taylor, a manager whose 57-game stay as a Wolves full-back had included his appearance in the 1939 FA Cup final defeat against Portsmouth.

Dennis Wilshaw (far right) threatens legendary Charlton keeper Sam Bartram during Wolves’ comfortable win at The Valley in September, 1954.

Stoke, who had signed Jack Short and Sammy Smyth from Molineux in the 1950s, became well known at the start of the following decade as a club who would provide a home for talented ageing players and the strong-man ex-Wolves duo of Eddie Clamp and Eddie Stuart were two of those taken on by Tony Waddington in that era.

But Wilshaw, who achieved English Schools Trophy glory in 1962 and 1963 with a Stoke-on-Trent squad who included Smith, Marsh and Bill Bentley, was more than just a component in the catch ’em old policy.

While on crutches and hobbling round the training ground following his broken leg, he recommended to Waddington that he should re-sign Stanley Matthews – and the wizard of the wing duly became a Stoke player again, helped them win promotion to the top flight and played on until past his 50th birthday.


Thomas Publications