A Close-Up On Europe
But Mick’s View Was Not The Happiest
Of all the players who have represented Wolves in European competition, Mick Kearns would be well down the list of those who spring to mind.
His duty was only as an unused substitute and even that involvement barely seems to warrant a mention in the record books.
Both the Wolves Complete Record and John Shipley’s Wolves Against The World publication went only to the trouble of naming the players sent on from the bench in the two-leg tie against PSV Eindhoven in 1980 that was part of Kearns’ stay at Molineux.
So we know that Wayne Clarke went on in the away first leg in Holland and Hugh Atkinson and Colin Brazier were introduced for the return as John Barnwell’s side were eliminated by the odd goal.
But there were no mentions of who initially kept them company, nor are there any photos of the players on the sidelines, such as the ones transmitted from the ties in Jena and Turin in the run to the 1971-71 UEFA final.
“I can’t remember much about it either to be honest,” said the keeper when we caught up with him this week.
“It doesn’t surprise me at all that Colin was on the bench because he was so versatile that he was a natural as a possible replacement.
“He was on the bench when we went to Wembley for the League Cup final against Forest and I played plenty of games behind him when we were at Walsall together a few years later.
“But, beyond remembering that I went to Holland and was among the subs for both legs, I don’t have many recollections of the occasion.
“It was unusual for me to be on the bench as there was generally just one sub in those days and it was only in something like the UEFA Cup that five were named.
“Apart from when I made my debut at home to Watford in the fifth round of the FA Cup and later had a run in Wolves’ first team at each of the two seasons I was there, I hardly travelled with the squad.
“I would usually have been with the reserves on a Saturday – clubs didn’t travel with big squads at that time.”
Kearns’s Wolves stay from 1979 to 1982 came at the height of Paul Bradshaw’s highly impressive occupation of the no 1 position and it was the former England under-21 man who kept goal against PSV.
So, as curious as he was about what proved to be his only brief taste of European club competition, Kearns admits the double Dutch date hardly provided memories that have lingered.
“Although my heart naturally lies with Walsall because of all the years I spent there on and off the pitch, I was still proud to have a spell as a First Division player,” he added.
“It was a sizeable step up and I suppose the highlight was saving a penalty from Peter Barnes in a draw at Albion on my Division One debut.
“I know that game against Watford, who were managed by Graham Taylor, was not a very happy one for me.
“Without being injured or anything, I hadn’t played for around a month – presumably because of postponements – and felt very rusty when I stepped in for Braddy.
“I know one of the goals was down to me. I charged out of the area for a ball I didn’t get and put that down to my judgement not being at its sharpest.
“Unless money or appearance payments came into it, I would rather have played Central League games as I did rather than travel to sit on the bench for the first team.
“I recall facing Ian Rush in one game against Liverpool’s reserves and it was a good standard of football.
“Of course I would like to have played more for Wolves but going to Wembley and being involved in Europe were significant achievements looking back.”
Mick, who turns 70 next year, did not travel to the home of tonight’s Molineux visitors but, in the winning of his 18 Republic of Ireland caps, did go to Prague as part of a squad to play the country then known as Czechoslovakia.