‘Dodger’ In Spotlight Of Fly-On-The-Wall Study
A trip to face Merseyside opposition in Derek Ryan’s day could only have meant taking on Tranmere.
And a meeting with a side from Greater Manchester was likely to have been a clash with Stockport and definitely not one with the team of reigning Premier League champions who Wolves have now beaten home and away in the space of two and a half months.
Times were very different when the Irishman was making his way as a youngster at Molineux in the mid-1980s.
As if we didn’t remember it or didn’t know it, a YouTube record of an old TV documentary provides a reminder of the depths to which the club had sunk.
The 30-minute piece, called Moment Of Truth, was recorded early in the one-season reign of Tommy Docherty, whose penchant for wisecracks was to the fore more than once.
“You will be paid weekly……..very weakly,” he tells one new recruit. To another, who asks what would happen if he broke a leg, the manager says: “We would put it in plaster.”
Ryan and fellow forward Steve Blackwell are the main characters, though, filming taking place in the autumn at a time when they are sweating on having their apprenticeships upgraded to professional contracts.
Much of the footage is shot at Castlecroft, with Frank Upton initially in charge of the young players and then Greg Fellows installed after football’s ruthless side is underlined by the sacking of the former Chelsea man.
There are also clips of a reserve team defeat at Scunthorpe’s Old Show Ground and of a 6-0 friendly thrashing for many of the same hopefuls at the hands of Shrewsbury at the training ground.
Ryan, who is briefly spoken to on the Molineux bench by a reporter before going on as substitute for his debut in the 2-2 draw against Sheffield United at the start of 1984-85, is also filmed at his lodgings.
He flickered as a first-team player after being taken on, a famous brace in an unlikely top v bottom draw at Reading proving the highlight of a first-team career spanning 40 games and five goals.
Johnny Phillips’s recently published book, Bitten By Wolves, tells us that ‘Dodger’ headed to Australia for 18 months after being released and played part-time in Sydney while working in a sports shop.
His professional career was over in his early 20s and any playing he did back in his native Ireland from that point was for fun only.
Blackwell was also taken on by Wolves professionally but did not see out his contract.
We found the old BBC film, at Johnny Phillips’s suggestion, by putting the names of the two players into the YouTube search engine.