Victory At Last In Name Game
It doesn’t take a lockdown to drive Charles Bamforth into the archives or for him to be fascinated by the Molineux minutiae. He has always been that way inclined…..
When I was a youngster, I would spend hours on end poring over my stack of Wolves programmes. My favourite feature was “Wolves Matches and Teams”, which was on the next-to-last page and in which the teams were set out from the previous week’s games from the first through to the fourth team.
I must sound like a real nerd when I say I can still remember names from the 1960s line-ups: Murchington and Salmon and Holder and Avery and many more, that I would see in the Worcestershire Combination side – otherwise known as the B team or fourth team.
Of course, if a player signed as an apprentice or a full-time professional, we would find out much more about them: at the very least, where they were born, their height and their weight. But, for the many who flitted in and out of third and fourth-team contention, it was frequently nothing more than a recognition of their surname.
Which brings me to a photograph of the Wolves squad; one published before their FA Cup tie against Everton early in 1967. It was clearly the full squad photo that will have been taken pre-season.
It is so nostalgic for me looking at it. I have met and/or interviewed a substantial number of these men – Terry Wharton, Brian Thompson, John McAlle, Alun Evans, Dave Galvin, Les Wilson, John Holsgrove, Evan Williams, Fred Davies, Dave Maclaren, Phil Parkes, Gerry Taylor, David Cooke, Mike Bailey, Peter Knowles, Joe Wilson, Ron Flowers and Roger Grice.
I was 14 when it was taken, still living near Wigan, and it would have been too much to dream of, in particular being in regular contact with my friends Les Wilson, Brian Thompson and David Cooke.
But when I first saw this photo, which I think Les sent to David Instone and I several years ago, there were two names I had simply never heard before. I would have thought it impossible, being completely retentive with the names of pretty much everyone who had worn a gold shirt at any level in the 1960s. (When I went to university in 1970, my mind had to drift increasingly to science rather than football.)
The first mystery man is on the cross-legged front row, C. Burge. And I still have no idea about him. Anybody out there know who he was/is?
But the second was even more enigmatic, because it was a goalkeeper. It was my dream to wear the all green strip that the keepers were decked out in at the time of this photo and I was pretty sure I knew the name of everyone who kept goal for Wolves at any level in those days.
Four of these keepers I could write a thesis on – Fred Davies, Phil Parkes and Evan Williams made up three of the chapters in my 1992 book In Keeping with The Wolves. I still chat frequently with Davies and Parkes and was honoured to catch up with Dave Maclaren in Victoria, Australia a few years ago. I was greatly saddened when he died too soon afterwards.
Phil Weir? I have not managed to interview him yet – but if ever I do (and I very much want to) I will point out to him that he had the distinction of being the very first Wolves player autograph I ever obtained. I had never had the confidence to ask anyone before.
But A. Crowley? Who the heck is A. Crowley? I had never heard of him and I have absolutely no recollection of ever seeing his name mentioned anywhere in a Wolves context. I knew of Alesteir Crowley, the occultist and it clearly wasn’t him.
I am delighted to report, then, that my recent investment in an on-line subscription to the British Newspaper Archive has turned up trumps. I punched in Crowley, goalkeeper and 1966-67 and…bingo! There he was in the Sports Argus of February 19, 1966.
“Adrian Crowley, 15-year-old Cradley Heath goalkeeper, has a surprise chance to earn himself a schoolboy international cap. For he has been named as a reserve for the England v The Rest trial at Peterborough.”
The England keeper was listed as Steve Bowtell from East London, who went on to play for Orient. The keeper for The Rest was Malcolm Webster of Doncaster, who made 449 League appearances, including three for his first club Arsenal before going on to Fulham, Southend and Cambridge United.
And others in those squads? England had Geoff Merrick (who went on to Bristol City), Lyndon Hughes (West Brom) and on the left wing, from Bishop Auckland, was a certain Dave Thomas.
On the bench for The Rest, alongside Crowley, was Steve Seargeant from Liverpool Boys, who played a lot of First Division games for Everton before coming Stateside.
So there we have it. I knew about Geoff Crudgington, who was the England Schoolboys keeper a year later and who went to Molineux, to be squeezed out by other youngsters Jeff Wealands and Rod Arnold.
But here was another lad so close to age-group England honours who I have no record of even having played a solitary game for the Wolves at any level.
This was the Birmingham and District side selected to play against Liverpool Boys at that time:
Crowley (Rowley Regis), Millerchip (Nuneaton), Wright (Cannock), Grice (Brierley Hill), Davies (Wolverhampton), Cloghan (Coventry), Castleford (Kings Norton), Hughes (Smethwick), Riley (Brierley Hill), Allen (Nuneaton), Latchford (South Birmingham).
Roger Grice joined Wolves and turned professional, as did Grenville Riley. Paul Castleford played for the club’s third and fourth teams. There is that man Hughes. Oh…and that is Bob Latchford.