A Meeting Of Minds
Feared Goalscorer Helped Other Generations, Too
He scored goals aplenty to help Wolves win the FA Cup and the League Championship twice and brought further glory to the club with his sterling deeds for England.
What is less known about Dennis Wilshaw is the role he played with the early 1980s Molineux generation.
Our interest in this other string to the Potteries-born inside-forward’s bow was sparked by 40-year-old photos of him taken at the club’s old Castlecroft training headquarters.
Various players have since confirmed that he was a regular visitor to the club in his little-publicised role as a psychologist.
For clarification, we asked his West Midlands-based daughter Diane, who we briefly got to know last autumn when we connected the Daily Mail with her for a reflective feature they were writing about his famous four-goal performance against Scotland in 1955.
“Dad was very much into education and always had an interest in psychology,” she said. “He was a trained counsellor and someone at Wolves asked him in John Barnwell’s time as manager if he would pop along to the club occasionally in case any of the players wanted to chat with him.
“I can’t be sure how long the arrangement went on for but I became more interested in Wolves for a while as a result without ever being a passionate football fan.
“I know I went to the 1980 League Cup final with both my parents and I remember being present when the Emlyn Hughes This Is Your Life programme was filmed next to Molineux after a night match.”
It has been well documented that Wilshaw was never a full-time pro at Wolves despite his fine 1948-1958 record of 112 goals in only 219 League and Cup appearances.
He always pursued a teaching career as well and stayed in that profession after an injury suffered when with Stoke in the early 1960s ended his playing days.
“He was brilliant with young people and was a maths and PE teacher at Hanley High School when he was playing,” Diane added. “He later lectured at Crewe and Alsager College for many years and was involved in training teachers.
“He continued well into his retirement in private tuition with teenagers and was also involved in local football in the Potteries, including coaching the schools team at Stoke that produced some very good players.
“I know Billy Wright and Bill Shorthouse went to serve as linesmen for one schoolboy match, so I can imagine the interest that created!
“Dad had done an education degree and then a Masters, so he was very well qualified. I think he did some psychology work for Manchester City as well and wish someone could confirm that and tell me who he knew there.”
Dennis remained particularly friendly into his 70s with his former Molineux team-mate Roy Swinbourne and was a frequent guest at dinners at the club, particularly those organised by the Wolves Former Players Association.
Until his death at 78 in 2004, he remained considerably better disposed to Wolves than Stoke as he had been brought home in a guards’ van after breaking his leg in an FA Cup tie at Newcastle in 1961 – and then shown the door at the Victoria Ground soon afterwards.