Discreet, Delightful, Dutiful
Fond Memories Of A Departed Friend
What nuggets of information she was privy to….what a story she could have told!
But Dot Wooldridge was too loyal to her beloved Wolverhampton Wanderers for that, so Sir Jack Hayward’s gentle teasing that she would one day write a best-seller about the club was no more than office banter.
The First Lady of Molineux, as she was referred to in a lengthy interview at the time of her retirement a decade and a half ago, was a model of discretion and someone to be trusted with football’s equivalent of top-level state secrets.
She became particularly close to the hub of things during the last four of the near-40 years she spent with the club. Dave Jones told her he wanted her out of her office at Molineux and into his a few yards down the corridor.
And she let it be known that there was no question of her being asked to ‘make herself scarce’ when important calls came in from managers or agents. The former Southampton boss knew she would never share highly sensitive details beyond those walls and his judgement proved sound.
Dot’s friendly, smiling face was the first I saw at the window in Waterloo Road at the start of my long stint of covering the club for the Express & Star and not once in the 18 years I knew of her as a Wolves employee did she let anything slip that she shouldn’t. On top of that, she was the same day after day after day; calm, helpful, friendly and caring.
We have lost a gem with her passing-away a few days ago and the sadness is being felt far and wide. Among those to respond fondly to the initial announcement on social media at the weekend were former players Ludovic Pollet, Tony Daley, Vince Bartram, Paul Butler, Dean Edwards and Shane Westley. She touched a lot of lives across a lot of years but, sorry lads, Ron Flowers is and always was her favourite, followed by Jimmy Murray!
She remembered Wolves being at the very top of the tree and watched them from the South Bank as a young girl when they were pipping Albion in 1953-54 and becoming League champions for the first time.
By the time she was on a college secretarial course at the end of the decade, she had decided she wanted to work in football – and a letter to Jack Howley at Molineux was all it needed to be able to say an early goodbye to her classmates.
With Keith Pearson and later Richard Skirrow at her side, Dot knew what it was to have long-serving colleagues but Howley and Stan Cullis, who she worked with in her first few seasons, were a level above even those two for durability.
Initially, she saw to autograph requests, sold tickets, pinned up the sheet for the players to sign as they arrived, did some reception work and typed letters, not that the latter would be uninteresting to an office junior. Wolves were champions again by the time she was appointed in June, 1959. “I have been here since the year Dot,” she joked in more recent times……
We will refrain from stating the obvious about football being a different game back then but it’s worth pointing out that one of the more unusual characteristics 60 years ago was that women were banned from even the back offices on match days. Apart, that is, from Mrs Tyrer, who was welcome as she served the tea and sandwiches in the boardroom!
Dot had eight years away while she gave birth to and raised her and John’s two sons but such was her standing at the club that she was asked to go back in 1973 and worked for the best part of a decade in the Development Association behind the North Bank.
She then returned to the main office in Waterloo Road in 1982 and became assistant to Keith Pearson, who was by now club secretary. Following the bizarre experience of both of them being made redundant and then reinstated by the club in the nightmare that was the mid-1980s, she became the full-time manager’s secretary during Graham Taylor’s reign in the mid-1990s.
She had already combined other duties with serving as Graham Turner’s secretary and would also organise the professional lives of, in turn, Mark McGhee and Colin Lee before Jones arrived at the start of 2001.
Dot was fond enough of Turner to shed a few years when he left and became sufficiently friendly with Taylor to accept an invitation to go on the Anglo Italian Cup visit to Venice in 1994 and stay in touch with him after he left.
But she liked all those she worked with and was loved by everyone who knew her…..and there were lots of those, given that her service to the cause was 20 years longer than anyone else at the time she retired in 2004.
For the final word on this latest story of sorrow, we quote Vince Bartram, the West Midlander who was a shy youngster when learning his trade at Molineux – the OLD crisis-hit Molineux – three decades ago.
“So sad hearing this,” he wrote on Facebook. “She was a big part of that club during my time there. Without the likes of Dot and Keith, I’m not sure it would still be around today. RIP lovely lady.”