Revenge, Please, 34 Seasons On

Chorley ’86 And Some Snippets We Would Rather Have Forgotten

As a way of building up to tomorrow’s scarcely believable FA Cup fourth-round pairing, here are 15 memories of by far the blackest night in Wolverhampton Wanderers history, interspersed with some associated thoughts…..

That notorious 3-0 defeat has been back on supporters’ minds since the draw was made – and we have been busy looking back over the record books and archives.

Time to look away…..

*Just over six years after facing PSV Eindhoven as League Cup holders, Wolves failed to muster a single on-target effort in the fateful third meeting with a side from the Multipart Northern Premier League, the sixth tier of English football.

*My match report in the Express & Star referred to ‘the lowest ebb in their distinguished history bearing more than a passing resemblance to a club in the death throes.’ It was gloomy stuff and our counterparts at the Evening Mail went much further by producing a back-page cartoon showing a wolf lying in a coffin that had RIP on the side.

*The grimmest night of the club’s 144-year history was in the middle of a trio of successive 3-0 defeats, the others coming at home to Wrexham on the occasion of Steve Bull and Andy Thompson’s debuts and against Lincoln in the duo’s first away appearances.

*The ineligible Bully and Thommo weren’t the only alarmed members of the travelling West Midlands contingent in the guest box at Burnden Park. Sitting nearby alongside new Wolves directors Dick Homden and Jack Harris was Birmingham chairman Ken Wheldon, a long-time boardroom colleague of the two at Walsall and a man who some thought was pulling some of the strings at Molineux.

*The original game (drawn 1-1) and this second replay were played at Burnden Park, Bolton, as the part-timers’ Victory Park ground was considered inadequate to host the tie. It had a capacity of only 3,000 and there were ever-present fears at the time regarding Wolves’ hooligan element.

*Graham Turner was honest enough to describe the second replay later as ‘men against boys’ and had to put up with Wolves fans chanting for his dismissal for the second match running.

Graham Turner – faced an early pressure point following the Chorley humiliation.

*Members of the national press converged on Molineux next day and heard Turner refer only a month and a half into his tenure to ‘five years of mismanagement’ and shortage of funds. That, in turn, brought a sharp response from departed Derek Dougan ally Doug Hope, who said others had worked less complainingly in similar or worse conditions and he should leave if he couldn’t stand the heat.

*Dudley-born Chorley keeper Ian Senior, who the Express & Star match report described as having the cleanest knees in Bolton, claimed after his team’s unbelievable 3-0 victory: “I don’t think we were really expecting to beat them. It was just a joy to be playing against such a famous club.”

*Senior was a former team-mate of Andy Mutch’s at Southport and had had to change Fire Service shifts to be able to play. Among his team-mates, full-back Ken Scott was a policeman, second goalscorer Mark Edwards was a post office clerk and Paul Moss, who netted an equaliser in each of the first two games, reckoned he was £40 out of pocket over the tie as it had cost him work in his painting and decorating business. But he summed up: “This one’s on me…I won’t be charging the club for lost earnings.”

*Chorley’s biggest claim to fame was producing Paul Mariner but they had finished second from bottom and fourth from bottom the previous two seasons. Their weekly wage bill was £400 and they were described by former Express & Star reporter Neil Johnston on the BBC website today as ‘£25-a-week heroes’.

*Wolves might have got away with it had it not been for a member of Chorley manager Ken Wright’s family. After what he described as an ‘eerie’ replay night at Molineux, with two stands of the stadium condemned and empty, he followed the advice of his teenage son Neil when calling at the toss-up to decide home advantage for the third game.

*Keith Lockhart, who wore the no 10 shirt in all three games, had his Wolves contract cancelled the day after the third clash. And keeper Vince Bartram would experience a career high that was as extreme as this one was low for him. He later sat on the bench for Arsenal in a European final.

*There was no mass clear-out after this humiliation on November 24, 1986. Bartram, Mutch, Ally Robertson and substitute Nicky Clarke each stayed for years, Steve Stoutt, Micky Holmes, Matt Forman and Jon Purdie were all part of the squad who won the Fourth Division and Sherpa Van Trophy double at the end of the following season and Neil Edwards might have been as well had he not sustained a career-ending injury.

Peter Zelem.

*Chorley were at it again in the second round, holding Preston to a draw and earning a replay on the Deepdale plastic which they lost 5-0. In the North End squad was Sam Allardyce, who became a team-mate there in the following March of Peter Zelem, who played for Wolves in all three legs of the Chorley marathon.

*Ken Wright became Chorley’s chairman, remains so today and had a chance meeting with Graham Turner at Preston just over a decade ago. At the time, the non-Leaguers were planning a reunion 25 years on and he said in a Backpass interview with Wolves Heroes’ David Instone: “Graham didn’t seem too keen to be reminded of 1986. I don’t think he will want to come to the dinner.”

Thomas Publications