No Substitute For Class

Cup Keeper Heading For Record

In decades gone by, the nickname ‘Splinters’ would routinely be applied to players who had a spell of duty in the no 12 shirt.

So how are we to rename John Ruddy, the trusty senior campaigner who is emerging as one of the heroes of Wolves’ 2021 FA Cup journey.

The 34-year-old, who is pictured here from Wolves’ still-for-sale match-day programme, is on the way to becoming the most experienced substitute the club have ever had – with a minimum three or four months in which to go to the top of that pile.

By my maths, he is already well past the 100 mark for games spent on the bench and remains in line to continue as the first-choice back-up to Rui Patricio.

Ruddy had around three dozen games as an unused sub in 2018-19 and added to that hugely with a figure of 53 last season – by far the highest number of times any Wolves player has sat on the bench in a single campaign.

So, as he homes in on a piece of Molineux history, probably reluctantly, who are the players he has overtaken – and is yet to overtake – in this particular list?

According to the website, Michael Oakes is currently in top position with a reported 115 games in the role, followed by Paul Jones (105).

We have calculated that Ruddy is currently positioned in between the retired duo and is poised to go past Oakes if Patricio stays fit and firmly in place as the club’s Premier League first-choice man.

Carl Ikeme on the cover of his autobiography.

It is no surprise that long-serving goalkeepers are so prominent in this area, the top outfield players being current Shrewsbury duo Leon Clarke and David Edwards on 94 and 88 respectively before we move back to keepers with Carl Ikeme and Matt Murray.

With a nod to the FA Cup, there is one other snippet of information that is worth sharing as sights start to turn towards the fifth-round tie at home to Southampton.

Namely, that Ruddy is one of only two members of the Wolves players on view at Chorley on Friday who had been born when the club embarrassingly lost to the same opposition 34 seasons ago.

The keeper was exactly one month old come the day of the fateful third meeting at Burnden Park on November 24, 1986 – a month and a half behind Joao Moutinho!

Thomas Publications