A Lengthy Charge Sheet
‘I Never Felt Comfortable At Wolves From The Start’
At a fund-raising dinner in these parts in the autumn of 2017, Dave Thomas pulled no punches by admitting he hated his time at Wolves.
Now, the autobiography he has followed up with in aid of Guide Dogs leaves no-one in any doubt as to how unhappy he was at Molineux after choosing the West Midlands over a move to Manchester United.
Come 1979, Thomas was still near the top of his game as he prepared to close the Everton sector of a playing career that had made him the holder of eight England caps and almost a League Championship winner at QPR.
And he has revealed that his move south from Merseyside might have been made in the company of another big-hitter – one who would presumably have made the signing of Andy Gray a lot less likely and necessary.
“…..Gordon Lee informed me that Everton had given me and Bob Latchford permission to speak to Wolves, who expressed an interest in signing both of us,” Thomas writes in Guiding Me Home And Away.
“Bob and I went to a hotel in the Midlands to meet John Barnwell. As things turned out, Wolves did sign a big centre-forward but it was Andy Gray, not Bob.”
Thomas’s half of the talks had gone well enough for him to agree to move and he was honourable enough to stick to that arrangement despite receiving a late-night call from Everton secretary Jim Greenwood telling him United had offered the same fee and same wages, leaving the player to choose where to go.
Old Trafford had an obvious temptation considering it would brought a reunion with his former QPR boss Dave Sexton but he remained true to his word and went through with a £325,000 transfer to Wolves, who were up near United in the table in those opening weeks of 1979-80.
The outcome, as we have said before on this site, was unfulfilling on all sides and the title of chapter 14 in this very readable 209-page life story sums it up: ‘Wolves – The Worst Decision I Ever Made’.
“From the outset, I never felt comfortable there,” he adds. “I was put up in the beautiful Mount Hotel, sharing a room with another new signing, Emlyn Hughes. He was not my favourite room-mate, let’s put it that way.”
Thomas is remarkably candid and criticises the medical set-up at Molineux, calling it ‘awful’ and revealing that a succession of niggling hamstring injuries prompted him to go behind his employers’ back and visit his former QPR physio Richie Roberts – by now working for Walsall. He also says: “Andy Gray had the worst knee ever but was desperate to get through the medical – and did.”
This definitely isn’t a book for Richie Barker’s family to enjoy, either. The row between the two over Thomas’s choice of match-day footwear and dislike of shin-pads is well known – now we know that one dressing-room row ended with John Barnwell’s no 2 having a shirt thrown in his face.
The player was subsequently banished to train with the reserves and youngsters and, having checked out of the Mount and decided to commute instead from home, was ordered to drive from the north-west to board the coach at Molineux for one Central League game at Liverpool.
Thomas generally speaks well of his Wolves team-mates, in particular fellow north-easterner Norman Bell, but explains why he didn’t go to the League Cup final win over Nottingham Forest and wasn’t bothered about being overlooked for a medal.
His tally of only 16 first-team games for the club included three in the earlier rounds of the League Cup and was rounded off by a man-of-the-match performance against PSV Eindhoven in the following season’s UEFA Cup.