The Impact Of The Derby
Neighbourly Clashes Spelled Misery For Graham
Another Black Country derby is looming and, if Graham Hawkins were here to taste the build-up, he would see great significance in today’s date.
April 27 was the day in 1984 on which he was sacked as Wolves manager – with a game against Albion just round the corner.
And it wasn’t the only time this eagerly-awaited fixture played a big part – usually an unhappy one at that – in his professional football career.
Thrilled though he was to be making his first-team debut 20 years earlier, it proved to be a painful one as an Albion side containing Jeff Astle on his home debut handed out a 5-1 defeat to a club who had parted company with Stan Cullis almost a month before.
Under the caretaker leadership of Andy Beattie, there were apparently no thoughts of leaving the 18-year-old in for another game or two to get that sobering experience out of his system.
Instead, he was jettisoned from the senior team, returned to the reserves to lick his wounds and rebuild his confidence and wasn’t seen again by the gold and black masses until a Second Division home match against Ipswich in the middle of the following season.
That 4-1 win was one of ten matches boyhood Wolves fan Hawkins played in a much happier follow-up contribution and, having emerged as the surprise choice as manager at the start of the Bhatti-Dougan era in 1982, he found notable success in another derby clash.
After overseeing an unexpected promotion at the first time of asking, he and his squad then endured a three-month wait before gaining a first top-flight victory – a Danny Crainie-inspired 3-1 success at The Hawthorns in late November.
Alas, Hawkins wasn’t around for the return at Molineux at the end of April. Confirmation of the relegation that had long been seen as a certainty for a side depressingly out of their depth prompted the board to call time on his reign and place his no 2 Jim Barron in charge for a 0-0 derby draw watched by a pitiful 13,208.
It was, sadly, 13,208 more than there will be at The Hawthorns on Monday for the completion of the first season of Black Country clashes in nine years.
And we shouldn’t forget that it was an emphatic defeat at home to Wolves’ nearest and not necessarily dearest that cost Mick McCarthy his job in 2012 after almost six years in charge.
*We plan to return in the next few days with further writing on a derby theme and will ensure there is an uplifting tone to our words!