Back-Up Of The Highest Order
Supporting Roles For Dynamic Duo
Forty-one years apart…..two inspirational Wolves defenders and skippers, one common European Championship link.
In Italy in the summer of 1980, Emlyn Hughes was part of Ron Greenwood’s England squad without kicking a ball in any of the games against Belgium, the host nation and Spain.
Now, another man with strong Merseyside and even Anfield connections, Conor Coady, appears destined to return to Molineux from the same tournament without making it as far as the pitch….apart from to belt out Sweet Caroline the other night, that is!
Similarly, Ron Flowers was unused in England’s 1966 World Cup campaign but Euro 2020 hasn’t passed without one or two extremely positive name-checks from Gareth Southgate and the England coaching team for the present-day leader. He has, as we would all expect, been the perfect squad man; supportive, enthusiastic and very low maintenance.
We hope and trust he will have many further opportunities to bring those qualities to bear at this level in the coming seasons.
And a look at a film kindly donated to Wolves Heroes during lockdown has reminded us of the galvanising effect Hughes also had on dressing rooms at club and international level.
For the first time in more than 40 years, we have just watched the video of when the 1980 League Cup winning captain followed in the footsteps of the likes of Billy Wright and Derek Dougan and appeared on ITV’s This Is Your Life.
Wolves Heroes’ co-owners John Richards and David Instone were both in the capacity audience, as was Billy, when the programme was recorded in the Molineux Social Club an hour after Hughes had been approached by Eamonn Andrews as he left the pitch at the end of Wolves’ 1-0 home win against his former club Liverpool on February 26, 1980.
The film, which went out the following night – just over a fortnight before the defeat of Nottingham Forest at Wembley – shows the show’s genial long-time host loitering in the players’ tunnel with his famous red book during the last moments before the whistle blows. Then commercial manager Jack Taylor appears at pitch-side and ensures the duo’s paths cross as planned. Was that also the club’s former ticket office manager Mel Bird joining in the back-slapping?
Hughes was clearly delighted to be chosen and the words ‘I can’t believe it, it’s amazing’ were heard more than once. The smile never left his face during the 30 minutes next door as a stream of guests appeared on stage to honour him. Guests from the blue-chip end of the spectrum, no less.
With Mel Eves, Kenny Hibbitt and coach Ian Ross in shot behind him, Hughes was greeted by his family, Joe Mercer, Bill Shankly, John Toshack, George Best, rugby union star Gareth Edwards and, as the incredible climax, by the appearance of Grand National triple winner Red Rum, with whom he had earlier been pictured running on the sands near Southport.
The cameras also picked out Bob Paisley, sat next to Wolves boss John Barnwell, and a host of that night’s defeated Liverpool stars including Kenny Dalglish. A recorded tribute from Kevin Keegan was also played.
Hughes ended his career with 62 caps, the last three of which were won while he was at Molineux, and, was due at Buckingham Palace soon after recording to receive the OBE.
Although current skipper Coady will be hard pressed to challenge that number, he is at the forefront of those we hope might end the long wait to have a Wolves player on the pitch for England at a European Championship finals.