Surprise Guest Highlights Lofty’s Big Night
Well, he turned up and he went down a storm! Bruce Grobbelaar had no intention of letting anyone down, least of all a fellow member of the Goalkeepers’ Union.
When we recently previewed last night’s Phil Parkes tribute dinner at Molineux, we referred to a special mystery guest as being due to attend among the usual host of former Wolves players.
We were sworn to secrecy on the individual’s identity and shared a few minutes of nervousness in the Hayward Suite with the organisers yesterday teatime before guests started to arrive.
They needn’t have worried, though. Although they had had no contact with him, the Liverpool legend strode in on cue and again left a big impression on the man he knew at Vancouver Whitecaps more than four decades ago when they were at opposite ends of their playing careers.
“He’s a top bloke, always has been,” Lofty told us this afternoon. “He used to baby-sit our two lads in Canada when they were little – that might explain why they are as daft as each other!
“But they managed to get hold of him and persuade him to come down for the evening. Some of the lads like Mel Eves and probably Colin Brazier and Dale Rudge had played against him and he knew John Richards, Kenny Hibbitt and Steve Daley.
“He also does some after-dinner speaking, I believe, so that probably helped but he spoke really well on stage.
“It’s not that long since I saw him because he came down for a night at the Cleveland Arms a few years ago but it was great to have another get-together and the whole night was absolutely brilliant.
“To see some of my mates from Fordhouses Cricket Club fill one table and lads I used to coach at Lucas take another was lovely on top of all the Wolves supporters and ex-players there.
“I’m told there were 240-odd present, which was a sell-out or virtual sell-out, and it was an occasion I will never forget. I’m very, very grateful.”
There were appearances on stage from Terry Wharton – ‘he was hilarious but we couldn’t shut him up!’ – Richards, Hibbitt, Daley, Eves, Jim McCalliog and Lofty’s long-time keeper colleague, Gary Pierce, with Steve Saul posing the questions.
A portrait painted by Jody Craddock was presented to Phil by John Richards in front of an audience also containing former Wolves reserve Phil Nicholls.
The evening was the latest high-quality They Wore The Shirt tribute dinner after Derek Parkin and Hibbitt were similarly honoured.