United In Family Pride

Niece Strikes Spectacularly On Derby Stage

Peter Zelem in his mid-1980s Wolves career.

Peter Zelem is said to have been the first Football League player whose surname began with the letter Z, beating Albion’s Romeo Zondervan by a couple of years.

At Wolves, he has been followed in by Ronald Zubar and Michael Zyro but no longer is he even his family’s most famous footballer.

That tag has emphatically shifted to his niece, Katie Zelem, the Manchester United captain who wrote more headlines at the weekend by scoring direct from a corner in the FA Cup clash at home to neighbours City.

While Peter, who turned 60 in mid-February, was brought to Molineux from Chester and went on to serve lower-division rivals Preston and Burnley, the 26-year-old daughter of his twin brother Alan has a CV to die for.

Hooked into United Girls’ centre of excellence from the age of six, Katie broke through in her late teens at Liverpool and then had a championship-winning season with Juventus before returning to United in 2018.

Her career continued to take off in the Reds’ first year in the professional game, a championship player of the month award for March helping her en route to being named Manchester United women’s player of the year.

She was unveiled as club captain for the following season – an honour she still holds – and saw the England career she had cherished at various age levels crowned by the winning of a first senior cap, against Latvia in November.

Another red-letter day seemed to be in the offing on Sunday when her early left-wing corner curled straight in at the far post and put United in sight of a place in the last eight of the FA Cup. But City stormed back to prevail with four second-half goals.

We have featured Peter and his 54-game Wolves career more than once on this site but were much less familiar with the career and subsequent life of twin Alan.

The goalkeeper served Chester and Preston before dropping into non-League football with Mossley and Stalybridge and went on to Macclesfield, Hyde and Curzon, including at least one spell as a manager along the way.

Alan Zelem. Photo courtesy of Stalybridge Celtic FC.

The two siblings worked together in a contract cleaning business after the end of their football careers.

Peter Zelem was a Burnley player at the time of their 1988 Sherpa Van Trophy defeat against Wolves but injuries restricted him at a club who already had two ex-Molineux men in their Wembley ranks in Peter Daniel and Chris Pearce.

A third Clarets man at the twin towers and a potential obstacle to Zelem in the battle for first-team places was central defender Steve Davis – in recent years a coach to the age-group teams at Wolves.

Thomas Publications