Route To Success

Wolves Links In Popular Show

Derek Dougan in the ITV studio, flanked by (from left) Bob McNab, Pat Crerand, Jimmy Hill, Brian Moore and Malcolm Allison.

None of us should be surprised that Derek Dougan figured in the TV panel game that attracted football fans in big numbers more than half a century ago.

Given that he was already a flambouyant character and became a major studio hit as a pundit around the time of the 1970 Mexico World Cup, The Doog was an easy choice when the search was on for players to put their general knowledge on the line and fill our screens.

The show in question was Quiz Ball, the Thursday night offering from BBC1 that ran for six years and made unlikely goal-scoring heroes of Ian Ure, John Osborne and even one Lady Isobel Barnett.

We have written before that Wolves’ participation was brief, a team made up of manager Ronnie Allen, Dave Wagstaffe, John Holsgrove and acclaimed sports writer Geoffrey Green losing to Arsenal in what we believe to have been their only Quiz Ball match.

But further investigation has told us that Dougan pitted his wits for Leicester early in 1967 and Dave Maclaren appeared for Southampton, the club he moved to from Molineux in the mid-1960s. We have also learned that Sheffield United’s line-up included Jack Short, the Bramall Lane coach who had served Wolves as a defender in the 1940s and 1950s, and that Huddersfield were once led by Ian Greaves.

It is 50 years since the programme’s demise, a lengthy feature by Dave McVay in Backpass reminding us that it was presented initially by David Vine, then by Barry Davies and finally Stuart Hall.

Teams were usually made up of their manager, two players and a celebrity fan, which explains why cricket broadcaster and writer John Arlott (Southampton), disc jockey Ed ‘Stewpot’ Stewart (Everton), comedian Peter Cook (Tottenham), actor James Bolam (Sunderland), gardener Percy Thrower (Albion), singer Dave Berry (Sheffield United) and former doctor and justice of the peace Lady Isobel (Leicester) had their time at the buzzers.

In a 2017 piece based on an interview with John Holsgrove, we referred to how John Barnwell had been in Arsenal’s line-up, the show featuring Wolves being filmed at the huge Social Club next to Molineux and being broadcast only in black and white.

Wolves v Arsenal at Quiz Ball in the late 1960s, under David Vine’s watchful eye.

Goals were scored by teams who, having gained possession, successfully plotted a way to the target. This could be by ‘route one’ (a very hard question), ‘route four’ (a quartet of much easier ones), or two middling options in between. The opposition could plan a tackle during this build-up but a wrong answer from them brought an instant own goal.

Among Allen’s managerial contemporaries who appeared on our screens in their collars and ties were Joe Mercer (Manchester City), Bertie Mee (Arsenal), Vic Buckingham (Fulham), Ted Bates (Southampton) and Alan Ashman (Albion).

The last Quiz Ball series was won in 1972 by Dunfermline who, with Dr Who actor Jon Pertwee as their celebrity, beat Leicester in the final.