Saying It With Flowers At Wembley
How Teenage Wolves Hopeful Graced The Grandest Stage
With two notable exceptions, Joe Owen never had the chance to rub shoulders with the Wolves players he idolised as a youngster.
But he regularly does so now on local fairways and greens with those of a slightly different generation.
For the first time in more than a decade, he missed the recent Wolves Former Players Association golf day at Oxley Park, for which he normally enters a team.
But he was prominent among the welcoming committee yesterday as several of the same Molineux favourites made the short annual trip to the Wrottersley Park par-three course, near Codsall.
Owen, the long-serving secretary at the club, is best known for his successful years as a forward in non-League circles and later as a manager at similar levels.
But, a decade or so before scoring one of the goals that beat Hillingdon in the 1971 FA Trophy final at Wembley, he was trying his luck with Stan Cullis’s Wolves.
“I had trials there in the evenings under Jack Dowen after being taken along by George Noakes’s brother, Sid, who must have seen me in a match for my school, Northicote,” he said. “I remember there would also be a group of lads down from Wath Wanderers and we spent some time in that pen under the old stand, which I called the skittle alley.
“I also played in the Midland Combination and, like every other lad in the town who was into football, would have loved to be signed by Wolves.
“But it didn’t happen – I was one of the many who fell short and after having trials with Shrewsbury as well and scoring against Birmingham in the Midland Intermediate League, I just played locally.”
Owen had been seen mainly as a right-winger and it was no less a figure than Ron Flowers who converted him to a striker after spotting him playing for Three Tuns, the side based at the pub of the name on the Stafford Road out of town.
The former England wing-half was one of Molineux’s leading lights around the time Owen tried his luck and played a key role on the afternoon of the latter’s proudest moments in the game.
Telford were two down to Hillingdon and the World Cup winner’s half-time talk is still spoken of in Shropshire circles as a major game-changer.
“Ron was never a shouter,” Owen added. “He was very diplomatic. He inspired me anyway because of who he was but he just told us not to be too concerned at the score and to forget the goals we had conceded because they had gone. His message was to get out there and start enjoying ourselves because we clearly hadn’t done that in the first half.
“I scored the first goal and we came back to win 3-2 a year after the club lost to Macclesfield in the Trophy final. It was some day!”
What the bushy-haired no 8 didn’t tell us was that the goal was his 42nd of the season – the reason why chants of ‘Owen for England’ were heard amid the cascade of good humour during the triumphant homecoming on an open-topped bus the next day.
Murray, as in the 1960 FA Cup final victory over Blackburn and the 1970 Trophy final, didn’t score but the presence of he, Flowers and Owen in the Telford ranks put a dent in the attendance (19,612 for a team finishing fourth in Division One) at Wolves’ home win over Burnley on the same day.
One of the men who played in that Derek Dougan-secured victory, John McAlle, was among the visiting contingent at Wrottersley yesterday. Also there were Colin Brazier, Steve Daley, Mel Eves, Phil Nicholls, John Richards and Terry Wharton, the latter of whom was in the winning team.
Owen’s non-League clubs included Bilston, Brereton Social, Darlaston, Hednesford and Weymouth, as well as the one renamed from Wellington with the granting of ‘new town’ status in 1969.