Humberside Duo Who Took Very Different Paths
Two or three paragraphs in the Express & Star in the middle of 1964-65 marked their arrival together in Wolverhampton and, for a few more years, they remained close.
But the careers of Gerry Taylor and Bob Hatton could hardly have been more different, with one travelling far and wide and the other barely straying from these parts.
At least, though, Wolves benefitted from the service and skills of both because there was a danger at one point that they might have missed out.
“Bob and I had known each other from school,” Taylor said. “I don’t recall us being in the same class but we were in the same year and we played a lot of age-group football together in the Hull area, where we were from.
“We both ended up with Wath Wanderers and then came down here for trials which went pretty well. But Stan Cullis had not long been sacked and the club decided they wouldn’t be committing to taking on any more lads until his permanent successor was in place.
“Mark Crook, the scout who organised things at the Wath end, had a word with someone at Molineux, though, and we both ended up being signed pretty quickly. I think there was interest in us from other clubs as well and Wolves didn’t want us to risk going somewhere else.”
The duo immediately went into the same digs in Newhampton Road and remained fellow residents during one or two domestic moves around the town.
“If I remember right, we were in a big house with Peter Knowles and Dave Clements at first and at one time later had digs by Bantock Park,” Taylor added. “We always walked in to training as well…..we didn’t have cars and we were fit young lads who just saw a good walk as another way to get exercise.”
Hatton recalled there often being interest from Yorkshire clubs in Wath’s best lads and said: “We could easily have signed for Hull and Sheffield Wednesday may have been looking at us, too.
“Wolves used to pay for us to go down there on the train for training and games and I remember Bill Shorthouse or Jack Screen telling us one day that the secretary Jack Howley wanted to see us. I thought we had been rumbled for putting in an expenses claim that was too hefty – we did used to enjoy a sandwich and cuppa en route.
“But he told us instead that the club wanted to sign us and I couldn’t believe it. I wondered when I was going to wake up. Six or seven guineas of our wages went on digs, though, so there was only really enough left over at the end of the week to pop up to Lyons tea room in town for a coffee.”
The big breakthrough for both came in the 1966-67 Second Division promotion-winning campaign under Ronnie Allen.
Hatton made his senior bow for the club in their first ever League Cup tie – a 2-1 home win over Mansfield in the September – and was seen in the Division Two line-up for the first-time in a 3-1 victory over Portsmouth at Molineux. The fact he scored in both games showed that here was a man with predatory instincts.
The strikes were part of a terrific goal return of eight in only 13 appearances but Taylor’s emergence was eye-catching, too, in its own way.
He played no fewer than 21 times in the season, starting with a 0-0 draw at home to Ipswich on New Year’s Eve.
This 1960s and 1970s GT missed only one game for the remainder of the campaign, in fact, adding four FA Cup outings to the 17 he was handed in a League programme which ended with Wolves as runners-up to Coventry.
But while he stayed around to feature in the club’s long and successful tournament summer in the United States and Canada and then keep his place for the return to the top flight, Hatton was off on his travels very soon after Derek Dougan arrived from Leicester in mid-March.
Bolton, against whom he had scored twice at Molineux a few weeks earlier, was his destination at the start of a mini-tour of League clubs over the next decade and a half.
“I remember going into Ronnie Allen’s office and there was Derek Dougan sat down with him,” Hatton recalls. “Ronnie introduced us and obviously wanted a more established centre-forward with a big personality. The Doog was certainly that. What a crowd pleaser he was!
“I was still young but felt proud in a way that Bolton were prepared to pay £30,000 for me. I think Hughie McIlmoyle went for a similar amount to Bristol City and I suppose our sales financed the purchase of The Doog.”