In Defence Of The Owls

Side By Side In Stripes

Lawrie Madden at Hillborough, where he was given a testimonial in the early 1990s.

They missed each other by a few months at Wolves and by several years prior to that at Charlton but, in between, Lawrie Madden and Peter Shirtliff became extremely familiar as team-mates.

In well over 100 Sheffield Wednesday games, they lined up as joint centre-halves, with cup finals, semi-finals and victories at Manchester United and Liverpool among them.

Wolves Heroes caught up with Madden at a book promotion event at Hillsborough yesterday and filled in some gaps in a League career that first took off under Mike Bailey at Charlton and then prospered further under the leadership of Howard Wilkinson and Ron Atkinson in South Yorkshire.

“I got on well enough with with Mike at The Valley, where I played in a relegated side and a promoted one,” he said. “I recall chatting with Shirty about his time down there, which came a few seasons later, but it was at Wednesday that we got to know each other well.

“Howard Wilkinson took me there, having been on the verge of making me player-coach under him at Notts County, and he had us playing with three central defenders, so Shirty and I saw a lot of each other, often with Mike Lyons or Mark Smith alongside us.

“We played together for the first time early in the 1983-84 promotion season and developed as players as the club established themselves in the top division and became a force in the cup competitions. They were good days.

“I last saw him when I did a q & a thing here at Hillsborough about a year ago and was disappointed to hear he had had to cry off the event this week.”

Shirtliff now lives in Lytham St Anne’s and had Madden at his side for more than 80 League matches and around 25 in knockout football of the 359 games that leave him among the top 20 Owls appearance-makers of all time.

Among the huge fixtures they both played in were the 1991 League Cup final victory over Manchester United and the 1986 FA Cup final defeat against Everton at Villa Park, where Derek Mountfield – later a partner of both at Wolves – was in the victorious line-up.

Madden and Trevor Francis were named as substitutes for that Wembley triumph, the defender going on near the end for John Harkes and producing an unlikely advance up the left wing in a running-down-the-clock dash that is still talked about by Wednesday supporters.

He and Shirtliff were also partners in some epic home and away victories over Liverpool and Manchester United and 67-year-old Lawrie added: “We always seemed to do well against those clubs at that time, including ending United’s long unbeaten run when we handed them their first defeat of 1985-86 – that was at Hillsborough well into November.”

Wolves Heroes contacted Shirtliff and Madden last year so they could be interviewed by Midlands-based author John Dyson for the ‘Back In The Big Time’ book (Pitch Publishing) that was being promoted in our presence yesterday.

The 300-page hard-back details Wednesday’s thrilling return to the top flight in the mid-1980s and also contains a chat with Andy Blair, who earlier had a short spell on loan with Wolves and who was among the ex-players at a lunch gathering at which Dyson gave a 45-minute address about the publication.

Peter Shirtliff in his role as Wolves captain on their 1994 tour of Sweden and Denmark.

Madden, who conveniently returned from a holiday in Spain on Tuesday night, remains the oldest man ever to have played a first-team match for Wolves (he was over 37 and a half when he faced Derby in the spring of 1993).

He also proves the value of of getting medical issues checked and diagnosed, having recovered well from the prostate cancer surgery he underwent six years ago.

Joao Moutinho turns 37 early next season and could therefore succeed Madden as Wolves’ oldest player in the second half of 2023-24 if he is still a first-team player here then.

Thomas Publications