Allen’s Men Dabbled In Their Own Numbers Game
A fresh spotlight on Ronnie Allen’s Wolves will soon be shone by the club for the benefit of supporters – through a project we look forward to writing about in the coming months.
In the meantime, our small role in it has unearthed one or two long-forgotten stories from the aftermath of the securing of runners-up spot in the Second Division in the spring of 1967.
Many fans will recall that Allen and his promoted squad promptly headed off to Los Angeles, where they won a fondly-recalled tournament that the players lapped up.
But there was some curious fall-out from it – and nothing to do with the fatigue you might have expected from so many flights and extra games in the close season.
Just before the top-flight season started with a game at Fulham the following August, the manager spoke of the sartorial new look his team might soon be adopting.
Photos from America that summer show Wolves wearing shirts with numbers on the front rather than the back. And Allen had thoughts of a further breakaway from the ‘norm’……just think of Roger Hunt and Martin Peters in the World Cup and you will start to get the idea…..
“The familiar numbers, 1 to 11, are coming to mean less and less,” Allen said in an Express & Star interview. “Although they identify players during the match, they now have little relation to the style of play.
“A number always associated with a particular player, whether 1, 13 or even 18, would give him a special category in the eyes of supporters.”
In other words, Allen was in favour of his squad members being assigned a number at the start of a season and sticking with it, whether or not they were in the starting line-up or whatever position they were occupying. In the World Cup, Peters wore 16 and Hunt 21.
The manager went further on who might be issued with what: “If any significance were attached to certain numbers, the players could draw for them.”
Allen said he had been mulling over the idea for some time, more so when he saw it adopted again in the World Cup in England.
But, as we know, the move to fixed squad numbers in club football remained decades away, although some fans will recall the sight of Phil Parkes playing a few first-team games in a jersey bearing a no 1 on the front.
As for the outfield players, obviously Allen couldn’t get his plan past the Molineux board or past the football authorities – or both! Ahead of his time he may have been but some traditions were hard to ditch!