How Bully Signed Off With The Stars

Big-Name Cast For Striker’s Farewell

Steve Bull on England duty with Andy Mutch.

Steve Bull’s last but one game in international football was arguably the lowest-key of all those he played when representing his country.

But, seven months or so on from his role in Italia 90, he nevertheless shared a pitch with some true stars of the sport when he returned to the land of the lira.

Well done if you remember that he approached the end at that level with a substitute appearance in a 3-0 defeat for the Football League against their Italian League counterparts in Naples in January, 1991.

The Wolves centre-forward went on as a 78th minute replacement for Ian Rush and had David Seaman, Ian Wright and John Barnes among his team-mates.

But a look down the Italian line-up reveals the size of the challenge that faced Lawrie McMenemy’s side that night. Among those on parade in home colours were Lothar Matthäus, Marco van Basten, Diego Simeone, Paolo Di Canio and the Brazilians Aldair and Careca.

As well as being something of a Bully swansong, this was the fifth and final instalment of a fixture first played in Milan’s San Siro Stadium in 1960.

And a trawl through the records reveals that there was considerable Molineux presence in the meetings between the two countries’ league representative teams before Bully’s involvement.

Selection for the Football League side was not restricted to players who qualified to play for England – and vice versa – so Ron Flowers, Bobby Robson and co had Scot Denis Law, Welshman Cliff Jones and Northern Ireland’s Jimmy McIlroy among their team-mates 63 years ago.

Another man wearing white at that inaugural clash was Peter McParland, the Newry-born Villa legend who later had a brief but successful stay at Molineux. He and Law scored in a 4-2 defeat but the Football League team took on a strictly English nature when Flowers played both in a 2-0 defeat at Old Trafford in 1961 and a 3-2 victory at Highbury the year after. Also in the line-up for the latter game was Mike O’Grady, then of Huddersfield but much later of Wolves.

Ron Flowers, who made 13 appearances for the Football League representative side in addition to his England caps.

Issue 83 of Backpass magazine has recently informed us that West German Helmut Haller and Spanish star Luis Suarez were then in the Italian League side who scored a late winner in the 1964 San Siro meeting that looked like putting the inter-League contest to bed.

Flowers was again in the visiting ranks and had Molineux colleague Bobby Thomson for company in a side managed by Alf Ramsey and containing five uncapped players.

That might have been it but maybe England’s fine showing in the 1990 World Cup, which took in a visit to Naples for the 3-2 quarter-final win over Cameroon, prompted one final playing of the fixture in the same city.

That’s where Bully came in but we shouldn’t ignore the fact that the Football League side contained two other names that are familiar in these parts.

Keith Curle and Dean Saunders, like the Wolves legend, went on from the substitutes’ bench, the fact that they took over from Swedes Glenn Hysen and Anders Limpar reflecting the fact that the Football League team consisted of certain players from beyond these shores.

Bully also played in a Wales v England B game in the middle of 1990-91.

Thomas Publications