Near-Lee But Not Quite

Unusual Reason For Why Frannie Deal Fell Down

How the course of football history revolves around certain decisions….

It is frequently said that Wolves would have become a team with a genuine chance of winning the First Division had Peter Knowles not chosen to retire at 23.

He may well, in turn, have gone to the Mexico World Cup in 1970 but where would the full flowering of his career have left Alan Sunderland and even Kenny Hibbitt?

The same questions and more can be asked of a transfer deal that could easily have come to pass early in 1967-68.

That was the autumn in which Francis Lee was all lined up for a move to Ronnie Allen’s Wolves – or a partial move anyway! The reason he didn’t come was because he didn’t want to throw in his lot with the First Division new arrivals.

The chunky forward had been Bolton’s leading scorer for five seasons out of six and was available at around the same fee as the one the Second Division Wanderers were prepared to pay to take Terry Wharton back to his home town from Wolves.

By coincidence, Wharton and Lee were mates, well used to meeting up in the summer – but now shocked at bumping into each other in the Crown Hotel at Stone as the two clubs’ big wigs went into negotiation at a separate table.

Allen was happy to invest his employers’ money in the 23-year-old until an unusual stumbling block appeared. Lee wanted to continue living and even training at Bolton, where he had business interests.

Wolves wouldn’t accept those conditions, so Lee became or remained a troublesome opponent to them rather than a player for them.

But he was clearly outgrowing Division Two and moved to Manchester City shortly afterwards for £60,000. And wouldn’t you just know who his debut was against?

Wolves were adjusting well enough to top-flight life when they went to Maine Road in mid-October and were comfortably beaten despite having a couple of goals disallowed. The only surprise was that Mike Doyle and Neil Young were the marksmen and Lee’s name didn’t appear on the score-sheet.

Terry Wharton…..a star of the mid-1960s Wolves side.

On the same day, Bolton made it known they were still keen on Wharton, who was overshadowed in his duel with Glyn Pardoe at City. The popular winger duly moved to Burnden Park at the end of the month for £65,000 after five years as a regular in the gold no 7 shirt.

Allen was left short of wingers as a result and was strongly linked with Charlton’s Len Glover. He was said to have had two bids rejected and the player soon joined Leicester after going higher and offering £80,000.

Wolves were promptly linked with Swindon’s Don Rogers, as were Albion, but that chase didn’t succeed either and Mike Kenning eventually became the man to plug the gap by arriving from Charlton.