‘Fabulous Guy With An Exceptionally Big Heart’
If Geoff Palmer could have his time over again, he probably wouldn’t take advice from Steve Daley over what to do after being dropped – and he definitely wouldn’t go out for a sneaky drink with him.
Phil Parkes discovered the risks of socialising with the midfielder, too, and the young Mel Eves knew better than to take him on in any verbal jousting.
What we were reminded of time and time again last night, though, was that Wolves and Wolverhampton would have been a much poorer place over the last half century and a bit without the man who in 1979 became British football’s record signing.
There were recollections, laughs aplenty and even some choking on tears. Well, it can be tough reflecting at the microphone on such happy past times.
Steve Kindon, Barry Powell, John Richards, Colin Brazier, Phil Parkes, Willie Carr, Kenny Hibbitt and Joe Corrigan were present as well at the sell-out event in Daley’s honour at the Mount Hotel in Tettenhall Wood, where, in the audience, Sedgley-born former Albion and Sheffield Wednesday defender Dave Rushbury hung on every word from men he used to cheer on from the terraces.
So that added up to a full team’s worth of pals of Daley’s from Walsall, Manchester City, Seattle Sounders, Bromsgrove and Telford as well as Molineux.
Paying guests, who included Bergen law professor Rune Saebo on a 24-hour flying visit from Norway, were captivated by a succession of insights into Daley’s talents and, more pertinently, his character.
“Obviously, as former players, you miss the game but you also really miss the camaraderie and banter in the dressing room,” Eves said. “I remember learning quickly who the jokers were and used to listen to two very skilful lads from Yorkshire holding court.
“They were Alan Sunderland and Steve Daley and I kept my head down while I was new in there. It’s no surprise that Dales, along with Steve Kindon, has become one of the top after-dinner speakers in the country. And he’s one of the reasons why we can all pick things up so easily whenever we meet.”
Barry Powell is a big believer in good dressing rooms making good teams and thanked his fellow midfielder for his early 1970s guidance. “He helped me handle professional football,” he said. “He’s the reason why a lot of those lads from the lower (junior) dressing room did well.
“He was big enough to get over what happened to him at Manchester City and make a joke out of it. He was always confident and took the micky out of everyone.”
The evening, hosted by Steve Saul, was another production from the They Wore The Shirt stable – responsible not only for an outstanding addition to the bookshelves of Wolves supporters a few years back but also for a growing number of quality events that have helped Steve Plant donate almost £250,000 to Birmingham Children’s Hotel out of his various proceeds. Pancreatic Cancer UK were beneficiaries on this occasion, too.
Attracting Joe Corrigan was quite a coup and the veteran Manchester City keeper spoke of his ex-Maine Road colleague as ‘a fabulous guy’ whose £1.437m move north was blighted by poor timing, followed as it was by the sale of star players.
“I played alongside him for England B and Seattle Sounders as well and he was placed in an unenviable position when he went to City. He had this phenomenal fee on his head but he stood up to be counted.
“It was a horrible time for him and the club but he’s an incredible fellow with a great sense of humour. We both played in that huge FA Cup shock in 1980….the joke was that NASA had spent £10m and landed a rocket on the moon. We had spent £5m and didn’t make it past Halifax.”
Colin Brazier played fewer Wolves games with Daley than most but knew him at Walsall as well and also did work at his house, post-football. “I would have paid him £100,000 a week to have him in the dressing room – but that would have been to keep him off the pitch!” he said.
“I did his kitchen for him many years later and had three cups of tea and two Rich Tea biscuits, so it might have been an idea to take my own refreshments.”
Daley also served John Bond’s Burnley following his first return from America, where he had a highly familiar team-mate in the colours of Seattle Sounders. “He picked me up for training every morning over there and was one of the best midfielders I played with,” Hibbitt recalled.
“We made a great trio with Willie Carr in there at Wolves after Mike Bailey – and Steve would have been an absolute legend if he had stayed at Wolves. But he’s a legend to me.”
Geoff Palmer has not strayed far from the lad he shared digs with (along with Mick Collins) in Sedgley just over 50 years ago. The two now live in Codsall.
“We weren’t allowed in licensed premises after Wednesdays but Steve wasn’t a fan of Emmerdale, so we popped out for a quick coke in the Red Lion this one Thursday,” the full-back said.
“We sat quietly in the corner and then decided to have half a lager, then I think it was a pint. He was recognised as he had just broken into the first team and I thought my career was going to be finished before it had started.
“Some time later, when I had played a few games as well, I was left out without anything being said and asked Dales what I should do. It ended with me submitting a transfer request and Bill McGarry going mad at me and saying I should think about going back with that sort of complaint after I had played a hundred matches.”
Kindon, who ended the evening in his usual rip-roaring way, first paid a tribute of his own. “I only played with two truly two-footed players out of the 200 or so team-mates I had,” he said. “One was Dave Thomas (at Burnley), the other George Best (in a testimonial game). I once asked George whether he considered himself right-footed or left-footed and he said: ‘I really don’t know’.
“The nearest I know to those two for being the same with both feet is Steve Daley. He realised that, to become a better player, he had to improve his left, so he practised and practised kicking against a wall and wouldn’t touch the ball with his right.”
Okay, Kindo signed off the story by saying: “After lots and lots of practice, Steve Daley eventually got to that point – when he was equally shite with both feet.”
That’s how nights like this often go when players are asked to eulogise over former team-mates in front of a captive audience. But Wolves Former Players Association chairman John Richards restored some decorum by reminding us of the outstanding public work done in more recent decades by a player whose 244 Wolves games were illuminated by a very healthy 43 goals.
“He has helped raise over £100,000 through the golf days he does so much organising for, he has visited care homes to speak to residents and took part in the ring-round of fans who may have felt isolated during lock-down,” Richards said.
“On top of that, he went public on his prostate cancer diagnosis to help raise awareness among men. He was a very talented player and is a very talented speaker but he also has an exceptionally big heart.”
*Bobby Gould, who was honoured with a dinner at the Mount Hotel in early October, is recovering at home after suffering a deep-vein thrombosis in his groin that put paid to the four-month holiday he and wife Marge had planned in New Zealand from November 6.