Continuing our pledge to concentrate our posts for the next few weeks on international football and/or Wolves’ links with France, we now spotlight the eventful time had with Wales by Bobby Gould – a man who turned 70 yesterday.
Bobby Gould was on a beach in Grenada when the call alerting him to possible employment with England’s second Euro 16 opponents came.
A friend from Coventry, a builder called Bill Smith, thought he should know that the unrelated Mike Smith, who would later serve in Wolves’ youth system, had left his job as Wales team manager.
Ron Atkinson, Howard Kendall and Mike Walker were said to be the front-runners in the race to replace him but Gould, whose previous job in the game had been a second managerial stint in his home city with the Sky Blues, wrote an application which he decided to post only when hearing Big Ron was not interested.
We have been lucky enough to make several visits to the Goulds’ lovely home on the banks of the Severn Estuary, perched as it is on a hill looking over to South Wales in the distance.
He also turned to us as publishers and for a ghost writer when he was planning his highly entertaining 2010 autobiography, so we learned much about how the iron he placed in the fire in 1995 became very hot.
“I knew I’d got the right hotel because I could see all the Zimmer frames outside,” he wrote in ’24 Carat Gould’ of the infamous Welsh football committee and the day he headed for Llangollen for his first interview.
Remarkably, Wales had never had a full-time manager at that time – a point reflected in the £52,000 salary on offer; significantly below what Gould was earning from media work, notably with Sky and in Fleet Street.
“The first thing I did after shaking on a contract was insist on creating an office in a top-floor storeroom in Westgate Street, Cardiff,” he wrote. “The previous managers didn’t even have one to work from.
“I cleared out all the junk and had some furniture supplied for nothing by a company I had done some advertising with. There wasn’t much else other than a china model of Ian Rush on the window ledge.
“When I was interviewed by a guy from The Independent, I had to nip to the nearby Welsh tennis HQ to beg some sugar and then ask the reporter if he wanted his coffee stirred with a Biro or ball-point pen.”
Gould revealed that the Welsh, who were then playing at Cardiff Arms Park while the Millennium Stadium was under construction, didn’t own any posts, nets or corner flags to take with them when training was elsewhere.
He unsuccessfully sounded out Steve McClaren and Wolverhampton-born Don Howe about becoming his no 2 but settled in the end on Graham Williams, who he had got on well with at Albion in between his two spells as a formidable goalscorer at Wolves.
In a job he described as being the pinnacle of his career, even beyond winning the FA Cup with Wimbledon, he was once famously ‘hairdryered’ by Sir Alex Ferguson while crossing the Severn Bridge and complaining about Ryan Giggs’ fitful availability for Wales.
On a summer tour of Malta and Tunisia just before France staged the 1998 World Cup finals, Gould made Wolves defender Ryan Green the youngest man ever to appear for the principality and is generally credited with giving youth its head, notably through his promotion of a then little-known Craig Bellamy.
But he also clashed with Mark Hughes, ended Ian Rush’s long Welsh career, once sent Robbie Savage home in disgrace and elected Vinnie Jones as his captain after a vote among the players. His style was never dull.
Gould was not in charge when the Welsh suffered any of their near-miss heartbreak while in pursuit of a first appearance at a major tournament finals since the 1958 World Cup in Sweden. They didn’t get that close.
When he did make it to a World Cup, it was only as a proud father and a scout, with his son Jonathan in the Scottish World Cup squad in France in 1998 and Wales due to face some of the finalists in European Championships qualifying a few months later.
Gould Jnr, a goalkeeper who saw service with Bradford, Celtic and others, clearly has a colourful streak, too – gold and black perhaps! He had played under former Wolves favourite Jim McCalliog at Halifax earlier in his career and was sufficiently taken with him as to call his cat McCalliog.
Jonathan was never on Wolves books but there were plenty with Molineux connections who benefited from his reign of two and a half years, like Paul Jones (then at Southampton) and a young Carl Robinson.
But how did the other international bosses rate with Bobby at a time when three of the five ‘home’ countries were managed by men who had or would served Wolves in some capacity?
“I didn’t particularly click with Glenn Hoddle but Bryan Hamilton and Mick McCarthy became great pals when they were working over in Ireland and we’re still mates,” he wrote. “And I think the world of Craig Brown.”
Status and remuneration-wise, he probably barely recognises the job now being carried out with much success by Chris Coleman – one of his defenders from the second half of the 1990s.