A cursory look at Tony Matthews’s 1999 reference tome The A-Z of Wolves reminds us what a large crossover of players there has been over the decades between Molineux and Villa Park.
Some, like Peter Broadbent and Derek Dougan, had by far their best years on this side of the patch. Others – Peter Withe and Nigel Sims, for example – flowered in the Second City. A third batch, perhaps headed by Andy Gray, John Burridge and Steve Froggatt, contains men who flourished in both camps.
And now all the 2017-18 promotion issues have been resolved and some of the sting has been drawn from the late-season West Midlands rivalry, we considered it a safer time to drip-feed some of the Wolves-related content from a forthcoming book being written by former Express & Star and Evening Mail reporter Rob Bishop.
Rob is resident very much in gold and black territory but has emerged as something of a claret and blue specialist in the second half of his career and is bringing out a Euros and Villans publication this summer.
For obvious reasons, we will gloss over much of the information but couldn’t help noticing, during our own input in the project, how many Wolves players have made significant impacts on Villa’s history in European competition.
None bigger, of course, than Withe, who hit the winner in the 1982 European Cup final against Bayern Munich in Rotterdam. But the links go back much further than that.
A decade and a half after Wolves made their own bow in the continent’s premier club competition, Villa’s first entrance into a recognised European tournament came with nightmare home and away defeats against Antwerp in the 1975-76 UEFA Cup. Three men with Wolves connections, Brian Little, Bobby McDonald and skipper Ian Ross, were in the side who faltered against the Belgians a few months on from winning the League Cup.
Gray and Little then each scored against Fenerbahce in 1977-78 when Villa qualified again via League Cup success. And Gordon Cowans – a mid-1990s Wanderers play-maker – used a win away to Gornik Zabzre in the same run to play the first of the 29 games that make him the club’s joint record Euro appearance maker alongside Dennis Mortimer.
That particular campaign didn’t go too much further. In a side containing Cowans, Little struck at the Nou Camp Stadium to memorably gave Villa an aggregate lead at the two-thirds stage of their second leg against Barcelona, only for the Spaniards, plus a certain Johan Cruyff, to bounce back and march through to the semi-finals.
No fewer than three players who served Wolves either before, after or during spells in the Second City, were in the claret and blue ranks when Villa’s 1981-82 European Cup-winning journey was launched with a win over Valur in Reykjavik. Withe and Cowans, inevitably, were among them, the third member of the trio being the less known Andy Blair, who had a loan stay at Molineux in the 1983-84 First Division relegation season.
Mark Walters was borrowed by Wolves just over a decade later and has the unhappiness of a sending-off as one of the memories of his time in continental competition with Villa. He was playing the night Villa’s grip on the European Cup was shattered away to Inter Milan but, more happily, he, Blair, Cowans, Withe and an up-and-coming Paul Birch were all on the field as Barcelona were emphatically seen off in the second leg of the Super Cup showdown in the Second City in 1983.
In 1990, just after Graham Taylor’s departure to England, Birch successfully man-marked German ace Lothar Matthaus in a home UEFA Cup win over Inter Milan that was then undone by a 3-0 away defeat, the Italians fielding none other than Walter Zenga in their goal.
And, unlikely as it seems, Derek Mountfield scored home and away against the Czech Republic’s Banik Ostrava in the previous round for a side also containing Tony Daley and captained by Stuart Gray – later to work with Taylor, Dave Jones and others at Molineux.
There are yet more links, albeit somewhat more tenuous. Dean Saunders and Guy Whittingham were team-mates against Slovan Bratislava in 1993-94, then Michael Oakes had Gareth Southgate among the defenders in front of him when he faced Helsingborgs in 1996-97 at the start of his own European journey.
As we speed through the years, via a certain Stanley Victor Collymore, we arrive in the current century and also acknowledge that three men who served Wolves on loan, Hassan Kachloul, Marlon Hareweood and Andreas Weimann, played some European football while across the patch.