A Joker In The Making

A Time For Quietly Finding His Feet? No Chance!

Mark Kendall in his pre-Molineux days.

The much-loved Mark Kendall would recently have reached what we traditionally regard in the UK as retirement age. His premature death in 2008 shocked the Molineux family but we turned to a colleague of his from a different club – another man highly familiar in these parts – for his take on the crowd-pleasing keeper.

Colin Lee has given an insight into what the young Mark Kendall was like during his formative days in football in North London.

The two were team-mates at Tottenham alongside Glenn Hoddle, Ossie Ardiles and Ricky Villa, with the forward’s spectacular four-goal debut against Bristol Rovers coming just over a year before the first sighting of the South Wales-born keeper at senior level.

Kendall became the life and soul of the Molineux dressing room after signing from Newport mid-way through 1986-87 but was he as loud when finding his feet in a squad of big names almost a decade earlier?

“He was never what you would call quiet!” Lee told us. “You always knew when Mark was around but I wonder whether some of his exuberance was a mask.

“We had a few big names around us in that squad and maybe Mark’s way was to show he wasn’t overawed by it. Different players have different ways of settling into their environment.

“He left Wolves well before I arrived there in the mid-1990s but I was aware he had done well at Molineux and am very pleased that he had a good career overall.

“He was a very capable keeper without being top-class and the fact he had a sizeable run in Tottenham’s first team in the old Division One bears that out.”  

Kendall, who died suddenly 15 years ago aged only 49, showed his interest in the game’s history when he asked Tottenham staff members after his debut how many other men had played in Spurs’ goal since the war.

He was first seen at League level for the club in a 2-2 top-flight draw at Norwich in November, 1978, when Lee was among the goalscorers at the other end.

It was anything but a fleeting chance either for the 20-year-old. Despite the presence on the White Hart Lane books of Barry Daines and former Stafford Rangers man Milija Aleksic, he played around 30 senior matches that season in a side who finished 11th in their first year back in the top flight following a brief drop to the Second Division.

Interestingly, he played in a 1-0 home win over Wolves during his first month in the team and then in a 3-2 defeat in the return at Molineux in the April, when he was beaten by goals from Steve Daley, Kenny Hibbitt and John Richards.

How Wolves’ match-day programme captured Colin Lee after adding John Ward (right) to his backroom team. 

The highlight of his stay in Keith Burkinshaw’s side, though, was playing in the FA Cup quarter-final against Manchester United, Spurs losing 2-0 in an Old Trafford replay following a draw at White Hart Lane.

Kendall, who had by then had a successful nine-game spell on loan at Chesterfield, signed for Third Division Newport for a club record £45,000 in September, 1980.

Lee is to make a match-day return to Wolves in the coming months – something we will be writing more about in due course.

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