It was planned as a Monday funeral, only for a local clash of dates to prompt a rethink that became a blessing after certain momentous events were added to the international calendar.
Sammy Chung, we were told at his well-attended farewell this afternoon, would have responded to any change of arrangements by insisting: “It’s ok….ladies first.”
And so the reputation of the long-time Wolves trainer-coach was underscored yet further. This hugely popular individual ‘will see his beloved Queen in heaven,’ his son, Tim, said in the eulogy.
Nothing we heard at Gornal Wood Crematorium and then the Mount Hotel in Tettenhall Wood diminished the favourable impressions – the stories just increased the sadness at his passing late last month at the age of 90.
The football world had already paid its respects with mass applause both at Molineux, where his face went up on the big screens at the Southampton game and was picked up on Match of the Day, and Watford.
Now it was time for his family and the players to follow suit, and there were plenty of both.
Several Molineux favourites who had been off the radar for many years let it be known they wanted to attend and, although holidays, domestic duties and covid-related problems ultimately kept a few away, how’s this for a handy team made up of those present?
Phil PARKES, Gerry TAYLOR, Gerry FARRELL, Gerry O’HARA, John McALLE, George BERRY, Barry POWELL, Dale RUDGE, Norman BELL, Mel EVES, Steve DALEY.
Claregate-raised Rudge is younger than the others but knew Sammy as a coach around the Wolverhampton area in his formative years and played in the same district side as Chung Junior.
Three of the above best recall him as Bill McGarry’s assistant while the remaining seven witnessed him at first hand both at the manager’s side and, from 1976 to 1978, as the main man.
The enduring partnership, developed successfully at Ipswich before their 1968 switch from East Anglia to West Midlands, was the ultimate good-cop-bad-cop set-up, so the story about Steve Kindon knocking Derek Dougan out with a stray shot before the 1973 FA Cup quarter-final victory over Coventry is worth another airing.
In the countdown to kick-off, McGarry, almost turning purple with rage, was heard berating the former Burnley man as the club’s biggest ever waste of money. Chung waited his moment, allowed the storm to slightly subside and then chipped in privately: “It’s ok, Kindo, he doesn’t mean it. He’s just repeating what he has heard the directors say.”
Not all compliments were of the back-handed variety. Berry and Bob Hazell loved his leadership, McAlle owned up to a guilt at asking him to go back out with them in the afternoons as training was so enjoyable and Bell, Daley and Eves were among the other youngsters who flourished under his caring tuition. Those who shed a tear today weren’t alone. Some serious respect was forged and underpinned during and before that ‘Sammy Chung and His Golden Wanderers’ era.
The friendships stretched well beyond Molineux. Peter Taylor, who he had met on a coaching course at Lilleshall, played a part when Sammy tried to obtain a guest ticket at short notice for a Chelsea v Derby game. On being refused, he contacted Taylor and, in no time, Brian Clough was ringing Stamford Bridge and warning: “If you don’t provide that gentleman with a seat, we won’t be coming to your place today.”
We can add John Black to the list of confirmed admirers. No doubt he would have loved to have attended had he not lived in the north of Scotland but said in a message to Wolves Heroes: “He was a great coach and I loved my training with him. It was really hard work but he had this infectious enthusiam that made you enjoy it, especially the skill work. I still hear his voice loud in the background when I’m at the gym, going round everyone and saying: ‘Enjoy it.’ He had faith in me. I will always be grateful to him for giving me my chance and telling me: ‘Just go out and play, Blackie.’ I learned so much from him. RIP Sammy.”
Black reminded us that Chung, who was given the name ‘Cyril’ without being called it beyond his first few months, had recommended him strongly for a move to Norrkoping, only for the final choice to be in favour of Bradford City. Which seems as good a time as any to clear up the subject of some of Sammy’s various overseas engagements.
Some newspaper obituaries have had him travelling further than he actually did but Philadelphia-based Tim, who has lived in America for 21 years, said: “He spent one or two summers coaching with Vasteras in Sweden and had a spell in Kuwait. Some of the other links are not right.”
In more recent times until Alzheimer’s took a firm hold, Chung and wife Heather, who met in the early 1950s near their Oxfordshire birthplace and had 67 years of marriage, would spend six-week holidays in the States with their son, daughter-in-law Michelle and grandchildren Ellie and Samuel. In the Molineux years, Cala Millor in Majorca was usually the destination of choice.
The family saw the same Sammy regardless of Wolves’ result and performance. “His way of getting rid of pressure was going into his garden,” Tim added. “He would spend hours in there and was an absolute perfectionist. He never brought stress into the home.”
Many of the assembled family members, largely from Oxfordshire and further south, had happy memories of Molineux visits or a trip to the 1974 League Cup final but they might not have been there at all.
Sammy’s dad was from Kowloon in Hong Kong and was twice in serious danger when on active service during his career as a seaman during the First World War. Thankfully, he lived and spawned a huge family…..Sammy was one of nine, of whom younger sister Greta is now the only survivor.
Tim sadly lost his only sibling, Sarah, to cancer last year but gave a wonderful insight into the father who encouraged his children to get up early and savour the best part of the day, instilled excellent values and oversaw joining in with Sing Something Simple on the car radio on the way back from Sunday visits to family.
Of the man who had The Liquidator as his exit music today, he continued: “He was simply the best. He had a relentless work ethic and an incredibly kind soul and soft demeanour. He lived his life with integrity and with football as his passion…..how rare that you do something for so long that you loved!
“He was my hero and lived his dreams without ever taking them for granted. He had a positive personality and understood that having a high profile came with responsibilities. He had time for everyone, so he was always shaking hands and signing autographs.
“The last time I saw him was on Father’s Day this year. We sang Hey Jude and saw a glint in his eye….magical moments.”