A New Role For The Coach

United Kindness Gave Les A Valuable Lift

Les Wilson early in his Molineux stay.

In a Wolves weekend marked by a six-minute delay for a clash of heads between two team-mates, by a 15-minute stoppage because of a hovering drone, by a rescinded red card for a player and by a post-match sending-off for a manager, how’s this for another entry from the Ministry of Funny Stories?

It has nothing to do with the three points that made it four wins out of four for the club in 2022 and nothing to do with anything that has happened in the last 50 years.

But such is the unusual nature of it that we considered it well worth an airing all these decades on.

Our thanks once more go to Les Wilson for telling us of the gratitude he owed his boyhood heroes, Manchester United, after the favour they did him following the meeting of the two clubs at Molineux on December 30, 1967.

Wilson played in Wolves’ thrilling 3-2 defeat in front of a 54,000 crowd, then faced the problem of getting back afterwards to see family in Manchester, where he had also been part of a side well beaten at Old Trafford four days earlier.

“I was talking to Brian Kidd and he was absolutely wonderful in asking either Matt Busby or his very capable assistant, Jack Crompton, if I could travel to Manchester on the United coach,” he recalled. “I was shocked that Matt agreed.

“I believe I sat politely by Brian and Francis Burns on the journey. I never played cards or anything like that anyway and remember the bus dropped me off near Wythenshawe Park on the Altrincham side of the city, where I had spent many hours playing football as a very young boy prior to moving with my parents and brother to Canada.

“I used to dream of playing in the English top flight and here I was in such esteemed company after playing for the Wolves against all these United stars, who were League champions and would win the European Cup a few months later.

“Sir Matt was so accommodating and considerate. I could not have asked for more. Where they dropped me was five or ten minutes’ walk from my grandparents’ and aunt and uncle’s homes, where I was obviously going to spend the weekend before going back to Wolverhampton.”

Brian Kidd in the late 1960s.

Wolves’ failure to stop United completing a festive double over them did not prevent these being proud days for the young Wilson, who was thrilled to be sharing a pitch with some of his heroes and even marking George Best at Molineux.

“I remember Mr Crompton asking me why I’d had a trial at the Wolves and not United,” he added. “My answer was very simple: Wolverhampton Wanderers’ staff and players had been so good to me ever since they played in Vancouver (in 1963) and asked me, through Joe Gardiner, to train with them in Stanley Park.

“I met up with Brian Kidd in Vancouver many years later – either when he was playing for Manchester City or Fort Lauderdale Strikers, or maybe even both, and I tried to reciprocate. I invited him to our home for lunch and never forgot that act of kindness. It was quite an honour for me to travel to Manchester like that.”

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