This month’s transfer window has us all on edge, with a daily (and more) check to see who is moving where and for how much. But it wasn’t always like this.
For decades, such business could be conducted for most of the year and there weren’t agents around to leak stories, so player-trading really had the potential to take the breath away.
One such deal took place 61 seasons ago in 1961 and brought a record incoming fee to Molineux – by coincidence (or maybe not) from the club who had handed them Britain’s then highest fee for Bryn Jones in 1938.
Arsenal had coveted Eddie Clamp for some months but when they took him to the capital a few weeks before Christmas during Wolves’ poorest season since the Second World War, it was as swift as it was unexpected.
The story was sensational enough for the Express & Star to use a taster on the front page as well as splashing it big on the back – the England international was a one-club man after all who had played 241 League and cup games for them, plus many prestige friendlies.
Phil Morgan, not a reporter given to overstatement, described the development as a ‘bombshell’, reminding fans that Clamp had been an ever-present so far in 1960-61 and had actually been named in Wolves’ team for the Division One game at Burnley the following day.
Instead, he was promptly selected for his Arsenal debut at home to Nottingham Forest after Gunners manager George Swindin had being given permission to travel to Molineux to discuss a deal. Swindon certainly knew his way to the ground. Apart from visits on match days, he had also gone there to sign Jackie Henderson in October, 1958 for well over £20,000. The winger was still at Highbury now to add his own welcome to the new boy…
Clamp had asked for a move the previous summer for non-football reasons but had knuckled down again to join Malcolm Finlayson, Bill Slater and Jimmy Murray in playing every game in the first three months of the campaign.
Such was his prominence in the game after his duty at the 1958 World Cup finals with England that Morgan was in no doubt the fee was a record-breaker.
“No indication was given beyond the fact it was ‘substantial’ but it’s a certainty that it’s the biggest Wolves have ever received,” he wrote. “A guess around £35,000 would not be off the mark.”
And, with reference to the pace of the whole episode, he added: “The deal was completed almost in the twinkle of an eye.”
Arsenal secretary Bob Wall was quoted as saying: “We made our first enquiry about Clamp in August but Wolves couldn’t see a way clear to letting him go.
“They promised to let us know if they could consider it at a later date. They did so yesterday and immediately our manager travelled to Wolverhampton and completed the deal this morning.”
Remarkably, Arsenal played and won at Molineux only eight days later, when Coalville-born Eddie, as per the custom at the time, was made captain for the day.
Phil Morgan wrote of this renowned ‘Iron Man’ being on his very best behaviour back in Wolverhampton and said: “He played it oh so gently and didn’t need a tough tackle.”