“He loved the team and club and he loved the whole football thing.”
It is not a unique expression of commitment to Wolverhampton Wanderers but Gerry Devine was in a better position than most to observe and influence Molineux matters.
Through his status as a club director for well over a decade, he also suffered through setbacks and defeats like the devoted lifelong fan he was.
“He was so grateful to have been so closely involved with Wolves,” said son Bob. “Even before going on the board, he had been a season ticket holder for 25 or 30 years and adored everything about the place.
“But he used to look so stressed at matches when he was in the directors’ box and that worried look disappeared very quickly when he resigned in 1982.”
It has taken the upsetting recent story about one of Molineux’s favourite sons of the 1960s and 1970s, Mike Bailey, for us to become connected with the Devines.
From his home near Reading, older son Bob contacted us and asked if the family’s best wishes could be sent to the long-time skipper and his loved ones.
“Dad got on well with all the players in his time on the board – I don’t think there was one he didn’t like,” Bob added. “He was always very complimentary about them and saw the good in people.
“He was a very social sort and I think his popularity was because he respected all the players and managers and took the time and trouble to get to know them all. I think it was only the FA Dad didn’t have too much time for…..he thought there were too many old fogeys there!
“And my mom, who only went to matches if they were cup finals at Wembley, was very good with helping the players’ wives and children through things like Christmas parties.”
We are talking very much of a Wolverhampton family here, so the blending-in was presumably made much easier. Gerard, as he was Christened, was born in the town in 1919 and subsequent research has shown a Devine presence in these parts and in Shrewsbury going back to at least the 17th century.
He first attended games at Molineux in the 1930s and then served largely in Ireland during the war before arriving in Berlin at the end of hostilities.
He met his York-born wife during the war after she came to Wolverhampton to work and Bob arrived in 1947 just before the club embarked on their halcyon years. The fact the family once had a cat called Puskas at their Tinacre Hill home on the edge of Tettenhall gives a clue to the fact they lived through Wolves’ golden period, with Bob being taken to some of the famous floodlight fixtures before being sent to school in the East Midlands.
Gerry, as everyone knew him, became a successful stockbroker in Birmingham and was well known both to the Mander family and Tarmac’s top brass, including Sir Eric Pountain.
“They may have been clients of his because he had so many contacts in industry and other businesses,” Bob added. “That might have been how he came to be asked on to the Wolves board in 1969 or 1970.
“Anyway, he said yes and went everywhere over what was a successful and interesting period for the club. I know he did a lot of the foreign trips and usually came home shattered because he had been socialising with the press guys!
“I came back in 1972 from working in banking in Canada for three years and was lucky enough to go to most of the Saturday home matches with him up to 1982 because Mom was never bothered about going.
“He also took me to Liverpool, Arsenal, West Ham, Manchester United, Tottenham and others and I recall being at the 1974 League Cup final and my wife Jo, plus the wives of our two goalscorers, John Richards and Kenny Hibbitt, all being in the directors box and either heavily pregnant or having not long given birth!
“We went to the banquets in London after those two finals as well and I remember meeting Robert Plant somewhere. When the club were going through a tough time, I know Dad proposed that Led Zeppelin should do a fund-raising concert at Molineux but the other directors weren’t too keen.
“There was also the centenary banquet at the Park Hall Hotel in 1977, when Dad was asked to propose the toast to the guests. I think it was there that he had taken the League Cup to a non-Wolves function in 1974.
“Harry Marshall, who I played hockey with, John Ireland, Will Sproson, George Clark and Malcolm Goody are other directors I remember. Harry and Dad had half a bottle of champage before one match and, because Wolves won, that became a ritual for several more home games until they lost one!”
The end for Devine Senior and Wolves came with the nosedive into administration in 1982. The entire board resigned and, with obvious wounds, he didn’t go to Molineux again.
But Bob and Jo have continued to attend games, the last of them a victory at Reading in Nuno’s first season, although they haven’t set foot in Wolverhampton for around ten years.
“There were a lot of sour grapes in 1982,” Bob added. “Dad found it hard to think about going back as a fan and never did. They had moved to Claverley in the 1970s and they are both buried in the church there.
“Dad died at 80 in December, 1999, and John Richards came to the funeral. He later apologised for not knowing when Mom’s had been. That showed the closeness there was between the family and the club.”