For a few moments during yesterday’s FA Cup fifth-round draw, George Elokobi’s well-stated wish for a return to what he identified to the nation as ‘the Golden Palace’ had an increasing likelihood of coming to pass.
Sixteen balls had been whittled down to six, with those bearing the numbers of Wolves and Maidstone still in the pot and untouched. Alas, his dream tie wasn’t to be, so it will have to wait until the quarter-final!
At the end of a distinctly bitter-sweet Cup weekend, of pleasing progress and shameful headlines, what better than to home in on the story that has produced only happy news over the last few days?
Elokobi and his players have been in the public consciousness since their home victory over Stevenage in the third round and now they have been elevated to a different level of recognition altogether after the 2-1 win at Ipswich that made them the first sixth-tier club since Blyth Spartans in 1978 to reach the last 16.
They have led off Match of the Day’s Saturday night highlights programme for two rounds in a row, so what’s left for us to share here about this highly popular figure from the relatively recent Molineux past?
Maybe the first point to be made is that the Cup has by no means always been kind to him. The last of the 46 games he played in his first spell at Colchester was a 3-1 third-round exit at home to Peterborough in 2008 and he submitted a transfer request shortly afterwards.
He moved for £500,000 to Wolves on the last day of that month’s window and played 15 games in Mick McCarthy’s promotion-challenging side that season.
Then, wouldn’t you just know it, the injury that wiped out almost all of his 2008-09 campaign was suffered at the very place at which he and his squad partied on Saturday like never before!
The burly defender figured in the first four matches and then had the shattering blow of sustaining a bad cruciate injury in a win at Ipswich before August was out. He didn’t return to the first team until his five-minute outing as substitute at home to Doncaster on the final day when Molineux celebrated Wolves’ Championship title success.
He was then sent off in a 2-2 Wolves draw in the Cup at Donny in 2010-11 and the competition also brought sadness for him the season after. He appeared in a 1-0 home exit against Birmingham in the January and had played his last game for the manager he thought so much of.
He moved on loan to Nottingham Forest just before the end came for McCarthy at Molineux and was lining up alongside Adlene Guediora and Marlon Harewood in the East Midlands as Wolves hurtled towards relegation from the top flight.
Elokobi also had a temporary spell with Bristol City before the FA Cup brought him another miserable low – a home defeat against Oldham with Wolves after Kenny Jackett had given him a fresh start at the club.
Following his release from Molineux in August, 2014, there was the coincidence of him losing in the FA Cup with Oldham at home to Doncaster.
But, after re-signing for Colchester, he sampled some more of the joy the competition can offer when he played in the side who knocked out Altrincham in 2015-16 – some consolation for having sat out a 6-2 win at Wealdstone in a previous round. He was also on the sidelines as Colchester emphatically lost at home to Tottenham in the fourth round.
Now 37 and with a 100-plus tally of Wolves games behind him, he announced his playing retirement in 2022 but not before scoring twice in the four league games he played for Maidstone – a throwback to twice finding the net in gold and black against Manchester United.
He was made caretaker boss of the Kent club last January, upgraded to permanent boss in March and, judging by how many Wolves youngsters down the years have named him as a massive training-ground mentor, has no trouble capturing players’ attention.
The Stones are currently fourth in the National League South after relegation last season and no doubt looking forward, like their manager, to a visit to Sheffield Wednesday or Coventry in almost three weeks’ time.