It’s that time of year when promotion and relegation issues are being resolved – and Dale Rudge tasted both during his dream years with the club who stole his young heart.
A read-up of his life and times in the game also reveals that there was plenty of colour to his professional career, even if it struggled to break into what we might describe as the higher-profile category.
We are indebted to Jason Guy’s entertaining and successful ‘Tales From The Tape’ book for the reminder of how this lifelong Wolves fan, who was born and bred in the Claregate-Aldersley area, graduated to the top-flight ranks and then took the drop again 12 months later.
This was, of course, the era when Wolves forgot how to do mid-table finishes. For five successive years, they either went up or down – usually the latter – and no end of season was allowed to become humdrum.
Rudge was one of some three dozen Molineux figures interviewed for the Wolf Whistle podcast that formed the basis of this book and didn’t disappoint with his recollections.
From fondly looking back at a visit to his primary school by Bobby Gould, Hugh Curran and John Richards to admiring the work of Arsenal’s Bob Wilson when he himself had a flirtation with the goalkeeper position to a bust-up involving football’s most controversial manager, he proved good value to his interviewer.
“One day when we had played Nottingham Forest, I was in the away dressing room, sweeping up and making sure it was clean and tidy,” he is quoted as saying in the £12 soft-back.
“Wolves had won and Brian Clough was ranting, telling his players they had to get straight on the coach and not via the players’ bar. When he got outside, a rather large lady said: ‘What’s up, Cloughie? You got a ball stuck in your mouth?
“He stepped off the coach, gave her a mouthful back, at which point a flag hit him, a fight ensued and punches were thrown. Never a dull moment!”
The first of Rudge’s 30 or so first-team Wolves appearances was one of the high points of the unexpected promotion triumph under Graham Hawkins in 1982-83 – the 4-0 December home win against a QPR side who would also go up a few months later.
The nine pages that make up this chapter represent a thorough dig for new information and, as well as references to the reaction of others to his first appearance and the fact Dale’s brother, Craig, was once seen by some as a better prospect, there is a revelation about a little-known eve-of-debut car crash and a dizzy night out following the Danny Crainie-inspired win at Albion in late 1983.
There’s more to enjoy poring over from the player’s post-Molineux time…..his unwelcome claim to fame, as a Preston player, in playing in front of their lowest-ever crowd – a meagre 768 for a Freight Rover Trophy game – and his recognition in the naming of the Deepdale Rudge fanzine.
Well done again to author Jason Guy….there is a lot of good stuff here about a lot of players, managers and directors.