Eyes Only For Wolves

Interest At Molineux, So Glamour Clubs Were Wasting Their Time

Martin Patching pictured during his Wolves career.

‘He lived the dream but would love it to have gone on much longer’.

And now we can give further insight on how much it meant to Martin Patching to play for Wolverhampton Wanderers.

The utility man’s older brother, Keith, to whom we attribute the quote at the top of this piece, was a more than significant guiding hand 50 years and more ago – albeit sometimes also a perplexed one.

“I was a Rotherham fan and always have been,” he said. “We grew up here, so it was the natural thing, but Martin fell in love with Wolves when he was five or six.

“I used to have the Charles Buchan magazines and remember him seeing a photo of one of the Wolves players, possibly Terry Wharton. The colour of the shirt just did it for him and he was hooked.

“I took him to a Cup tie when Rotherham beat Wolves 1-0 at Millmoor and he definitely didn’t share my joy at the result. He loved players like Derek Dougan and Dave Wagstaffe much more.

“As a lad, he was good enough to play for the under-11 Rother Valley team when he was eight and he later became the captain. When it became clear he was probably good enough to have a professional career, he was only going to sign for Wolves.

“Leeds were very interested and took him to the FA Cup final in 1973, when he was very much hoping for a Sunderland win! Arsenal were also keen and I remember taking a phone call from someone saying he was from Manchester United and suggesting our parents met him in a department store and looked round to see if there was anything they fancied.

“Martin wasn’t interested in them, though, so Mark Crook had an easy time of it when he came to our house with the paperwork from Wolves for him to sign.”

We recorded in our tribute piece of five weeks ago how Martin made his first-team Wolves debut at home to a club close to his South Yorkshire roots, Sheffield United, in 1975, aged only 16.

His 101 senior games here were followed by around a third of that number at Watford before injuries forced him into retirement at only 24.

And as featured in the Backpass magazine almost five years ago.

“The big sadness is that his career was cut so short,” Keith added. “He would have loved a few more years in the game and he might have achieved more in his time at Wolves if he had stayed fit. That would have thrilled him but he still did so much more in football than the vast majority of us do.

“I went to see a few of his games but played locally myself on Saturdays and Sundays. Our dad also watched plenty of his matches after he graduated from the reserves to the first team. The family were very proud.”

Among the keepsakes on view at Patching’s funeral at Rotherham Crematorium earlier this week were a photo of him at Derek Dougan’s funeral in 2007.

By then, he was involved in his own major health battle – one that came to light soon after he moved back to Rotherham in 2006 following a long spell away in the Watford area.

“He just turned up here again without letting us know he was coming back and we went out for a drink one night,” Keith added. “He lost his bearings when he came out of the toilets and he was later diagnosed with a brain tumour that had probably been growing for years and would have killed him if it had become a bit bigger. He had a 14-hour operation not long after and his personality did change over the years. But he had another decade and a half or so and we continued to speak a lot.”

Martin had four brothers and a sister, their mother having died in 2022 at the age of 93.

Formerly married to a woman from Wolverhampton, he had three offspring, including the Luton forward Courlay Woodrow.

John Black among the wilds of northern Scotland.

Among those who contacted us last month following the sad announcement of his death at 65 were John Black, one of his Molineux contemporaries in the second half of the 1970s. 

From his home in the north of Scotland, John wrote: “I was really sad to hear the news. He was a smashing lad who we all in that run to the FA Youth Cup final in 1976 looked forward to playing with.

“He was sometimes with the first team and we had to manage without him but he earned the respect of the first-team players as well while he was still young.

“We had some memorable nights out on that cup run and I thought he was a smashing player and bloke. RIP Patch.”

 

 

 

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