John Richards has engaged the help of trusted allies to help him quietly acknowledge the 50th anniversary of a significant landmark in his life.
Wolves’ long-time former record goalscorer knew it was in the spring of 1969 that he played in the Central League game that effectively served as his Molineux trial.
But he didn’t know the exact date or many details of what he remembered as being a four-goal end-of-season flourish at home to Derby.
“I wasn’t even fully signed up – I was still at school in Warrington,” he recalls. “I signed on the day of the game on FA schoolboy forms and travelled with Joe Gardiner just for the match.
“What I remember very well is the fact that Jimmy Seal scored a hat-trick and even more so a header from Duggie Woodfield – I didn’t realise anyone could head a ball so hard!
“In the dressing room afterwards, I was approached by an elderly gentlemen who said how well I’d played and asked me if I would like to sign for Wolverhampton Wanderers. Of course I said yes. Once he had left, I asked Jimmy Seal who he was and he said: ‘That’s the chairman, John Ireland.'”
The 18-year-old Richards was soon back at school before signing on professional terms in the June when he turned 19.
He went on to write countless headlines over the next decade and a half but we were delighted to relay the low-key content of the Express & Star coverage of the Derby game, which we discovered was played 50 years ago on the Friday night of April 18.
Maybe for fear of alerting scouts from rival clubs, Richards was not named in the team given in the paper on match day, some room in the line-up having been created by the fact youngsters Jimmy McVeigh and Paul Walker were being initiated in the first team at Sunderland the following day.
And the rookie forward’s only mention 24 hours later was in the following side at the bottom of a six-paragraph report: Boswell, Grice, Ross, Woodfield, P Nicholls, Molyneux, Clarke, Seal, Richards, Riley, McDonald. Sub: W Nicholls.
In front of an attendance of 1,250, Seal scored three times in 12 minutes during a first half which proved highly problematic for the visitors.
Their left-half, Richardson, was carried off after four minutes with a leg injury and substitute Blair left the field with a gashed head in the 29th minute. That left them down to ten man for the rest of the game.
Woodfield scored the fourth just before half-time with the previously mentioned bullet header.
Derby’s side was Ladrick, Wright, Daniel, Brooks, Rhodes, Richardson, McCable, Bourne, Patrick, Walker, Marlowe. Sub: Blair.
The names we best recognise are Peter Daniel (not the one who served Wolves and Hull) and Walker, who was the long-time ex-Villa physio Jim. Jeff Bourne is another name familiar from first-team football.