Fulfilled To The End

Wolves Heroics Were Only A Bit Of Les’ Story

Les Cocker during his stay with Arcadia United in South Africa.

Ted Farmer has been used more than once by Wolves Heroes to offer an over-view of players he knew much better than we did.

There was a different procedure at Telford Crematorium today. Within our earshot, he merely wandered over to the son of Les Cocker and smiled: “He’d got it, you know, your father.”

And, with those few words, we were reminded that the man who died of a pulmonary embolism last month at the age of 77 might well have made a much bigger impact at Molineux.

Cocker featured in the club’s historic FA Youth Cup winning side of 1957-58, registered one first-team appearance and played England youth international football alongside Bobby Moore. Impressive credentials, indeed.

He then served as a professional in the South African game for a couple of seasons before prospering back in the Midlands in non-League.

But, as if trying to force a way past Wright, Flowers, Clamp and Slater and a myriad of other talented Molineux half-backs wasn’t tough enough, there were other mitigating difficulties.

This distinctly bright teenager had been encouraged by his father to study hard and later had a parallel career in engineering on the go, even running his own business for a while. You can envisage that winning Stan Cullis’s approval was harder still if playing wasn’t your be-all-and-end-all.

There would appear, though, to have been few regrets. Life was good, work as a designer taking him to factory-building projects as far afield as China and Indonesia. Basically anywhere the construction gang needed to lay loads of pipes.

Other assignments were closer to home in Sweden and Germany but, even when UK-based, he didn’t always see his son and daughter as much as he would have liked. “He was a weekend father at times,” said his widow Wendy. John, born in 1963, added: “We were a working class family. Dad went abroad if and when he needed to in order to pay the bills.”

Cocker’s timeline had some important Wolves – and world – dates running through it. His birthdate of September 18, 1939 was just over a fortnight after war was declared and four or five months on from when Wolves finished runners-up in both the League and FA Cup.

He signed for his home-town favourites at 15 around the time of their first League Championship triumph and his very Wulfrunian wedding to Wendy – he was from Fordhouses, she was from Fallings Park – came in the club’s Cup-winning year of 1960.

With Wellington Town having seen the best of his part-time days when they were in the Southern League premier division, the couple moved elsewhere in Shropshire when setting up home in Newport in 1978.

A gentler alternative sporting interest presented itself over the years and the town’s bowling club, where he was a member, hosted the ‘afters’ this afternoon. Up to early last season, he remained an enthusiastic match-day visitor to Molineux and we exited the funeral venue to the Match of the Day theme.

The tributes centred on his kindness, tidiness and sense of humour. “He was a joker to the end,” said granddaughter Hazel, adding in a read-out thank-you to him. “Your love glued all my broken pieces together.”

Les was also laughingly described as OCD – a possible off-shoot of his skills as a draughtsman – and the turn-out was a bit like that for the famous second leg against the Chelsea kids in 1958; much bigger than expected. Only 100 orders of service were printed when 200 would have been nearer the required mark.

As well as Farmer, Fred Davies was in attendance. So, too, a late 1950s Wolves youngster who didn’t make the grade, Barry Clark. Despite that one, solitary senior appearance, against Blackburn, each knew that the man we were remembering was quite a talent.

 

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