Great Work, Lads…..’Coaching’ Of The Highest Order!

Heart-Warming Help For Stranded Youngster

Anxious moments for Phil Parkes and his defenders in the game at Sunderland on April 15, 1968. And the drama didn’t end with the final whistle.

Okay, it was an Easter fixture, not a festive one. And it concerns a Wolves visit to a club not currently with them in the top flight. But the message that pours out from it is a warm one that makes this time of year as good as any to give it an airing.

We flash back to April, 1968 and the latter stages of the first season after Division One football was restored to Molineux by Ronnie Allen and his players.

Despite a welcome Easter Saturday victory at Stoke, Wolves were still in danger of an immediate return to the second tier when they visited fellows-in-distress Sunderland two days later.

And that worrying prospect increased following a 2-0 defeat at Roker Park that left the side looking over their shoulders with the end of the season less than a month away.

So the off-field gesture that caught our eye during some routine research was all the more worthy for the fact it was made in the hours after a disappointing result. It was a day – or, to be more precise – an evening, night and early morning that showed there’s often a picture bigger than just the winning or losing.

Somehow, a 14-year-old Wolves fan became detached from fellow supporters after the game and contacted police when realising he had missed his coach home.

Thankfully, a message reached the squad and directors just before they resumed their long journey south following a meal stop at Scotch Corner and plans were made for the lad to be ferried there while they waited to fulfil the role of good samaritans.

It made for an even later arrival back in Wolverhampton for the players but they stepped up to ensure there was a happy ending to a story that appeared on the front page of the following night’s Express & Star under Phil Morgan’s byeline.

Not only did they make the youngster feel welcome and at ease amid the shock of losing his three travelling pals but they chipped in to make sure he was fed when they finally reached a service station some hours later in those motorway-limited days.

Then, Phil Parkes, who still lived in West Bromwich, shared a taxi to get him safely home to Coseley, the paper going as far as to give his address as well as naming him as John Jowicz, a pupil at High Arcall Grammar School.

Frank Wignall – a huge success at Wolves late in 1967-68, when the pressure was on.

No-one who knows the club’s long-time goalkeeper will be surprised he, quite literally, went the extra mile to help out but there was much gratitude from the relieved family to others as well, including chairman John Ireland, whose decision it was to hold up the coach for an hour while transport was scrambled to get the boy from Wearside to Scotch Corner, that well-known landmark near the top of the A1.

The uplifting gesture was followed by good news for all concerned. The five games after the Sunderland defeat brought two wins and two draws, with recent capture Frank Wignall on fire.

He scored nine goals in the last 12 matches of the season to see to it that relegation was avoided by four points as Sheffield United and Fulham took the drop.

 

 

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