In Praise Of Mike

‘Everybody Liked Him’ – Striker Andy

Mike Bailey with Dave Wagstaffe’s long-time partner Val five years ago.

Mike Bailey has been in the thoughts of all Wolves fans recently – but not for what happened almost 40 years ago.

The one return he made to Molineux in charge of another club was a winning one that seriously damaged the prospects of the squad John Barnwell was struggling to keep out of danger.

What’s more, Bailey’s new employers had ‘Albion’ in their name after his managerial career had taken him initially to Hereford and Charlton, then to Brighton.

Mike the player had not been party to the problems Wolves had against Brighton, coming as they did in the form of five consecutive defeats at the hands of the Seagulls in the late 1970s and early 1980s.

He had moved into the dug-out by then and his impact on Goldstone Ground matters has now been revisited in a long feature on Andy Ritchie in the latest issue of Backpass.

In an interview with writer Nick Szczepanik, the striker has recalled hitting the only goal of the night at Molineux on Tuesday, September 22, to take Brighton to fifth in the top flight, the highest position they have ever occupied.

And he said about his manager in the article: “Mike got us all playing. Everybody liked him and John Collins, his coach.

“When a group of players like the management, as you see at Liverpool now, it takes you a long way. You don’t have to be great friends with them but when you are having things explained to you and training is good and a bit of fun, you get a lot more out of it. That has certainly been my ethos as a manager.

“It was a fantastic club to be involved in. We were top eight for quite a while but dropped away towards the end of the season.”

Brighton finished 13th in Bailey’s only full campaign as successor to the boss who had taken the club to the top division for the first time, Alan Mullery.

And the man who followed Bailey into office on the Sussex coast, Jimmy Melia, is another with Molineux connections – but held in nothing like the same affections by Ritchie.

The skipper in his prime in Wolves’ midfield.

He said the two didn’t see eye-to-eye and the forward was somewhat taken aback when asked whether he wanted to speak on the phone to Leeds player-manager Eddie Gray about a move to Elland Road.

After he had chatted to the Scot and arranged to head north for talks, Melia reportedly told him: “Right, you are taking your boots with you.”

The article also tells us that Ritchie was effectively swapped for Terry Connor – the long-time Molineux no 2 in much more recent times. The two players even met at Gatwick in their journeys in the opposite direction with both somewhat displeased about being unwanted at their clubs after giving them excellent goal-scoring sevice.

The issue of Backpass in question (number 72) is now on sale and has a Manchester United-themed front cover.

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