We at Wolves Heroes have never been interested in stirring up controversy. Our site just isn’t like that. But our no 1 contributor, California-based Charlie Bamforth, has felt compelled to write in powerful terms about what he sees as a travesty in print. Here’s his latest piece:
I am close to finishing (if I do) the autobiography of an ex-Wolves player.
I don’t want to dignify the tome by mentioning his name, to be truthful. Thankfully, we are talking of someone who had no more than a very brief first-team career at Molineux.
His tone is so different to that which I have encountered in reading the books of so many other ex-Wanderers men and, indeed, interviewing rather a lot. In this player’s case, ego seems to have got in the way of reason.
Oh, sure, the careers of most players at Molineux that I have studied were seldom (if ever) universally plain sailing. They all had their moments, should we say.
And, to be honest, they haven’t all looked back on their time in the old gold necessarily as being terribly successful. For some, it was a low point in their careers. Yet I had never developed the sense that a former Wolves player has been unfair, unreasonable or unacceptable. Until now.
The subject of this player’s bile is Stan Cullis. Now, I have spoken to enough men over the years to know that Mr Cullis was a manager who set the highest standards – for himself and those who were under his leadership; a hard man; a disciplinarian and, for some, a tartar. But, above all, fair.
Stan Cullis believed in Wolves being the very best. If he encountered someone who, in his judgment, fell short of the ideals for which the old gold stood, then woe betide that someone.
It seems that this was the fate of the aforementioned autobiographer. And from reading the self-aggrandisement perpetrated in this book, I am, frankly, not surprised that said player was not one of Cullis’s favourites (although I doubt he had favourites – merely players that he respected, trusted and believed in).
Let us not forget that it was under the Cullis leadership that Wolves won three League Championships (the only ones in our history), two FA Cups (we have not won any since) and brought pride to club and country with the floodlit friendlies of the 1950s.
I am not going to say that Stanley Cullis, any more than any man, was flawless. But I truly believe he was just. I say that from numerous conversations I have had with his ex-players. I say it also because I met him and spent two of the most memorable hours of my life in his company.
In the mid-1980s, I was living in Barton-under-Needwood. My neighbour and dear friend was Tim Ward, himself a former England international and the manager who took Kevin Hector to Derby before handing the reins over to a bloke called Clough (who once kissed my son – but that is a story for another day).
Tim was a great guy. He would serve me Tennents Super lager at 10 per cent alcohol by volume as he sipped champagne. He would invite me to watch his ex-Rams XI. Roy McFarland even tickled my baby daughter’s foot one time.
Tim invited me to a dinner at Keele and introduced me to, among others, Stanley Matthews, George Hardwick and, most special of all, Bert Williams. Later, he launched me towards a meeting with Billy Wright, my interview with whom featured in three successive issues of the Wolves programme in the days before Mr Wright joined the board.
I will never forget the day, though, that Tim said: “How would you fancy having lunch with Stan Cullis?” He had no hand left. I could have bitten it all the way up to his shoulder, so wide open was my mouth.
A few days later, I was driving Tim up into the Malvern Hills to meet Stan at his favourite restaurant.
I am rarely one to hold back but here was an occasion when I just let these two managerial legends converse as I sipped a beer and became the proverbial fly on the wall.
It did not take me long to realise that Mr Cullis was very much the man I had imagined him to be; certainly strong, most definitely intelligent, unmistakably forthright.
I confess to asking him about a few specific players. Many, of course, he recalled with delight and evident respect. There were some, though, that clearly were not his cup of tea (although I don’t remember the autobiographer I mentioned earlier even cropping up in the conversation).
One player who I had thought to be rather good up front was ‘an honest, strapping lad, but that’s about it.’
Only one player was identified as being someone who Stan had found virtually impossible to handle – a man who appeared in the first team sporadically in the 1950s and who here, in the mid-1980s, was still making Cullis shake that bald dome.
Two stories, in particular, from that lunchtime still make me smile. The first was the tale of how Stan was seeking to get the biggest price possible for a player that he was offloading. Apparently, he picked up the phone to Tim Ward and asked him to put a bid in. “But I don’t want him!” answered Tim. “I know” said Stan, “but ******** do and, if I tell them you’re in as well, they will up the offer!”
The second was of a somewhat egotistical centre forward who said to Mr Cullis in later years: “My biggest regret is that I never played for Wolves when you were manager” to which Stan replied: “But, *****, when I was manager of Wolves, I would never have signed you!”
If you want an even-handed view of what it was really like to be a player under Stan Cullis, I suggest you ask a Fred Davies or a Jimmy Melia. As far as a Wolves angle goes, I certainly wouldn’t waste my money on the autobiography of a man who should know better than to sully the memories of a glorious Molineux era.