Peter Knowles has paid a warm tribute to the reporter he selected to break the news of his dramatic retirement almost 50 years ago.
Knowles was among the large turn-out at yesterday’s funeral of John Dee, the former Express & Star correspondent who passed away late last month aged 83.
And the Molineux star has fondly recalled how the two friends bonded even further during his final weeks at the club.
“I told John in confidence that I was going to quit and asked him to sit on the story for a fortnight or so,” Knowles told Wolves Heroes.
“I wasn’t ready to make the announcement straightaway and put my trust in him not to let me down.
“I will never forget how he kept his word to me when there must have been a real temptation to write the story.
“As it turned out, a reporter called Mervyn Thomas broke the story first anyway in the Daily Mail. I wasn’t very happy it came out like that and I am sure John wasn’t, although he just got over his disappointment and was his normal self with me again immediately.
“He earned my full admiration for how he behaved and conducted himself – it has stayed with me all this time.”
Knowles’ stunning decision to walk away from football and into life as a Jehovah’s Witness was massive news on front pages as well as back ones.
Those of us in the media can well imagine the kudos that would have come with securing an exclusive such as this, plus the monetary rewards that would have come with selling it to other newspapers afterwards.
In John ‘Henry’ Dee, we have lost a man of honour as well as a friend and colleague whose huge popularity on the circuit was reflected by the number of mourners at Gornal Wood Crematorium.
Not only many former work-mates from the Express & Star but also John Richards – one of the Molineux mainstays during his years as the paper’s Wolves correspondent in the 1970s – and a host of figures from the snooker world, including professionals Steve James and Nigel Bond.
“We knew John well enough to ask a favour at times,” Knowles added. “If one of us wanted a transfer and needed something in the papers, we knew he would say it in the right way. In other words, it would let other clubs know about a player being unsettled without the people at Wolves knowing where the story had come from.”
Having forged firm friendships with Knowles, Dave Wagstaffe, Jim McCalliog and others at Wolves, Dee then won the affections of the biggest name at the time on the green baize.
Alex Higgins chose him as an usher at his wedding, wanted him at one point as his manager and was grateful when, during a slump in form, he was reunited with his former favourite cue – which had been kept safe in the loft of the reporter’s Wednesbury home!