My ‘Crackers’ Mate Budgie

Fond Memories Of One-Off Keeper

John Burridge at Molineux in the early 1980s.

An insight into the wacky world of John Burridge has been related to us by one of his former pals and team-mates.

The keeper and Billy Rafferty played for Wolves a few years apart and it was at Blackpool in the early 1970s that their paths crossed – to amusing effect.

“We were in digs together and he was absolutely crackers,” Rafferty says.

“He didn’t drink but he used to wander back at about midnight after he had been out with the girl who later became his wife.

“He would reach under his bed, bring out a football and say: ‘Come on, Raffs, test me.’

“I could have done without that because I would be half asleep but he had a very infectious personality that you couldn’t help but like. He was great fun.

“He used to tell jokes to the holiday-makers in the lounge at dinner time. They would be the same ones over and over again, so he relied on them only staying a few days so he could have a new audience.

“Despite his sense of humour, though, he was very serious about his goalkeeping. He wasn’t the tallest but he had a great spring and was very athletic.”

Burridge was born in Workington, not far from Rafferty’s home in Carlisle and even closer to Cockermouth, where the former striker has run one of his corporate six-a-side football leagues.

But their paths don’t cross these days as Burridge has coached for several years in the United Arab Emirates and Oman as well as working for the Far East media as a pundit.

Rafferty has had much more success staying in touch with other mates from his playing past.

He still meets up with John Richards and Willie Carr to revive Molineux friendships and was reacquainted with the latter as recently as last month at a 40-year aniversary reunion of the Coventry team who played in the Fairs Cup.

Rafferty, 59, now mainly watches Carlisle and followed them to Wembley last season in the final of the Johnstone’s Paint Trophy final.

And he has revealed that he turned down chances to return to the game in a coaching capacity long after he left Molineux in 1979.

“Bruce Rioch once asked me to go to Middlesbrough as youth coach but we were running a family beauty and fitness business at the time and had invested decent money into it,” he added.

Billy Rafferty (back row, far left) with a bespectacled Paul Mariner and other current Plymouth Argyle personnel, including Peter Reid (front left).

“I also had an offer from Carlisle but again the timing was wrong.

“Sometimes, I think of the match-day atmosphere and wish I’d stayed in the game, especially when I see team-mates who I never thought were cut out for it holding jobs down.

“But I think I’ve been better off overall doing what I’ve done. I did a lot of travelling as a player and would have been here, there and everywhere if I’d coached or managed as well.”

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