Played In Essex

Novelty Night Out For Barney’s Wolves

Wolves defending the then open end of Southend’s Roots Hall home in 1981.

It’s not only the big Wolves games we love profiling on this site – and the fixture in question today is very much one of the left-field variety.

So much did this particular match fly under the radar that the Express & Star didn’t send a reporter or even carry someone else’s report of it.

But the contest and scoreline do appear in the record books and here is some pictorial proof that it took place.

Southend 1 Wolves 0 on the Friday night of May 8, 1981 was, unsurprisingly, a bigger deal for the hosts than for John Barnwell’s team four days after the end of a First Division season in which they trailed in a disappointing 18th.

Southend were much more jubilant, having just won their first title – the Fourth Division championship crown – and completed a tremendous unbeaten season at Roots Hall.

They won 19 and drew four of their 23 home League games, one of their rare slips coming in a 1-1 draw with Rochdale a week before Wolves’ visit to the Essex coast.

That basement-division invincibility, coupled with a euphoria that built with the pre-match showing-off of the silverware, perhaps make it less of a surprise that Wolves were beaten, although they had won at Leeds and Sunderland shortly before their FA Cup semi-final clashes with Tottenham in the April.

The Wolves players we can quickly recognise on the action photo above right include Geoff Palmer, Willie Carr and John McAlle.

Mick Matthews is possibly the gold-shirted players second closest to the camera while the left flank appears to be occupied by Derek Parkin and Colin Brazier.

Mick Hollifield was listed on the team sheet in the programme and had played around 20 senior games that season, with Parkin losing his vice-like grip on the left-back role in the countdown to his move to Stoke.

Lifelong Wolves fan Peter Abbott has stepped in and not only told us he went to the game but also sent us both the printed line-ups and the record he kept of the changes.

He assures us Hollifield did not figure but there was an outing at no 4 for David Beattie, the Belfast-born teenager Wolves fans of the early 1980s knew from the Central League and youth sides.

The only goal for a Southend camp who were managed by Dave Smith and also contained Gary Nelson came from Keith Mercer.

John Barnwell with young fans outside Roots Hall 39 years ago.

While Wolves had a grim 1981-82 campaign that ended in relegation and escalated over the summer to within three minutes of them going out of business, Southend adjusted well to their higher surroundings and finished seventh.

We would love to hear from any other Wolves supporters who went to the game and have specific memories of it – even Peter Abbott couldn’t help us with that last bit!

Wolves’ line-up: Kearns, Palmer, Parkin, Beattie, McAlle, Brazier, Atkinson, Carr, Richards, Gray, Matthews. Sub: Butler.

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