Playing The Long Game

A Transfer Chase Like Few Other

Mike O’Grady has an early ‘sighter’ in the home derby with Albion in November, 1969 – a game he settled with a stunning late goal.

Wolves’ long and ultimately fruitless late-1970s pursuit of Peter Reid is regarded as one of the longest transfer chases in their history.

But, in its own way, their signing of Mike O’Grady a decade or so earlier, was vastly more drawn-out than the interest they showed in a midfielder who was playing for Bolton but went on to fame with Everton and England.

Long before landing the forward from Leeds early in 1969-70, Wolves trailed him closely as a Huddersfield player and even had designs on introducing him to their Wath Wanderers nursery four years prior to that.

Their advances peaked in the wake of the 19-year-old left-winger scoring one of the goals through which they were dumped out of the FA Cup, as holders, at the Terriers’ old Leeds Road ground in January, 1961.

O’Grady impressed sufficiently in that third-round replay on a frost-bound night to have Stan Cullis and his chief scout George Noakes travelling to watch him again in a Yorkshire derby against Barnsley the following month.

They had also scouted him prior to the Cup meetings, the second of which was followed by the manager sounding out the home directors on the subject.

Efforts in the West Midlands to sign the Leeds-born youngster came to nothing, though, and it was his home-city club who eventually took him away from Huddersfield in 1965.

O’Grady totalled more than 250 appearances across his years at the two West Yorkshire clubs, winning two England caps along the way and also earning admiring glances from Bill McGarry when he was Watford manager.

He was 26 when he finally joined Wolves in September, 1969, making his debut in a 1-1 draw at Newcastle. The programme for the following weekend’s home game against Everton devoted a page to the strange history to the deal (see left).

It would be pleasing to report that his time in these parts was successful. Alas, a man who has turned 81 this season was plagued by misfortune and restricted to 41 games and six goals in a stay of around three years.

He has therefore tended to be regarded as poor value for the £80,000 invested in him but we are pleased to set the record a little straighter thanks to Jim McCalliog.

The Scot had been signed from Sheffield Wednesday a few weeks before O’Grady arrived and said: “Mike was a good player and was just desperately unlucky with injuries while he was at Wolves.”


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