It started off as an on-field presentation, occasionally switched to other venues such as one of Wolverhampton’s best-known nightspots and then became concentrated on Molineux after Sir Jack Hayward’s spectacular stadium redevelopment a quarter of a century ago.
Still, though, the eagerly-awaited unveiling night for the club’s main Player of the Year award has had other homes, such as the Civic Hall in the middle of the 1990s and, in the last few years, the spacious and stylish Telford International Centre. So how many of the recipients can you remember? And you may be surprised by some of the omissions from the 1970s. Here’s the complete list and a reminder of who you may have forgotten……
Various of the photos below, especially the more recent ones, are courtesy of Wolves and we thank them for their cooperation. Fans looking to have a flutter can head over to bet365 and either place a bet on the team or on which players will be the goalscorers.
There was precious little squad rotation a quarter of a century ago and the midfielder with a wand of a left foot started exactly 50 of the 52 matches Wolves played in all competitions in this latest mid-table Molineux campaign. Mind you, he could run forever and just loved his football. Generous to a fault, he promptly gave his award to the parents of commercial manager Gary Leaver.
Wolves were in danger of losing their upward momentum but this third year of life back in the Second Division was the high spot of Thomas McNeill Bennett’s seven-year Molineux stay. Initially used in Division Three as a right-back, he showed he could fill in as a central defender and a central midfielder as he played 42 of the 51 League and cup matches that season.
It would have seemed wrong if this award had eluded the man who served the club for more than a decade and went on to play more matches in their goal than anyone else in history. In the first year of Hayward rule, the keeper was as commanding as ever and won admiring glances from beyond Molineux, Graham Taylor calling him up for England B duty in Algeria.
The Teessider had played at the higher end of the Football League before his move from East Midlands to West Midlands and made light of stepping up with Wolves again for two seasons in a row. With that impressive left foot of his, he looked at home in a division containing his former club, Leicester, among its big hitters and carried off the no 3 duties to excellent effect.
Individual honours, as well as goals and international calls, were shared between the feared strike duo and the ‘other half’ appeared 23 times on the score sheet for the second season running. He was an unselfish, industrious performer and also attracted admiring glances from elsewhere. Maybe this award helped convince him to stay put after his contract expired in 1989.
From early on, it was a case of who is going to be second? Molineux diehards had been longing for a new hero for several years and here was one delivered by the neighbours down the road. Fifty-two goals added up to a stupendous contribution to the double of Fourth Division title and Sherpa Van Trophy and he decorated his monster haul with four of his club record 18 hat-tricks for the club.
Supporters Club members chose thoughtfully when going for the dependable defender, who worked as a milkman before becoming a pro footballer and returned to the same round after retiring. He included a belter of a goal at Preston and another strike against Halifax in his native Yorkshire in a season’s work that saw him eclipse the newly-signed Steve Bull in the voting.
Player of the Year nights were different in the 1980s but big ‘Bruno’ was a highly popular recipient when presented with his award by Billy Wright at Eve’s nightclub – a venue not unfamiliar with Wolves players going back a decade or more earlier. He was in and out of the side until becoming a regular after the turn of the year as a prelude to what was to come from him.
Finding a top performer during the slide down the divisions was difficult but the young keeper was clearly destined for the big time. He became a crowd favourite in rapid time after making his debut in the opening-day home draw against Sheffield United and missed only four games throughout the season in burning off the challenge of previous winner John Burridge.
The unflappable ‘Stokie’ was a calming influence in the rise back to the top flight and did as much as anyone in what proved a hopeless fight to keep the club with the elite. Only once that season did he not line up in Wolves’ defence – a home draw against Sunderland – and it was back at the Victoria Ground that he and his side said a painful farewell to the big time for 19 long years.