Raising A Glass To Braddy

Tribute Time For Popular Keeper

Paul Bradshaw in action.

Further insight into the life and personality of Paul Bradshaw has been shared with us in the countdown to his funeral on Friday.

We promised a fuller tribute piece after the sad announcement of his death nearly four weeks ago and are indebted to his good pal, Geoff Palmer, for telling us much more about the man who played behind he and other long-serving Wolves defenders for years.

The two were room-mates for several seasons, including the night before the League Cup final victory over Nottingham Forest, and remained in contact.

“I remember Richie Barker telling us in the hotel in London that we could have a couple of pints as long as we were in bed at ten,” the full-back recalled. “I’ve never seen Braddy move as fast as he did when getting to that bar!

“I don’t think either of us woke up until quarter to 12 next morning, then we caught a bit of Tiswas or whatever was on before our pre-match. We had a great night’s sleep.

“He was always calm. You could never see any anxiety in him. He liked a beer, fag and bet and I suppose you could say he lived his life a bit on the edge. But he was an excellent trainer. He was the sort who could go for a good night out and wouldn’t shirk next day. He’d be properly at it.”

Such was Bradshaw’s high basic level of fitness that he played approaching 400 League games for his various clubs, including exactly 200 while at Molineux.

Wolves are the one he served for longest and he was an enormously respected figure here who played in two FA Cup semi-finals as well as in a winning side at Wembley.

“He was such a good keeper,” Palmer added. “Wolves fans say he is one of the very best they have had since the 1950s. He was a great build at 6ft 4in and slim and, as well as being a fabulous shot-stopper, could arrow a pass 50 or 60 yards downfield.

‘Braddy’ and ‘Topo’ at Wolves’ Castlecroft training headquarters.

“He used to love playing out in the five-a-sides and knocking a goal or two in with his left foot. Phil Parkes and Mick Kearns thought lots of him, too. It was impossible not to be impressed by him.”

Bradshaw effectively ended the Wolves first-team careers of Parkes and Gary Pierce while Kearns had few grumbles at being his back-up.

The Republic of Ireland international was quoted in Clive Corbett’s Out Of Darkness book as saying: “Paul was one of the best natural keepers I ever worked with. He was fantastic.

“I think it’s generally accepted that if he had been a bit more dedicated, he could have gone even further in the game. I had a couple of spells in the team when he was injured but I couldn’t really complain about not getting a look-in. He was playing that well.”

Bradshaw made his name with around 90 appearances for Blackburn, including 41 in the 1976-77 Second Division season in which he faced Wolves en route to them winning the title under Sammy Chung.

The manager was sufficiently alerted to his air of authority to spend a club record £150,000 on him in the autumn of their first season back among the elite, his debut coming in a 3-0 home win over Leicester that was marked by a John Richards hat-trick.

He missed only one Wolves game out of the 38 he was on board for in 1977-78 – when he fell ill and let Parkes back in for an unscheduled curtain call at West Ham in the March – and played 40-plus Wanderers games in a season four times, remaining an ever-present in 1981-82 when he was named as the club’s player of the year for the second summer running.

By a strange coincidence, the last of his 243 appearances here was in December, 1983, in a 5-1 defeat at Leicester (also his first-day opponents) when I covered a Wolves game for the Express & Star for the first time, as a late stand-in for the unwell David Harrison.

My only interview with Braddy was at his home in Altrincham 15 years ago, when I was armed with an invite for him to a reunion of the first-ever England under-21 side, in which he had played. He showed initial interest in attending but subsequently declined it.

He also spoke of his drift out of contact with all his Molineux team-mates, saying he was more likely to bump into Peter Reid, Arthur Albiston, Norman Whiteside and other prominent Manchester players.

Bradshaw receiving his player of the year award from Jimmy Mullen (right) in 1981.

Palmer did retain contact through their sons, though, and happily made the effort to visit him last autumn.

“Our sons are good friends and I am pleased now that I went up to see him,” the defender added. “He wasn’t in a good state and was pretty much confined to bed.

“He had stopped drinking but I told him off because he was still smoking. He reckoned it was only a couple a day but there was a packet of cigarettes next to him.

“When he first signed for Wolves, he used to head back up north for the weekend after a match – he was friendly with Peter Reid, possibly through the England under-21 squad. Then he started staying down here more and more and he and his girlfriend would join us for a night out.

“He always called me Topo and was good mates as well with Emlyn Hughes. I think Emlyn’s contacts in the horse racing world interested him. Andy Gray was another pretty good pal of his.

“Derek Parkin and John McAlle used to get on to him to put his money into a house down here but he was the sort of guy who didn’t have money in his pocket for too long.”

Bradshaw, honoured with a minute’s applause and the wearing of black armbands at Wolves’ victory over Sheffield United on February 25, did tell me at our meeting a decade and a half ago that he had had a nice cottage near Penn Golf Club during his career in these parts.

At other times, he also lived in Tettenhall and Underhill and was in the area for many years as he had two spells at Albion as well. The low point of his time in the Black Country was the nightmare of an attack outside a pub that left him with a broken eye socket and jaw.

Paul at home a decade and a half or so ago.

Wolves fans had their last sight of Braddy on the night their club won promotion from the Fourth Division with a victory at Newport in April, 1988.

It was one of 23 League matches he appeared in while in South Wales and he later played more than 30 games for Peterborough, having also had a 24-match stint with Vancouver Whitecaps. 

He left an extremely favourable impression in these parts and Wolves supporters will be delighted that a considerable number of his former Molineux team-mates are due to travel to Altrincham on Friday to honour him.

*The Premier Suite in Cannock stages a 50th anniversary Sunday lunch with Wolves’ first League Cup winners this weekend, with Gary Pierce, Phil Parkes, Geoff Palmer, Derek Parkin, John McAlle, Kenny Hibbitt, John Richards, Barry Powell, Steve Daley and Steve Kindon due to be in attendance. Tickets are available by ringing 01543-572092 or emailing info@premier.suite.co.uk – the host is Jason Guy.

 

 

 

 

 

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