Not many players can say they married at 11am and reported for England duty at 7pm. Fewer still would want to claim that the wedding-night bed they were invited to share belonged to the team’s centre-forward.
Such was the lot of Alan Hinton, the winger groomed at Wolves and first capped for his country while at Molineux.
And it was a tale that made he and better half Joy headline news in Fleet Street and on TV as they tied the knot on October 19, 1964.
“Everything was falling into place very smoothly,” he recalls in his newly-published autobiography, Triumph & Tragedy. “That was until several days before the big day, when I received a telegram from the FA saying I was selected to play for the national team against Belgium and was expected to report at 5pm on Monday the 19th.
“I was over the moon with excitement and pride but then the reality hit me. This would mean leaving the wedding early and heading to London, leaving Joy behind for three or four days.
“I was quite timid about talking on the phone but knew I had to call manager Alf Ramsey. The short conversation went like this: ‘I’m really honoured to have been selected, Mr Ramsey, but I have a personal commitment on the 19th.’
“I went on to explain everything, he listened patiently and then said: ‘Congratulations on the wedding, Alan. We will see you at the Hendon Hall Hotel at 7pm on Monday evening’.”
The service in Wednesbury, where bride and groom were from, was therefore followed by an earlier-than-desired farewell to a distinguished guest list that included several of the winger’s Nottingham Forest team-mates, including John Barnwell and Chris Crowe, and his good pal from Molineux, John Kirkham.
Hinton, having crossed from West Midlands to East Midlands when transferred earlier that year, was able to take new wife Joy on the train ride to London after all but she had to book into a separate hotel in Westminster while he linked up with his international colleagues on the capital’s northern edge.
And the state of domestic bliss spilled over into the game as Hinton and Fred Pickering, the jocular Everton centre-forward with whom he was sharing a room, scored the goals in a 2-2 friendly draw with the Belgians.
Who says that those in the public eye are fiercely protective of their privacy? It seems this happy couple were happier still to be in demand for interviews and photographs.
“We hadn’t reckoned that my England selection and the wedding would become such national news,” the book’s text continues. “The Daily Express wanted to run a full page covering the day with photographs and the first one was of me in my tracksuit running in the early morning before going to church. Hopefully that impressed Alf!
“The church bells were pealing loudly as we walked out to be greeted by a huge crowd of unexpected well-wishers, joined by flashing paparazzi bulbs and the BBC and Midlands television cameras! Wednesbury’s Chief of Police and a few officers were standing by to keep an eye on the excitement. Even some school kids had sneaked out during their lunch break.”
Hinton had made his England debut two years earlier to the month in the European Nations Cup, the tournament that became known as the European Championship.
He had Wolves team-mates Chris Crowe and goalscorer Ron Flowers for company in a 1-1 draw with France at Hillsborough and, while still at Molineux, played at Arsenal in May, 1963 in an England side against the Football League representative team.
That wasn’t seen as an official international, though, and both the second and last of the three caps Hinton won at senior level came while he was playing for Forest.
The third of them came virtually a month after the second when he had several familiar faces as company in a 2-1 win over Wales at Wembley.
Wolves pair Bobby Thomson and Flowers wore the no 3 and no 5 shirts respectively and Mike Bailey – then still a Charlton player – appeared in between them on the team sheet. And the two-goal match-winner playing at centre-forward was Frank Wignall – then a Forest team-mate of Hinton’s but later to join Wolves.
We hope the anecdotes outlined here have whetted your appetite – as they have ours – to learn more about Alan’s very full and very successful life; one also touched by huge family tragedy.
The link for those wishing to purchase Triumph & Tragedy, which has been ghost-written by regular Wolves Heroes contributor Charles Bamforth, is Books – GP Books (wolvesbooks.net)