Rush Hour Reflections!

A Foot In Both Camps For Serial Promotion Winner

A man with a story well worth telling….

Never before have we featured on this website anyone who played for Albion and has had any absolutely no professional attachment to Molineux.

But, if for no other reason than Christmas is approaching and it is the season of goodwill among supporters, please stay with this piece. It has a number of fascinating Wolves angles.

This guy is no Ronnie Allen, who was an on-field legend at The Hawthorns before getting a Wolverhampton stamp on his passport. He played for the Baggies in a more modest and curtailed way – long after Allen did – but, boy, would he love to have made it on to the payroll on this side of the patch as well!

In other circumstances, he may well have become part of the gold and black fabric because he twice flirted with the club and was left with the pangs of regret that come with wondering what might have been.

We give you Dave Rushbury, born and bred in Wolverhampton, schooled in Fallings Park and an avid fan of his local team. 

And when we say he never lined up alongside his heroes, we should quickly qualify that with an explanation of how he actually did. Just the once.

“As a lad, I was Wolves-daft, thought Dave Wagstaffe was the best player around and loved Derek Dougan, John Richards and many others,” said the man widely known as ‘Rush’.

“I used to watch games at Molineux but was also a keen athlete, especially the jumping events, so football wasn’t the be-all-and-end-all to me.

“In fact, when I met Albion’s chief scout and he looked down his pipe at me and asked how keen I was to become a professional player, I told him I wasn’t too fussed and had my heart set on becoming a teacher and going to Loughborough College.

“I was spotted by Wolves before having anything to do with Albion and must say what a lovely man Joe Gardiner was. He was very good about getting me transported to area schools matches and the like. My dad didn’t have a car and I don’t remembering Joe driving but he travelled everywhere with me and a guy called Jack Coleman, who did so much for lads at under-15 level in Wolverhampton schools football and made sure I got to whatever games I was playing in.

“They obviously liked what they saw because I was invited to training at Molineux on Tuesday and Thursday nights – I think mainly with Ron Bradley, though I could be wrong on that.

“And that’s how I achieved my dream of pulling on the Wolves shirt for a game at Castlecroft in the Midland Intermediate League. I wish I could remember who it was against – I have no idea but I do recall being picked at left-back with the orders not to attempt anything too clever because there was a lad playing on the left wing who was a bit better on the ball than me. It was Steve Daley.

“Geoff Palmer was the right-back and I am so glad now that I had even that one game. I was lucky to have a good and long career in football but can see something special in that single appearance before I joined Albion and then spread my wings.”

Newspaper reports from the mid-1970s when Rushbury was emerging as a star in stripes duly referred to him being a Wolves supporter. But that was a sub-plot. The bigger story was what an exciting prospect the former St Chad’s boy was seen as.

John Wile described his centre-half partner as better at his age than Colin Todd had been as a Sunderland colleague and no less an authority than Billy Wright called him the best young player in the game in his position.

Rushbury’s form was enough to remove Alistair Robertson from the no 6 role for a Second Division game at Millwall in October, 1974 and he followed up his debut by playing in the next 28 games as well.

“My parents knew Don Howe from seeing him at dances on Saturday nights when he was an Albion player and living in Wolverhampton,” he added. “So when he came to their house in Sedgley saying he wanted to sign me, it made all the difference and my ambitions to teach were put on hold.

“Being in the grammar school system meant the schools fixtures were very important and I think that and my interest in atletics and teaching might have kept Wolves at a bit of a distance, even if they had been more interested in me. 

“Gerry O’Hara was at St Chad’s a year below me but we played together in the same team as he was promoted above his age and I also knew Mel Eves from playing against him and from athletics events we both competed in.

“A few years later, when I had that good run in the Albion side, I was very flattered to hear Billy Wright say I was the best young player on the planet – or something similar! 

“But Don was sacked near the end of that season and Ally Robertson made the place his own again as he and John Wile played hundreds of games together. That long initial run was as good as it got for me there.”

Only twice did Howe’s successor, Johnny Giles, use Rushbury at senior level and the new chance the defender needed came with a move to Sheffield Wednesday, where he was managed first by former Wolves youngster Len Ashurst, then by Jack Charlton.

Three seasons there were the start of his travelling years and his CV shows an unusual pattern of going up and down the country alternately to where he was wanted.

The bushy-haired Dave Rushbury is seen above a falling Mel Eves as the latter nets in a 1982-83 Wolves v Carlisle game.

Next it was south to Swansea, where he played in the John Toshack side who reached the top division, then north to play under Bob Stokoe at Carlisle, down to Gillingham, up to Doncaster (with Billy Bremner), finally time with Bristol Rovers, Cambridge and some non-League.

His travels brought him well over 400 appearances in all and, as a physio and a coach qualified to UEFA A level, he became caretaker Chesterfield manager in 2001-02 in succession to Nicky Law. His stint was so successful that he was upgraded to the role permanently, only for his tenure to end unhappily after some 16 months, a few weeks before Wolves beat Sheffield United at the Millennium Stadium.

It was then that Rushbury finally fulfilled his teenage aim of teaching and he spent 17 years lecturing in sports science at Chesterfield College before returning to live in the West Midlands following more than four decades away.

“There are two other strong Wolves recollections from the professional side of my life,” the 67-year-old said. “One came from a Wolves-Albion testimonial in the 1970s when I met Derek Dougan and he told me how Wolves regretted not signing me.

“I don’t know whether he was being kind to me but it was lovely to hear anyway. And I heard the same sort of story when Chesterfield were playing down in Devon and we stayed overnight at Nigel Mansell’s hotel near Exeter.

“John Barnwell was there on League Managers Association duty and, when we got chatting, he told me he had wanted to sign me at Wolves, probably when I was at Wednesday. It was flattering but it also killed me to be honest! I would have crawled down the A38 to sign at Molineux.”

We can bring this story up to date by explaining that Dave, whose last two Albion appearances came during their 1975-76 Second Division promotion-winning campaign, returned to the area to care for his mother in her final months and now splits his time between his partner’s home in Willenhall and his own place in Southern Spain.

Reunion time for Rushbury (left) and Eves.

We have been captivated by all his stories during two long meetings with him in Wolverhampton coffee shops and a third by the M6 at Wednesbury. 

There was also a visit to the Mount Hotel for the Steve Daley tribute night a month ago, when he met one or two 1970s Wolves stars for the first time and had a reunion with Palmer, Daley, Eves and Kenny Hibbitt.

“Kenny was with Bobby Gould down at Bristol when I signed there in 1987,” he added. “I won promotion a few times with clubs, which was great, but Kenny thanked me again for my contribution in helping keep Rovers up because they were in trouble at the other end of the table. I have had so many Wolves connections in my career without actually playing for them.”

 

 

 

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