John Richards has added his voice to the round of tributes that have come with the death of the scout who discovered him and launched him on his decade and a half of Molineux excellence.
Tony Penman’s name doesn’t immediately come to mind when we are speaking of Wolverhampton Wanderers heroes but we can safely say the club’s 1970s path would have been much tougher had it not been for his expert eye.
It was he who spotted the 18-year-old playing for Lancashire in the English Grammar Schools Championship at Bognor Regis in the spring of 1969 – and immediately set his signing in motion.
“Tony approached me at the tournament and was the first to do so,” said Wolves Heroes’ co-owner this afternoon. “He was a school-teacher in Wolverhampton, so I had a respect for him straightaway.
“Then, a few days later, he and Joe Gardiner came to our house in Warrington to speak to me and my parents. From the first meetings, we liked what he had to say and how knowledgeable he was
“Sheffield Wednesday and – ironically because I later played for them – Derby also came in for me but I said I had given my word to Wolves that I would accept their offer of a trial.
“I didn’t see too much of Tony from then on, other than at some reserve and third-team games he would attend to see how lads were settling in after he had recommended them.
“But I will never forget how he helped set me off with Wolves on the career and life I have had.”
Penman, who was in his early 80s, came from the north-east and was a boyhood Newcastle fan. He taught Latin and PE at St Chad’s School in Fallings Park, where pupils included Mick Hoban (a Portland Timbers team-mate of Barry Powell’s) and mid-1970s Albion central defender Dave Rushbury.
From early in his teaching career, he was heavily involved with coaching and the forthcoming Alan Hinton book will reveal a blue-chip name among his colleagues when he was working for his full badges.
At the schools tournament in Bognor where his eye was caught by Richards, he was part of the Staffordshire set-up and, after teaching elsewhere in Wolverhampton, he moved to Portland after helping develop a mini trail of players to America’s west coast.
His coaching on that side of the Atlantic brought him into contact with Hinton and another dyed-in-the-wool Wolves man, Les Wilson, and he became part of the top brass in a wonderful career with Nike.
But he also had a considerable spell with Hinton at Seattle Sounders and oversaw player transfers, contracts and certain sponsorships, assisting in the moves there made by Kenny Hibbitt, Steve Daley and Joe Corrigan.
Tony had moved back to the Compton area well before we met and interviewed him for this piece Wolves Heroes » Blog Archive » How McGarry Boobed Over JR in 2010.