Sammy To The Rescue

An Ashton Gate Experience To Remember

Brian Lester in recent times.

We don’t often write specifically about supporters on this site but with the countdown to Wolves’ big visit to Bristol City on Saturday very much on, we have slightly relaxed our rules to wave through a story we thought was well worth telling.

Brian Lester, with whom we had a chance meeting outside Molineux a couple of weeks ago, was a fanatical follower of the side in his younger years and has regaled us with the time he went the extra mile to attend a Wolves game at Ashton Gate.

We flash back to October, 1976, and the early months of Wolves’ title-winning Second Division campaign under Sammy Chung; in particular to the end of a week in which they had followed a 6-1 victory at Hereford with a 6-2 crash at home to Southampton three nights later.

“I was Wolves-mad in the 1970s and would do almost anything to get to matches,” said Brian, who is not to be confused with the West Midlands schoolteacher and part-time local radio contributor of the same name.

“I had been to Hereford as well the previous weekend and remember there being trouble there between some SAS guys and our fans.

“I never wanted to miss a game anywhere and recall this friendly at Bristol City because it was arranged as a night kick-off during the season.

“I set off from Burntwood, went by taxi to Lichfield and caught three trains down to Temple Meads. But there were delays at New Street and by the time I got to the game, it was nearly half-time.

“By then, I had realised to my disappointment that the timetables weren’t very kind, so I would also have to leave before the final whistle if I was to get home that night.

“But I watched the game from near the dug-outs and summoned up the courage to ask Sammy Chung if there was any chance of a lift back on the coach.

Sammy Chung (right) with Billy Crook at a Wolves book signing session in 2002.

“He said he would have to check with the directors first, so I was thrilled when he said ‘yes’. What could have been a bit of a nightmare became a very memorable night out in the company of my heroes.

“I remember being near Geoff Palmer and John McAlle on the coach and sitting about half way back. I will always be grateful to Sammy and everyone on board who made me welcome.”

It would be nice to report in this sentimental week that Brian, who was in his late teens at the time, was rewarded for his loyalty and determination by the sight of a rip-roaring game at Ashton Gate. Alas, the rain-hit clash with a side then in the First Division finished 0-0 in front of fewer than 2,000 sodden spectators. And he still had the problem of getting back home from Molineux.

“I thumbed a lift home to Norton Canes but didn’t get a lift until after walking as far as Churchbridge on the A5,” he added. “It was very late when I eventually arrived at the house.

“I was on the verge of completing my set of 92 League grounds at that time – it should have been when Wolves played at Millwall on New Year’s Day in that same 1976-77 season.

Phi Parkes……last-minute heroics at Ashton Gate.

“But we had a bump in the car in the snow on the way to Wolverhampton and didn’t manage to get to the game. By the time I made my first visit to the old Den, Wycombe and Barnet had arrived in the League and my chance had gone.

“I still get to Wolves games when I can but we live in mid-Wales now, so I have only been a couple of times this season.”

  • Wolves also fulfilled a friendly at Ashton Gate on March 15, 1971, when asked to provide the opposition for centre-half Jack Conner’s testimonial after he had played 407 games in his ten years at the club. Wolves had Phil Nicholls at centre-half and won 2-1, Hugh Curran heading them into a 65th minute lead and Geoff Merrick nodding the winner into his own net eight minutes from time after Peter Spiring equalised. A last-minute Keith Fear penalty was saved by Phil Parkes.

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