Their Country Needed Them

International Connections Of Wolves Group

Bobby Thomson, watched by Dave Woodfield, being treated at Wolves.

With England tonight playing their final competitive game before next summer’s European Championships finals in Germany, we turn the spotlight on some Molineux-related international morsels – and a snippet of geographical interest.

The Group C winners are in Skopje for the return meeting with North Macedonia but Wolves players of a certain age will remember the host city as being one of their ports of call on a post-season tour in 1970 when the territory was known as Yugoslavia.

Bill McGarry’s men were well beaten there during a three-game trip that gave them time for a sobering visit to see the monuments to 1,000 victims of an earthquake in the region seven years earlier.

Bobby Thomson, who had left Wolves by then, faced the Yugoslavs at international level in a narrow under-23s home win at Southampton in November, 1965, two months after he was part of the Wanderers side embarrassed 9-3 at The Dell in the early weeks of the Second Division season.

The Smethwick-born full-back amassed a then-record 15 caps for the under-23s, with whom he had a close-up of Alan Ball and Nobby Stiles in the months leading up to the 1966 World Cup finals.

There was a down-side to his naming as skipper of the team before the game against Czechoslovakia at Leeds on April 7, 1965, though. It confirmed his omission from the senior team for the clash with Scotland three days later and represented the end of his career at the highest level after eight caps.

Among the big-hitters Thomson captained at Elland Road, apart from Ball, were Tommy Smith, Martin Chivers and Mick Jones.

We were reminded at the Steve Daley tribute night on Thursday that the midfielder at one point thought he might have been joining Ipswich to link up with Bobby Robson.

The manager – destined to run the national side for eight years – had also been interested in Les Wilson some seasons previously and mused with the later Wolves man over an Ipswich midfield of Brian Talbot, John Wark and Daley when bumping into him in the lift on the England B tour of the Far East and Australasia in 1978.

Also on that long trip were John Richards, Mel Eves and Manchester City keeper Joe Corrigan, who joined the large number of former Wolves players present at the Mount Hotel in Tettenhall four nights ago.

Moving down the age scale, the Molineux trio of Wayne Clarke, John Humphrey and Craig Moss were called up by Brian Clough and Peter Taylor to an England youth team get-together at Lilleshall early in 1978-79, followed by a tournament in Las Palmas.

And what about this for an obscure and somewhat misleading titbit? The first three names on the team sheet for an England v Denmark youth international game at Coventry in March, 1980 were ones all associated with Wolves: Mark Kendall, Mick Bennett, David Barnes.

Bennett arrived at Molineux from Bolton in the summer of 1983 but played only eight games here – all in a row in the no 3 shirt from the start of October – before moving to Cambridge.

David Barnes during the renaissance years at Molineux.

Barnes had not played in the Sky Blues first team at the time of this comprehensive four-goal European Championships qualifying victory and was transferred to Ipswich before being brought to these parts by Tommy Docherty in 1984 at the start of a stay of more than 100 appearances.

Which brings us to the last line of defence in a side also including Gary Mabbutt, Mark Hateley and captain Paul Allen. Kendall is listed as being a Tottenham player, as per the entertaining Welshman we came to know well, but we suspect an error……

This must have been the other keeper of the same name – the one born in Nuneaton and twice an FA Youth Cup finalist with Villa.

And, in closing this piece, we refer to the fact that Steve Bull – given his England debut by Bobby Robson while still a Third Division player – signed for Wolves, along with Andy Thompson, 37 years ago today.


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