There surely wasn’t ever an era like this as far as Wolves interest in England under-21 fixtures goes……the second half of the 1970s was awash with ‘Three Lions’ young players who were either on the payroll at Molineux or were later added to it.
And the fact that the very first game played by the country at that level was staged in Wolverhampton just adds to the gold and black cocktail.
Under-21 teams tended to come into being following the realignment of UEFA’s youth competitions in 1976, so a Wales team were also playing for the first time in this new age group when they contested the friendly against England on December 15 the small matter of 44 seasons ago.
Alan Sunderland, having already achieved a double-figure goal tally in less than half of Wolves’ Second Division title-winning season under Sammy Chung, was the only Molineux-based member of the home line-up.
But look at his white-shirted team-mates and it becomes clear there were plenty of lads on show with whom we would become much more acquainted over the years.
In goal was Paul Bradshaw, still of Blackburn but destined to become a highly impressive Wolves player within a year. At left-back was Dave Jones while another Everton youngster, Andy King, was in midfield some seven seasons before he joined a sinking Molineux ship that had Tommy Docherty at the helm.
And pulling the strings for part of the evening after going on as a substitute was none other than 19-year-old Glenn Hoddle, who would go on to have the most glittering career of the lot.
Hoddle actually went on for King in a game that petered out into a dull 0-0 draw. But the Welsh side looked strong enough to present a sizeable obstacle anyway.
They were captained by John Roberts and also included Phil Bater, Robbie James, Mickey Thomas, Alan Curtis, Peter Sayer, Wayne Hughes, Byron Stevenson and substitute Wayne Cegielski.
Jones, whose name was perhaps more synonymous with the opponents, didn’t play again in the side, nor did Sunderland, although he went on a Scandinavian tour and later won a sole senior cap after being transferred to Arsenal. King played only once more but Bradshaw’s career in the side stretched to four appearances, the last of them in Yugoslavia with Peter Daniel (then still of Hull) and King as team-mates.
Others with Molineux connections who played in the England under-21 side in those early years are John Richards, as an over-age player, Bob Hazell, Tommy Langley, Gordon Cowans and Cyrille Regis.
Hoddle won 12 under-21 caps and then 53 as a senior international and had, as his other team-mates on that Wednesday might at Molineux in 1976, Gary Keegan (Manchester City), Ray Wilkins (Chelsea), Steve Sims (Leicester), Paul Futcher (Luton), Dave Swindlehurst (Crystal Palace), Brian Talbot (Ipswich), David Fairclough (Liverpool) and second substitute Peter Barnes (Manchester City).
The referee was Wolverhampton’s Jack Taylor and the closeness to Christmas was a contributory factor to the attendance being a disappointing 4,000.