John Richards has been told again that he was good enough to win a League Championship medal – but only if he had left Molineux.
The record-breaking striker already knew that Bill McGarry turned down a bid for him from the then Derby manager Brian Clough in the early 1970s, the Rams lifting the title in 1972 and 1975.
Now a stalwart from another Midlands club has expressed the view that the Wanderers no 9 might have won the biggest prize in the English game had his career taken an alternative route.
The eye-opening view comes from Denis Smith, the veteran former Stoke centre-half who talks in his newly-published autobiography ‘Just One Of Seven’ of the missing link in the Potters’ trophy-chasing days of three and a half decades ago.
Smith, who later managed a host of clubs including Sunderland, Oxford and Albion, goes as far as to say that Stoke would have been crowned champions in the mid-1970s had they looked to the West Midlands for Richards rather than to the East Midlands for Peter Shilton.
“Waddo (Tony Waddington) spent the entire £325,000 he had at his disposal on Shilts,” Smith writes. “Given the talent we’d already lost to injury that season, we could really have done with a striker. £325,000 was a lot of money in those days and we needed a John Richards or somebody to score goals.
“I firmly believe that, if Waddo had spent the money on a goalscorer instead of Peter Shilton, we would have won the League that season.”
Richards, whose first Wolves hat-trick came in a 5-3 home win over Stoke in September, 1972, reacted with interest to the comments.
“I always enjoyed playing against Denis because he was never nasty despite being very hard,” he said. “He had more scars around his face than any other footballer I know but he just got on with the game, as I did.
“I was also friendly with Mike Pejic because he was my room-mate with England under-23s but that didn’t stop him giving as good as he got when you faced him.
“Stoke had a very good side in those days but players didn’t have anything like as much power as they do now. Even if I had wanted to move on, it would have been very difficult. Bill McGarry told me on a pre-season tour that he had turned Cloughie and Derby down and said he would never sell me while he was manager.
“That was it, really, end of story. I could hardly go rushing to my agent because there weren’t any then.”