For many years, Mike Stowell was an entertaining, dependable columnist for the Sporting Star and Express & Star. Never a deadline was missed in his efforts to keep supporters updated with some of the serious and not-so-serious goings-on at Molineux on either side of the white line.
Getting him to see through his pledge to step in as the latest subject of John Richards’ Question and Answer feature has proved a little more difficult and has reminded us of the extra difficulties involved with chasing men who are still involved in the game – especially if they have their foot hard to the floor in pursuit of Premier League football.
We hope you will agree that the wait has been worthwhile, though, and you enjoy the thoughts of the man who has played more games in Wolves’ goal than anyone else in history – even the great Bert Williams MBE. Right, enough of the warm-up, away we go, with Wolves Heroes’ co-owner relaying the questions fans have posed…….
Q: Mike, it’s easy to ask attacking players to elaborate on their favourite games or certainly guess what those could have been but it’s not so obvious with goalkeepers, so what was your favourite game in the Wolves shirt? (From Alex Rae The Substitute)
A: Alex, it’s so difficult to pick any one game from the 447 I played. All I will say is I loved every minute of my time at Wolves – well, except for one Boxing Day away to Sheffield Wednesday when we drew 2-2 after being 2-0 down at half-time. It must have been the coldest I have ever been in the second half playing against sleet and in a hail storm. Gary Pendrey had to take my boots off after the game and I got in the shower in my kit. Most of the other 446 were enjoyable in some way or other and I suppose I naturally remember the big wins or those when I felt I particularly contributed – maybe with a penalty save.
Q: Which centre-half you played behind gave you the most confidence as a goalkeeper? (From Bridgnorthwolf)
A: I would have to say probably Laurie Madden for his reading of the game and the late Dean Richards, who was always in total control.
Q: I remember a truly world-class save you pulled off against Bolton at home on a very wet day (I can’t remember the year, sorry, but we won 1-0) and it’s my favourite save of yours. What is your favourite or best save from your Wolves career? (From Mugwump)
A: I do remember that one. You’re right – it was in very wet and greasy conditions and I think it was around 1994. All saves were pleasing but it’s so difficult to pick individual ones out. As I say, penalty saves tend to stick in your mind and I was fortunate to stop a few. I seemed to do it in patches. If I saved one, I might save another soon after.
Q: Who was the best manager you played under at Wolves? (From Morosewolf)
A: Each had his own strengths. I loved my time under Graham Turner – he was a real players’ manager – but it will probably be a shock to most fans when I say that Graham Taylor was misunderstood by many. He was a very intelligent gaffer.
Q: Mike, did the team prepare differently for matches against Albion or was that derby treated the same as any other game? (From Wolvesfcneil)
A: No we trained and prepared the same but we did know the importance of that one compared with any other fixture. The atmosphere in the derby games was always awesome.
Q: You were part of the Wolves side in the 1990s which went close to reaching the Premier League but never made it. How frustrating was that for you and did you feel that the team you played with in those days was good enough for the top level? (From WS10Wolf)
A: It was very frustrating and, considering the quality of the players we had in the dressing room over that period, I do believe at times we under-achieved. It’s my biggest regret to date that I didn’t get to play in the Premier League for the club.
Q: I thought we had some exceptionally good players during your time at the club. Why do you think we could never quite reach the Premier League during that era despite some desperately near misses? (From Bridgnorthwolf)
A: As I say, we did have the players and a combination of inconsistency and a bit of bad luck maybe was the reason. Losing in the play-offs was a killer on both occasions as I felt we were the better team against Bolton and Crystal Palace.
Q: What was it like having Matt Murray as your understudy? Did you have any inkling as to how good a keeper he was going to become and what’s your opinion, as a fellow keeper, of how tragically his playing career ended? (From Dewsburywolf)
A: Matt was an excellent understudy and I like reminding him that his best asset was making a great cup of tea in the bath after training. Honest, he ran me a hot soapy bath and brought me a lovely cuppa. As a lad and player, he was a great example to the younger keepers of today as he listened and learned very quickly and had that desire to succeed. Any career-ending injuries are devastating and I felt so sorry for him that he had to quit so early.
Q: You were an outstanding goalkeeper and one of my favourite players as a kid. How do you remember your time at Wolves? (From WS10Wolf)
A: I loved my time at Wolves. It was a pleasure to go to work every day and the fans were amazing. Seeing what happened to Matt makes me realise how fortunate I was to play so many games for the club. I didn’t want to leave.
Q: I remember you being called up for the England B squad for a game (I can’t remember against who) and you not getting to play, which was a shame. What was the experience like for you and did you think you would get more chances within the national set-up? (From Surrey Wolf)
A: It was against Algeria away and it was an amazing experience, none more so than the bit when I was being towed through Wheaton Aston by a tractor after a huge snowfall. All the roads our way were blocked but a local farmer managed to pull me, skidding and sliding, to the M6, after Paul Darby had contacted him. The trouble was that I then got stuck on the motorway, had to turn round on the southbound carriageway and found a hotel for the night at junction ten! As for getting more chances, it was nearly impossible for a keeper to get in the senior squad if he wasn’t in the Premier League.
Q: What do you think of England’s current goalkeeping situation? (From Bridgnorthwolf)
A: Well, I think Joe Hart is a world-class keeper but I do worry about our back-up. Twenty years ago, we probably had three top keepers in the senior squad and others in the B squad and under-21s who you would have been happy to rely on. Look at the list now and it’s obvious we’re much less well equipped after the arrival of all the keepers from abroad.
Q: As a goalkeeper and now a goalkeeper coach, do you feel that the role of the keeper has changed over the last decade or so, in the sense that they need to be comfortable with the ball at their feet, as part of a more possession-based game? (From WS10Wolf)
A: Distribution is a huge part of a keeper’s armoury now. If you analyse a game, a keeper will have more touches with his feet than his hands, so that part of the role is more important than it used to be, especially back in the days when a back pass could be picked up.
Q: Mike, I used to work in Lytham in the early 1990s and was told you would practice for hours at a local football pitch, kicking the ball from one goal to the other. If that’s true, does goal-kicking need so much practice? (From Wigan Wolf)
A: I used to practice non-stop on the local parks at all aspects of my game. Practice makes perfect.
Q: Mike, why Leicester? (From crasm98)
A: When I retired from playing at Bristol City at the age of 40, there was a space at Leicester for a goalkeeper coach which Rob Kelly kindly tipped me off about. I applied for the job and got it – Craig Levein was the manager then. It was nice to be back in the Midlands after a few years in Bristol but I have since re-married and moved back down to the West Country, so I am a busy commuter!
G: You had a spell as joint caretaker manager a while back. Is that something you would like to do again in a more permanent capacity? (From Dewsburywolf)
A: It has happened more than once, on one occasion with Rob. I loved the experience each time I was in charge of the team and would never rule it out. But I am also loving my time as goalkeeper/first-team coach under Nigel Pearson. He’s a great guy to work for.
G: Would you like to return to Wolves in some capacity in the future? (From Bridgnorthwolf)
A: Wolves are forever in my heart and I would be privileged to give back something in return in any capacity.
Q: Did you apply for the manager’s job last summer? (From loopy lupine)
A: I assume you mean at Wolves, not Leicester? No, I didn’t. It can cause awkwardness if you show an interest like that and I was sure Wolves would be looking for someone with plenty of experience. They got Kenny Jackett and he has done a wonderful job.
Q: Hi Mike. Many thanks for your long and loyal service at Molineux. From your pre-season tours abroad, are there any funny moments or stories to tell us about? (From Berlin Wolf)
A: I imagine I have hundreds of stories and memories from my time at Wolves , most of which I couldn’t possibly admit to in print! But one of the funniest was when our first-team coach Steve Harrison took it upon himself to wear a bride’s dress while we had our pre-match meal at the Mount Hotel before a home game. Yes, it was a real wedding dress and the wedding party was in our hotel. I don’t even think the lady knew he had put it on and she wouldn’t have been too chuffed if she had been aware. It was just hanging up in a room with the bridesmaids’ dresses and some other gear and he helped himself. He was skipping around the garden, looking lovely in white with his hairy legs!
Q: Did you ever sing along with “We’ve got Mickey, Mickey Stowell in our goal, in our goal”? (From Mugwump)
A: Hahaha! I have to hold my hand up and say YES! I loved it.
Q: What really happened with Chris Marsden? He was a talented footballer (From Cooper J)
A: I think it was a case of right club, wrong time. He was an excellent player and showed it when he matured and became more settled, especially at Southampton. I think he had trouble settling at Wolves. There were a couple of other left-footed play-makers around, he had a bad injury against Grimsby and Graham Taylor seemed to prefer others in that position.
Q: What was the reaction of the players to the Brian Law incident? (From Cooper J)
A: I take it you mean the bus incident? It was shock really but I’m sure he’s not the only footballer to get up to mischief.
Q: Mike, I would just like to take this opportunity to say a big thank-you. You were up with the best of the ‘goalies’, a true professional and a credit to your trade as a keeper. Sorry about there being nothing from me in terms of questions – all I remember is you played some blinders. That is the best I can offer you.
A: Thank-you for saying so. It was the best time ever and I wish I could still play!