Wembley Here We Come….TWICE!

Dream Double Date For Ex-Molineux Veterans

Stephen Ward in action during his seven-year Wolves career.

As Solihull Moors are still in their infancy and have not made it to the FA Cup final, we will avoid using an obvious well-known saying here…..

They have not waited ages to play at Wembley and three finals have not come along almost at once, so there is limited mileage in comparisons with London buses. But, remarkably, the National League high-fliers are going to football hq in each of the next two weekends and, amid all the excitement, Stephen Ward and Richard Stearman are lapping it all up.

Ward has been the club’s sporting director since last summer and Stearman was added to the playing ranks soon afterwards before also taking some early steps in coaching. What a season it has been for they and a squad managed by former Coventry defender Andy Whing!

“It’s a great underdog story, isn’t it?” Ward said when contacted by Wolves Heroes. “To reach Wembley once at this level is memorable but to be going there twice in a few days is amazing really.”

Our first mistake was to assume the former Molineux utility man had never played at the national stadium. In our defence, the promotion-winning Mick McCarthy side of which he and Stearman were part did not bother with the play-offs or even runners-up spot in 2008-09.

They finished seven points clear of second-placed Birmingham and a full ten above the Sheffield United side just below the ‘automatic’ line. Ward figured in 42 of those 46 League games and Stearman’s 37 appearances included the only goal against Doncaster when the winning of the title at Barnsley the previous weekend was celebrated at a relaxed, joyous Molineux. 

Other entries on their CVs link the two of them. They are separated by only nine places in the higher reaches of Wolves’ all-time record appearance-makers’ list with their combined tally of nearly 500 games here, and both scored for the club in different victories at Liverpool.

Richard Stearman – another with a highly impressive appearance tally.

As one of those was in the League (a Ward shot) and one in the FA Cup (a Stearman header), there is a certain parallel with Solihull’s challenge in facing Bromley in the National League play-off final this Sunday and then Gateshead in the FA Trophy final seven days later.

Ward, who has been completing a masters in sports directorship, very much has the upper hand over his friend in overall Premier League appearances, though. In addition to playing 94 times for Wolves in the top flight, he appeared in the big league in another 77 games for Burnley after joining them via Brighton in 2014.

So where did that playing appearance at Wembley come in if he didn’t play in any cup semi-finals or finals, nor there in the play-offs?

“I played for Burnley against Tottenham soon after they left White Hart Lane,” he added. “Early in that season they spent playing at Wembley while their new ground was being finished, we drew 1-1 there and did pretty well.

“I might have gone with Ireland as well had it not been for an injury but my other trips there have been as a spectator with our son.

“We went to the Spain v Italy semi-final in the Euros and to the Manchester City v Villa Carabao Cup final four years ago. I’m sure it will be very difficult going back with a club for these games, though.”

There is something about Ward, always has been really, that tells us we’ll be hearing plenty more about him in the future. The simplistic view for summing up his role for now is that he sits up in the stand with ‘the suits’ on match-day rather than being among those in tracksuits in the dug-out.

Not that it has always been like this since he called time on his playing career when his contract at Walsall wound down two summers ago.

Having used his time with the Saddlers to start to look closely at how clubs operated off the field, including through Scott Sellars at Wolves, he nevertheless stayed in the dressing-room environment last season when working alongside Roger Johnson and Kevin Foley at Brackley Town and doing his coaching badges.

He will one day have a rich tale to tell in more detail but the Moors story is an astonishing one to be dipping into for now. They were formed only in 2007 following a merger between Solihull Borough and Moor Green and won promotion from the sixth tier under Marcus Bignot in 2016.

They then lost 2-1 in the play-off final against Grimsby at West Ham two years ago after winning the semi-final at their Damson Park ground against this season’s runaway champions, Chesterfield.

Stearman was interviewed on Midlands Today recently but has not been in the Moors’ starting line-up or on the bench since being sent off at Aldershot in the second half of March.

Mick McCarthy – brought Richard Stearman to Molineux and then took him to Ipswich.

That setback came in the latest of his 27 appearances since dropping into non-League last summer for the first time. After leaving Wolves in May, 2017 for the second time, he also served Sheffield United, Huddersfield and Derby and totalled around another 120 senior matches.

One man likely to be compromised over this Sunday’s scrap for a treasured Football League place is Mick McCarthy.

The former Wolves boss signed both players at Molineux and Ward has confirmed to us what we already suspected – that he is good at staying in touch and offering guidance in the post-playing years.

But Bromley are very much his local club….so will he be in the crowd at Wembley?

SIte Design by Websitze

Visitors since 01/01/2023

161133
Views Today : 116
Views Yesterday : 392
Views This Year : 46433