Winner, Winner, Chicken Dinner!

A Question Of Economics And How The Figures Stacked Up

Lee Mills photographed during his brief Wolves career.

Lee Mack and Lee Mills probably haven’t seen themselves mentioned in the same sentence too often. But there is a link beyond the obvious fact that their names would be close in any alphabetical list.

More precisely, there is a stark contrast because while the star of stage and screen is making hay on TV with The 1% Club, the former Wolves striker could be termed a member of The 1,000% Club.

Enough about light entertainment….football’s transfer market is what we are most interested in here and it’s time to home in on how Mills made huge profits for his various League clubs.

Wolves weren’t the ones to discover him but they were quickest off the mark in buying him in 1992….for a bargain £15,000 fee that was marginally increased by the cost of a couple of lunches.

The player was working as a civil servant at Barnsley Council and banging in some goals in the Unibond League when Molineux chief scout Ron Jukes first clapped eyes on him on a wet Wednesday night during a trial appearance for Walsall Reserves against Wrexham.

Enquiries prompted him to head for Sheffield to watch Mills play for his club, Stocksbridge Park Steels, when even the presence of he and his fellow Wolves scout, Ken Guttridge, failed to take the attendance up to three figures.

On hearing that Coventry and the Saddlers were holding transfer talks with him, the former headmaster set up a tour of Molineux (was that such a good idea in the early 1990s?) and a meeting with manager Graham Turner over lunch. Before the washing-up was done, Mills had agreed to sign and cancel his talks with the Sky Blues. 

In the event, Mills played only 33 games for Wolves, many of them as a substitute, and scored six goals. But his signing still represented excellent business because he was sold by Graham Taylor to Derby for £400,000 in 1994-95.

The mathematicians among our readership can work out and confirm the percentage profit Wolves made on him but we reckon it is more than 2,500%. So that ‘title’ higher up this story might need some tweaking.

That is only part of the story. Mills was later part of the costly player-plus-cash deal that took Robin van der Laan – briefly a loanee at Wolves in 1996-97 – from Port Vale to Derby.

The tall Mexborough-born forward flourished in the Potteries and was Vale’s player of the year in 1996-97, when eighth place in the second tier represented their highest ever League finish. His 15 goals included a last-minute equaliser against Stoke.

A picture of the striker in more recent times after he had dropped into non-League.

He was their top scorer with 16 the season after and then made them huge money when joining Bradford for £1m. We will be writing much more soon about John Rudge’s excellent autobiography, To Cap It All, suffice to say for now that the veteran manager pulled a master-stroke when persuading Mills to sign a contract extension at 11.45am on the very day the Bosman ruling came into effect at 2pm. Had he not done so, the striker could have left for nothing.

How was Rudge repaid for this smart practice? By Mills scoring twice against Vale when they went to Bradford early in the following season, 1998-99. He also scored home and away against Wolves that term as the Bantams achieved their unlikely promotion to the Premier League, with the record signing as their 25-goal top scorer.

Mills and Jewkes would later be reunited at Telford and no doubt had plenty to reminisce over in quiet terms. But, like Vale and Rudge, Wolves had good reason to be grateful they signed him.

 

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