As Wolves prepare to meet Nottingham Forest on Saturday, one gold-and-black fanatic has reunited members of the victorious 1980 League Cup-winning squad – all for a good cause.
It’s taken 103 days and led him to Altrincham, Blackburn, Stoke, Nottingham, deepest Warwickshire and nearly a dozen points of call around Wolverhampton, south Staffordshire and Shropshire.
But lifelong Wolves fan Mark Rigby, 42, from Bridgnorth, persuaded 15 Molineux stalwarts to sign 15 retro shirts and Wembley final programmes from the memorable day on March 15, 1980 – the last time the club won a major trophy.
Father-of-four Mark, who is a maintenance worker at Telford’s Princess Royal Hospital, hopes to raise £3,000 for Severn Hospice, who looked after his older brother and devoted Wolves fan Stuart through his courageous battle against kidney cancer before he died in February at the age of 44.
Whether it be in a Telford pub meeting Derek Parkin and John McAlle, a beer in the back garden of Geoff Palmer’s house in Codsall or at Worfield Golf Club to catch up with Kenny Hibbitt, players and management were only too happy to give up their time.
And the memories came tumbling out.
Goalkeeper Paul Bradshaw, 56, claims to have been running down a street in London with the trophy in his hand the evening they won it: “Ask Andy Gray – he’ll tell you!” he recalled.
Palmer, 58, recalled how the Wolves squad would always stay in the same north London hotel for games in the capital, then when told to ‘walk off’ their evening meal would pass by an off-licence and drink the odd can of beer in a local park to help them sleep!
Willie Carr, arguably Wolves’ best outfield player at Wembley, was determined to savour every minute – and did.
“I’d never played at Wembley, and as I was 30 at the time, thought it was going to pass me by,” said the former midfielder.
“I remember speaking to Geoff Palmer, who’d played in the 1974 final when he was only 19, and he said it passed him by, so I wanted to savour it.
“We could have been beaten in the quarter-final by Grimsby and the semi-final by Swindon, so thought our name was on the trophy.
“Probably the biggest let-down was going back to Wolverhampton afterwards, as I felt if we’d have stayed in London like the 1974 lads did, we’d have carried on the atmosphere.
“And the heater on the wives’ coach broke, so they were freezing.”
One thing which shone through was the players’ pride in representing Wolves.
Hibbitt and Richards, synonymous with Wolves from the period, said they happily turned down moves away from the club where they would earn legendary status.
Ipswich, Manchester City and Stoke tried to lure Hibbitt and Richards was courted by Derby, Everton – via Mike Pejic on an England trip – and Birmingham.
While Hibbitt and Richards were the two long-established stars of the team, Bradshaw and reserve keeper Mick Kearns rated match-winner Andy Gray – then Britain’s costliest player after his £1.469m move from Villa six months before – as the best player in the side for his outstanding bravery.
There were some moments of sadness and regret as well.
What is apparent is how carefree and free-spirited some of the Wolves players from yesteryear were.
Palmer and George Berry never kept programmes from the greatest moment of their careers, while Bradshaw’s sad fall upon hard times has seen him sell his winner’s tankard to someone in Ireland for £3,000.
Parkin hasn’t seen his Wembley shirt since exchanging it with Forest’s John Robertson after the game.
Berry asked each player to sign a programme for him so he finally has a keepsake of the famous day.
Quick as a flash, fellow centre-half McAlle piped up: “Sign this for George?! You’re joking aren’t you?
“The only thing I ever got from George – who always wore contact lenses on the pitch – was a mouthful of broken teeth and blood after I called to head away a corner against Birmingham and he came through me, saying: ‘Sorry Scouse, I thought you were Frank Worthington!’”
Along with the premature death of captain Emlyn Hughes to a brain tumour at the age of 57 in 2004, saddest of all, midfielder Peter Daniel – now a taxi driver in his native Hull – didn’t want to be part of the charity sign-in as the depth of his grieving over the loss of his own son to cancer two years ago made the process too raw.
Mark still has five signed shirts and several programmes left for auction. Anyone interested should contact him via email on firstname.lastname@example.org