Golden memories as Wolves legends return

What a twist of fate that Bristol City were in the next room.

Golden memories – Wolves’ players celebrate their League Cup victory over European champions Nottingham Forest, courtesy of a second-half goal from Andy Gray, as they parade the trophy around Wembley
Golden memories – Wolves’ players celebrate their League Cup victory over European champions Nottingham Forest, courtesy of a second-half goal from Andy Gray, as they parade the trophy around Wembley

The hair might be greyer or thinner, but most of Wolves’ 1980 stars looked as if they could give them a game now.

On a night where the Wembley heroes were celebrating the 33rd anniversary of their last major trophy win, today’s opponents were also staying at Brierley Hill’s Copthorne Hotel, prompting compere Paul Franks to encourage guests to shout as loud as they could at 12.30am to disrupt them!

Emlyn Hughes lifts the League Cup following the 1-0 win against Forest
Emlyn Hughes lifts the League Cup following the 1-0 win against Forest

As it was, Andy Gray again provided the highlight as the Wembley heroes gathered once more.

Wolves’ former golden boy, who scored the only goal in the League Cup final against Nottingham Forest that sparked the first reunion of the Molineux team-mates, threw a rare serious moment into a night of happy reminiscing before a packed house of around 250 guests.

“All the lads who played that day and those who were around the club at that time are privileged,” said Gray.

“To be part of a club that wins something is extremely special and for us who took part in it, all we were doing is living out what all you fans would have wanted to do.

“When are Wolves going to win a major trophy again? If they still haven’t in seven years’ time, we’ll all be back again for a 40th anniversary reunion.

“We have got a room full of Wolves fans to say thank you to for that great day. This is what makes football special.”

The banter was never far away as Gray, strike partner John Richards, Geoff Palmer, George Berry, Kenny Hibbitt, Willie Carr, Mel Eves, Colin Brazier, Wayne Clarke, Norman Bell and assistant manager Richie Barker met up together for the first time in three decades and sat through a re-run of the final. As soon as he arrived, Gray was teasing Hibbitt about how he owed him a drink 33 years on for making him “chase all those passes”.

Memories of how they celebrated winning the cup still vary.

While Gray recalled a full-on party at the Mount Hotel in Tettenhall and Palmer and Carr kept the three-piece band up to 6am, Berry and Richards claimed half the buffet had gone to hungry councillors by the time the Wembley party reached Tettenhall.

Berry, who lived 100 yards away from the Mount, groaned: “I reckon Barney was on a backhander!” in reference to manager John Barnwell, who used to stay at the hotel.

The redeeming memory of Bell, who used to clean the boots of Richards in his younger days and was part of the travelling party that day, is seeing Gray and Richards running down Wembley Way with the cup, long after the crowds had dispersed.

For Palmer, re-living the final again made him realise how much the game has changed. “Seeing the 90 minutes now, it would have ended up five-a-side by today’s standards,” he said.

“I noticed a tackle by Viv Anderson on John Richards – if that had happened today, he’d have been carried off.”

Palmer remembered how he and keeper Paul Bradshaw used to calm their nerves the night before a big away game.

“I used to room with ‘Braddy’ and I can assure you the bin in our hotel room was full of lager cans!” he said.

“He was one of those lads who would gamble on two flies running up a wall and a 40-a-day smoker, but when you got him on the training ground he was exceptional.”

The ex-long-serving right-back also recalled the steadying influence of late captain Emlyn Hughes – on and off the pitch.

“He used to say ‘leave the referee alone – I’ll have a word with him’, and to be fair he got away with a few things,” said Palmer.

“Myself, George and Derek Parkin used to do all his running for him, but he was another good trainer – in The Mermaid pub!”

The final was in the days of only one substitute – Brazier – and Gray quipped: “How didn’t you get on, Colin? Kenny was useless, I’d have had him off at half-time! We all went into game thinking we were going to get battered. Mind you, we had Emlyn Hughes and George Berry at the back!

“Myself and John Richards kept looking up to the skies – we had no choice because that was where the ball was all the time!”

Richards said: “We were all having a go at each other watching that because some of the balls to us were atrocious...and who picked that midfield?!”

Barker joked: “We got Emlyn in who was great in the dressing room. Andy was too but not so good on the pitch!”

But the ex-Molineux assistant boss, now 74, recalls plenty of debates with Gray as they tried to get the best out of the team.

“John Barnwell used to say: ‘Get Andy away from the ball’ – he wanted Andy away down the inside right or left position and wanted Kenny or Willie to put it in there.”

Gray had a slightly different version: “I was used to getting to the front post but they told me to go to the back post and head it back across goal – I told them I could get 30 goals a season at the front post but that if they wanted me to go to the back stick and not score I would.”

Hibbitt paid tribute to the tactical masterstroke of Barnwell and Barker that nullified European champions Forest.

“Playing Peter Daniel on the right-hand side and moving me inside meant he got on top of John Robertson who didn’t really get a kick which was important as he was so strong for them – he was a major help in them winning the European Cup,” he said.

Franks delivered a poem which had been read out at Hughes’s funeral in 2004 in memory of Wolves’ last major trophy-winning captain. Eves, who organised the event, read out an email of apology from Barnwell, who is awaiting the results of an ECG following a fall, while revealing other team-mates Paul Bradshaw (illness), Peter Daniel (following the death of his son two years ago), Derek Parkin, John McAlle and Martin Patching couldn’t attend.