Express & Star

Steve Bull and Robert Plant talk charity

Steve Bull would never want to be considered anything more than a simple son of the Black Country.


Steve Bull would never want to be considered anything more than a simple son of the Black Country.

But last night he completed his ascent to Molineux royalty.

With rock star and fellow Wolves vice president Robert Plant providing the star turn, and 270 guests packing the Sir Jack Hayward Suite, the goalscoring legend was always assured a memorable launch for the Steve Bull Foundation, an organisation he hopes can raise the bar of his fund-raising activities.

But in the end it wasn't the 45-minute set by the Led Zeppelin front-man which captured Bull's growing status on his home territory. Neither was it the presence of Wolves owners past and present Sir Jack Hayward and Steve Morgan.

Instead, it was one of Bull's old muckers who so perfectly summed up his former team-mate's journey from raw, hungry goalscorer to genuine champion of the less fortunate.

"When I first signed for Wolves," said Bull's former team mate and fellow striker Don Goodman, "I was a little apprehensive about how I would be greeted with my connections to a certain club down the road.

"Steve was 'The Man' at Molineux and came straight up to me and made me feel at home immediately.

"From that moment we have been good mates and he has never changed. He has been eager to help anyone and always been a generous friend especially to those who needed it most. Steve, you're a true gentleman and a real warrior."

With that moving tribute from a man who has himself put his local celebrity to similar fund-raising causes, Bull's big night was never going to be a let down.

It is worth taking stock of where the 45-year-old Bull now finds himself 24 years after that famous phonecall from a desperate Graham Turner to the then Albion boss Ron Saunders smuggled the player out of The Hawthorns.

His career needs no recounting but what has happened since its finish is a story of renewed purpose and value at the start of middle age which last night brought him to this gala occasion.

Four charities - the Air Ambulance, Birmingham Children's Hospital, MacMillan's Cancer Support and his old friends at Promise Dreams - benefitted specifically from the occasion which, even before auctions and raffles had begun, had raised £22,000.

But Bull will hope with some confidence there will be plenty more where that came from as he follows his instincts of how best to utilise a career which brought him unimagined success and rewards.

"I wanted Air Ambulance to be one of the benefitting charities," he told the gathering at one stage, "because every time you see an accident on the other side of the road, all you do is go past it 'rubber necking.' But one of those days it could be you and that's when you will thank God there is an organisation like Air Ambulance to help."

Simple stuff - but true. Bull's night, though, would not have had an extra special quality about it had it not been for the presence of Plant who gave up a plan to celebrate his 62nd birthday by "taking my missus to the pictures at Merry Hill" to deliver on a promise.

Rounding up his pals from Worcester-based band The Underdogs and then calling on the owner's daughter Lindsey Morgan to join him, Plant brought his mini-gig to a close with a wonderful rendition of Zeppelin's classic "Whole Lotta' Love."

Film of Plant's old band performing the song at Knebworth in 1979 has clocked more than two million views on YouTube - the 270 punters who heard last night's stripped-down version will have considered it a privilege to be there.

Plant, though, is a Bully devotee having watched the goalscorer's exploits drag the team, and with it the club, back from the precipice in the dark days of the 1980s.

In those days, Plant shunned watching Wolves with "the suits" and stayed on the crumbling terracing. He is happy now, however, to have taken on a more formal role as a vice president having been hugely impressed by the club's sense of direction and purpose under Morgan.

"I was five when my dad took me down for the first time and Billy Wright waved at me," said Plant. "Honest, he did. And that was it - I was hooked from that moment. But I always loved watching Bully play . . ."

He means it too. The rock star's devotion is such that when the star item in last night's auction was under-performing - the World Cup ball Bull brought home from Italia '90 signed by the entire squad - he returned from saying his goodbyes to snap it up for £3,000.

Plant's special performance did more than provide a fitting launch to Bull's foundation, which will act as an umbrella to raise funds for a range of groups supporting the sick and needy around the Black Country.

It added to an unmistakeable feelgood factor now running through Molineux at a critical moment in the club's planning.

There is growing confidence that the hand-in-hand projects of Premier League security and major stadium development can be achieved and advance Wolves to . . . well, to who knows where?

But whatever stories are to be written in this new era of promise, they will have to go some to match the tale of the kid from the backstreets of Tipton.

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