Matt Maher: Wolves hero Mel Eves still making a difference

Mel Eves is a man who likes to make a difference.

Wolves hero Mel Eves
Wolves hero Mel Eves

During two decades working as a football agent, the former Wolves winger took pride in ensuring his players made the most of their talent.

Yet the people he is helping now have very different concerns to those of a professional footballer.

Eves has recently taken on a new role as a justice mentor in a new project aimed at helping ex-offenders get their lives back on track.

Based at the Boot Factory on Cleveland Road, the CFO Activity Hub will open fully next month and Eves has been tasked with organising sport sessions aimed at improving mental health and well-being.

“I got a phone call out of the blue two or three months back from the Shaw Trust, who are running the project, asking if I would like to be involved,” he says.

“Once I’d taken a look at it and seen what it is all about, I was only too happy to accept. The people I am working with are absolutely brilliant. They really want to help.”

A member of Wolves’ 1980 League Cup-winning team who made more than 200 appearances for the club, Eves is every inch the hometown hero and an instantly recognisable figure in the city, albeit he jokes some of those he will work with in the coming months may need to ‘ask their grandparents’ who he is.

After injury forced his early retirement in 1989, he initially worked as an independent financial advisor before becoming an agent, helping guide the careers of Robert Earnshaw, Gareth McAuley and Adam and James Chambers among others.

Yet, significantly for the role he has now undertaken, Eves is also a fully-trained performance coach and for several years now has been helping people from the worlds of sport and business get the best out of themselves.

“When I looked back at 20 years of being an agent the question was always: What did I enjoy most about it?” he says.

“Yeah, I liked doing the deals, at least sometimes. There were some smashing people to work with and some not so smashing.

“But the biggest thing for me was getting the potential out of the player, getting them where they could be, even when others didn’t believe.

Wolves hero Mel Eves pictured with left, Eunice Gordon and Lisa Reilly.

“Robert Earnshaw, for example, was playing in League Two before going right through the divisions, scoring a hat-trick in every one. He scored a hat-trick as an international for Wales too, along with ones in the FA Cup and League Cup.

“It is that satisfaction of making a difference, getting people from being ordinary to the best version of themselves. When I was offered this opportunity and realised what it was all about, I wanted to do it.”

The challenges facing an ex-offender are clearly very different to those experienced by a professional footballer, yet Eves believes the solution is effectively the same.

“It is the same process as to whether you are getting a Premier League player to start scoring goals again because he has dried up, or whether I am trying to get someone back on track because they have been in prison for a period,” he says.

“You still have to get over the same mental hurdles. The vast majority of the time it is emotional barriers. Once you remove the blockages from people being the best version of themselves, they will make progress.

“Some people make progress more quickly, with others it takes longer and in that respect, we are different. I haven’t got a magic wand but I’m confident we can get really good results.”

Funded by the Prison & Probation Service and the European Social Fund, the hub is one of three opening in the West Midlands, the others being in Birmingham and Stoke. It aims to provide a safe space for ex-offenders to build a healthier, more fulfilling life and is available to anyone unemployed, over the age of 18 who is serving a current community sentence or under supervision on licence.

Eves, first approached by TKO Consulting (Training, Knowledge and Opportunities), will deliver the sport courses but also host seminars, talks and workshops promoting healthy lifestyles and greater self-esteem.

Collaboration is key, with conversations having already taken place with Wolverhampton Amateur Boxing Club about the possibility of holding some sessions, while Eves is also hoping to build a link with the Wolves Foundation.

Yet sport is just one of many things the hub has to offer. There are also art workshops, well-being courses, while advisors are also there to help with employability, from assisting with online job searches and applications to holding practice interviews.

“We are essentially trying to get as much as we can all under one roof,” says Eves. “There are art and music courses too but there are also people who deal with housing and debt advice, people who deal with family issues.

“In the past people would have been sent all across the region for this kind of thing but the idea is if you can get it all in one place it makes it easier.

“It is all voluntary and that is easier in some respects as you are dealing with people who want to be there and want the help.

“At the moment it is a well kept secret, a new project and we are just getting people up to speed with what we are doing.

“It really is a smashing facility. The main thing now is getting the message out so we can start helping as many people as possible.”

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