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'I'm getting the word....Wolves!'

Clinton Baptiste should probably have seen it coming.

Alex Lowe as pseudo psychic Clinton Baptiste
Alex Lowe as pseudo psychic Clinton Baptiste

The self-appointed and unashamedly dedicated ‘paranormalist’ - ace clairvoyant, medium and psychic from Peter Kay’s hugely successful creation Phoenix Nights - has been watching Wolves for over a decade.

His first game was away to Fulham when Mick McCarthy’s side conceded an added time winner to a Moussa Dembele free kick.

Then he went to Tottenham, where Wolves were a goal up with 14 minutes remaining – and lost 3-1.

A first game at Molineux saw Wolves level at 1-1 with Aston Villa two minutes from time. Up stepped, or rather headed, Emile Heskey.

Clinton was getting the word…’defeat’. And painfully excruciating ones at that.

What perhaps added to the agony was that Clinton, who we should point out is actually actor/comedian Alex Lowe, was attending these games with young son Aden.

“There were tears, lots of tears,” says Alex.

“Fulham was a lovely first match for us to go to with that end at Craven Cottage where all the fans would mix.

“But Aden was inconsolable at the end.

“I remember how excited and full of beans he was when we were 1-0 up at Spurs at half time but I did warn him that they weren’t going to mess around in the second.

“It was quite a baptism of fire for him and was sometimes overwhelming, but it didn’t put him off.

“It can be very hard being a football fan, can’t it?”

After the ‘Lowes’ however, came the highs.

In 2011, father and son saw their first win, 3-1 at home to Wigan.

In the years that followed, as they became Season Ticket Holders at Molineux, there were plenty more ups and downs but, more recently, some of the spectacular successes which have seen Wolves established in the Premier League and playing in Europe.

“It was a harsh introduction,” admits Aden, who turns 19 this month but was then at the age of around eight where football is all-encompassing.

“I had high expectations but was given a fairly brutal reality of football in the Premier League.

“I think we went to five or six games before that Wigan game, so it was very nice to finally come away from a football ground with a win.”

Alex and Aden have been able to enjoy shared experiences of football like so many families since the dawn of time.

But theirs is not a love that has been passed through the generations as so many others.

There are many different ways to support a club, and the origins of the Lowes gravitation to Wolves is somewhat unique: A photograph on a fridge.

“I used to go and watch QPR, and my uncle was actually deputy chairman there for a while in the days of Jim Gregory and Stan Bowles,” Alex explains.

“When Wolves beat QPR to get promoted to the Premier League, there was a great picture of Sylvan Ebanks-Blake scoring the goal with the defender (Kaspars Gorkss) with a bandage around his head.

“It was such a great shot, especially with the different colours of the gold and black and the blue contrasting with the blue and white hoops, so I stuck it up on the fridge at home.

Alex Lowe with son Aden at Wolveswhere they have season tickets

“Aden was about seven at the time and he was a bit of a contrarian – he still is to be honest – so when he saw the picture, he didn’t ask me about QPR but ‘the other team’ instead.

“When he found out there was a club called Wolves, and saw the badge, he was hooked.

“I really wanted to encourage his interest, so I quickly bought him a home shirt, then we started getting to matches when we could and that led on to season tickets and everything else besides!”

It also led on to plenty of conversations with fellow Phoenix Night stalwart Steve Edge, Cannock’s finest, who is a lifetime Wolves fan through the good, bad and indifferent.

Aden, meanwhile, admits it was probably good fun at such a young age to ‘go against my Dad’.

“It was around the World Cup of 2010 when I was really getting into football, so I reckon the photo had been on the fridge for a good while,” he recalls.

“Dad hadn’t done anything wrong, but I probably wanted to get back at him for some reason, so I decided to go for this team called Wolves who had beaten QPR.

“I didn’t have many hobbies at that age, so this gave us a good excuse to get out and do something together, even if it involved a fair bit of travelling just to get to a home game!”

If it was a painstaking journey for the Lowes not just to get to Molineux but also to become now fully fledged Wolves fans, Alex’s acting career has also involved plenty of blood, sweat and tears in treading an equally obstacle-laden path over many years.

By his own admission, “at the age of 54 I don’t think I am going to be catapulted into David Morrissey territory and become a big star”, but equally he can be proud of the versatile career he has built, sometimes against the odds and without the benefit of any elite-style privilege.

Dad was a semi-professional musician and his Uncle was a pianist, and while Mum was more into the worlds of business and science, it was showbusiness which appealed to the young ‘show-off’.

Attending the Studio School in Pinner in North London, learning drama, poetry and Shakespeare, it was after coming second in a national talent contest as part of a musical comedy double act with brother Mike - the final taking place at a holiday camp in Seaton – that things became serious.

Alex Lowe as pseudo psychic Clinton Baptiste

Lowe became a child actor, featuring in a costume drama Mansfield Park on the BBC, and a West End play about spying titled Another Country.

After studying at De Montfort University in Leicester, it was while performing at the Edinburgh Fringe Festival that Alex met up again with acting and filmmaking legend Kenneth Branagh, one of the stars of Another Country.

In a ten-minute conversation described as ‘life-changing’, Branagh offered Alex both a place in his theatre company and vowed to help sort him out with an agent.

“Kenneth is a really normal bloke, not one of the silver-spoon posh elite, and maybe he just saw some of that in me as well to want to give me a helping hand,” says Alex.

Over the following years roles in television and film followed, but perhaps the next big break, and the one revived so successfully in recent years, was when world-renowned comedian Peter Kay devised the character of Clinton Baptiste.

“I was doing another show at Edinburgh, this time about British wrestling, and Peter and Pat Roach, the wrestler turned actor in Auf Wiedersehen Pet, turned up to watch.

“That was the first time I met Peter, and I started doing a few bits of work with him including as the character ‘Sparky’ in ‘That Peter Kay thing’.

“Then he phoned me one day and said, ‘have I got a part for you’, and that was Clinton, featuring in Phoenix Nights, which Peter wrote with Dave Spikey and Neil Fitzmaurice.

“It was probably then only back in 2015 and the Phoenix Nights reunion that the real breakthrough came where Clinton was revived and Peter and myself wrote a 12-minute routine.

“The character had only been in one episode of Phoenix Nights, but it was so well received, and Peter is a comedy genius who is so sharp and so clever with an incredible sense of irony and wordplay.

“It was after the reunion that I just asked if I would be able to carry on using Clinton and performing on an individual basis, and Peter didn’t have any objections.

“I do however always keep him informed as a courtesy about what I am doing whether it’s a tour or a podcast.

“Yes, I have probably had to flesh the character out but it wasn’t my creation and I am hugely grateful for first getting the opportunity some 21 years ago and then being allowed to develop him more recently!”

Alex has now completed two national tours as Clinton Baptiste, with a third coming up, as well as taking the character into podcasts, both free-to-air and with special guests on Patreon.

He was also kind enough to give up his time and talent free of charge to headline a recent charity night at the Cleveland Arms, topping the bill to help raise funds for the Good Shepherd charity.

His ‘Barry from Watford’ character, passing on the ‘benefits of his octogenarian wisdom’, has also become extremely popular including regular appearances on LBC Radio with Iain Lee, Steve Wright in the Afternoon on Radio 2, and on tour as part of a double act with Angelos Epithemiou.

Alex also used to appear on the Christian O’Connell show delivering a variety of impressions, including of Andy Murray and mum Judy which proved particularly hilarious while the Scot was enjoying his successes at Wimbledon.

“I’ve reached the stage of my career where I know the television side is never going to break through,” Alex acknowledges.

“I’m never going to be in any other position than being in that large pool of actors going for the same jobs – I won’t be getting offered things and will still be sending tapes in.

“But the opportunity to do Clinton is such a great and enjoyable one.

“I am still petrified every time I try some new material but people seem to go mad for Clinton which is just delightful.”

Playing Clinton has also dove-tailed with his Wolves affiliations as, back in 2015, both Head Coach Kenny Jackett and captain Sam Ricketts went along to watch that Phoenix Nights reunion show in Manchester.

“It was great to meet Kenny, he is such a football man and I couldn’t believe how open he was when we chatted,” says Alex.

“As a thank you he invited myself and Aden to a game in the Directors Box, and we beat Rotherham 5-0!

“We were next to Kenny’s wife and their two sons who seemed to know about Barry from Watford which was especially lovely!”

Aden and Carl Ikeme

There have been many similar memories to enjoy over the last 12 years.

For Alex, the best goal he has seen was Ruben Neves against Derby, one of the most memorable Stephen Hunt’s crucial strike against Blackburn, and one of his favourite games the 4-3 against Leicester featuring Diogo Jota’s hat trick.

An eclectic mix of happy memories also contains the 2-0 away win at Peterborough in the Championship and a “great time at Charlton” when Jordan Graham was on target in another 2-0 victory.

He also cites a previous home game with Fulham among his favourites column, the time Dave Edwards struck late on to put Wolves 4-3 in front.

Only for the Cottagers to immediately go down the other end of the pitch and equalise. Such is life as a Wolves supporter!

For Aden, he has twice been a mascot, both ending in a 1-1 draw, at home to Derby under Stale Solbakken and away to QPR under Jackett.

“In that QPR game we had to come out of the exit and walk around to join the away fans after the start of the game,” he recalls.

“By the time we got there QPR had scored, so all the feelings of meeting the players and walking onto the pitch evaporated pretty quickly!”

His early favourite players were Kevin Doyle and Matt Jarvis, then Bakary Sako and Nouha Dicko, and now, Neves.

And a favourite game? The FA Cup quarter final win against Manchester United at Molineux.

Studying in Manchester has seen Aden join up with fellow Wolves fans stationed in the city to try and get to away games where possible, as well as still heading down to Molineux to meet Dad and take their seats in the Steve Bull Stand.

“Only now we have to get on separate trains at the end of the game with me heading South and Aden to Manchester,” says Alex.

“It’s heart-rending!”

Wolves have, however, given the Lowes so many years of that classic father-and-son experience of sharing so many mixed emotions and results, but always a common bond in the love of the gold and black.

“It’s been such a great way to spend so much time together,” says Alex.

“Aden literally became obsessed with Wolves, like Nick Hornby in Fever Pitch, and all his life was seen through the prism of how the team were doing.

“We’d spend all the train journey back to Watford locked in discussions about the game, and we used to love doing the quiz that was in the match programme.

“The one thing I would say is that I know absolutely nothing about tactics, despite having been watching games for nearly 50 years.

“I am mainly interested in the drama and theatre of it all, the heroes and villains, the goalmouth scrambles.

“I am not so bothered about what formation a team is playing, who is playing in the hole, who has been caught out of position.

“I just don’t think you can beat football for a day out – the colour, the atmosphere, the noise, the smells.

“And obviously, a Wolves' win as well!”

It is amazing what has unfolded from sticking a newspaper cutting of a photograph on the fridge door.

Alex’s wife Ayan and daughter Georgia – herself an aspiring singer and actress who has starred in American Netflix series The Alienist – have also both been to games, though not in the same volume!

“I think Mum always encouraged us because it was something good for me and Dad to get involved in,” says Aden.

“I always kept myself to myself for a long time when I was younger, so this was something great we have been able to do together.

“Looking back, I probably could have been a bit less stubborn, and gone to QPR or another team closer to home, but as soon as I saw that picture then Wolves it was!

Son Aden in Wolves colours

“And I always loved supporting the underdog, which is what Wolves were in the Premier League at the time.

“It’s been great though, especially the last few years - apart from the lockdown season - and there is no better feeling than supporting your team through the ups and downs with all the other fans.

“I agree that it’s quite a strange story, and sometimes when I’m on a night out and people ask why I support Wolves it is far easier to just say we’ve got family in Wolverhampton or something like that.

“But I’m delighted to have picked out Wolves from that photo all those years ago and had so much enjoyment as a result.”

Talking of enjoyment, to those unfamiliar with Clinton’s seemingly unique and unparalleled talents to see into the future, it should perhaps be pointed out that his existence is more for entertainment value than any bona fide track record or qualification in clairvoyancy.

Put simply, he may not get everything right.

That said, he has been kind enough to offer his thoughts on what may happen at Molineux on Saturday, and whether Wolves can get their season up and running against Fulham following defeat at Leeds.

“I’m channeling the spirit of ‘Pickles’, the famous black and white dog who found the World Cup in a bush in 1966,” says Clinton.

“He’s speaking in doggie language, telling me….hold on….’Wolves will go on a cup run’.

“He says: ‘Forget the league.’ Which is all very interesting until you remember he’s just a dog who died when football was so easy even YOU could get a game, Paul, so God knows what he knows!

“Frankly, apart from one lucky break finding the Jules Rimet, he’s achieved very little else.

“Now he’s saying we’ll beat Fulham 1-0, but I wouldn’t stake my ‘acca’ on his canine nonsense, to be honest.

“Don’t shoot the messenger - I’m only tellin’ you what Pickles is tellin’ me!”

So, there you go. Pickles has ‘spoken’. And Clinton, after such a miserable start to his Wolves-supporting existence many years ago, will be hoping the canine spirits are absolutely bang on with this one.

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