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Wolves legends take to the stage with new show

A new theatre series celebrating the players who have captured the imagination of Wolves supporters over the past 50 years is launching in the New Year.

Johnny Phillips, centre, with Steve Daley and John Richards. Right, they will be joined by Kenny Hibbitt.
Johnny Phillips, centre, with Steve Daley and John Richards. Right, they will be joined by Kenny Hibbitt.

Wolves Icons will shine a light on some of the most dedicated and entertaining characters who have turned out at Molineux down the years.

The series kicks off at Oakengates Theatre, Telford, on February 7 with the first episode – The 70s – starring John Richards, Kenny Hibbitt and Steve Daley.

The three former players, who served the club with such distinction during a decade which saw the club enjoy success at home and abroad, have remained great friends since their playing days.

“I joined Wolves at 17 and John a year later, and I remember him playing on the right wing to start with,” Hibbitt recalls.

“Then we got a chance under Bill McGarry, who got all the youngsters into the first team, and it clicked for him and we got stronger and stronger. The 1970/71 season when we qualified for Europe was amazing.

“Then the following year we reached the Uefa Cup final. I’d never flown before, I can’t tell you what it felt like to get on a plane and travel to all these top teams. Wolves gave me that opportunity.”

Daley scored a crucial goal to defeat Hungarian side Ferencvaros in the second leg of the semi-final at Molineux.

“Kenny was the best midfielder I ever played with and we’ve stayed great mates,” he added.

“And John was the best striker I ever played with.

“As a midfielder you sometimes get bogged down with the ball and he was always the one who would show for it. He’d take it to feet no matter how many men were marking him. The former England defender Roy McFarland told me that John was the hardest opponent he faced.”

Daley made a record-breaking move to Manchester City in 1979 a year before Wolves’ second League Cup final win.

“Steve was a key first choice member of our 70s team before he left. His story about that move alone is fascinating and worrying to some degree,” Richards added.

“And it’s no surprise that he moved on to America after only 18 months. At the end of his playing career he became, and still is, one of the best after dinner speakers on the sporting circuit.

“Kenny is a legend at Wolves, and quite rightly so. 16 years at the club, second only to Derek Parkin in appearances with 574, and 114 goals.

“He is one of a handful of players from that generation who went on to continue his career in the game as a coach and manager. Considering his pedigree, it’s surprising he wasn’t invited to continue his post-playing career at Wolves. Well, that was almost the case – I’ll leave Kenny to explain!

“I have some great memories of our playing days but the Uefa Cup run which took us to places such as East Germany and Italy, playing against the likes of Juventus, that was an incredible adventure for a 21-year-old.”

With so many ups and downs across their Molineux careers, the trio are not short of stories to share with the audience. Wolves Icons is the brainchild of broadcaster and writer Johnny Phillips, who will be hosting the events.

“Across many years as a supporter, and covering Wolves in a professional capacity, I’ve been privileged to meet so many genuinely iconic players who have helped make this club unique,” Phillips explained.

“Although we know plenty about these players already there is so much that has only been skimmed over and I hope Wolves Icons can paint a vivid picture of some great days across several decades. We’ve got some great names lined up for future episodes but John, Kenny and Steve are the perfect three players to kick the series off with.

“Their humour, stage presence and character shines through and it will be a really entertaining night.”

The night will offer supporters the chance to hear many untold stories while giving the audience the opportunity to ask some questions of their own.

All three former players still follow the club closely today and have their own thoughts on what has been an eventful start to the Premier League season.

“You have to look at Nuno, he took us from mid-table Championship to top seven, several seasons with the same pattern of play,” Hibbitt reflects.

“Bruno Lage wanted to change things but it’s so hard to change a team so well drilled. I felt for him, but then strange things happened. I could not believe that Conor Coady left, something went on there. He was our captain, our leader like Mike Bailey, and we definitely lost something when he went.

“Julen Lopetegui is a top manager with a lot of experience. I hope we can get a couple of strikers in, we’ve relied on Raul Jimenez for too long. We’ve suffered from injuries, particularly with Pedro Neto. It’s been a tough 18 months so hopefully Lopetegui comes in and can get us out of the bottom three quickly.”

“He needs to hit the ground running and he has the advantage of a World Cup break,” Daley adds. “It’s crucial that they start well because the other teams above Wolves in the Premier League will start getting a bit of confidence if they see Wolves can’t win.”

“Lopetegui’s priority has to be getting someone who can score goals, simple as that,” Richards believes. “The rest of the team is fairly solid but if you haven’t got anyone to score goals it can be demoralising. If you’re not scoring at the other end you won’t get anywhere. I don’t think he’s got a lot to do, just add one or two up front to give them that end product. If they are successful with that then that’s the key.”

All three seventies stars catch up regularly, with Daley and Richards in attendance at Molineux last Friday night for the Wolves Foundation Sleepout event, their bond as strong as it was in their playing days.

Daley, vice-chairman of Wolves Former Players’ Association explains: “Players who played for Wolves team in the 70s, when they finished their careers elsewhere, they’d return to Wolverhampton. Phil Parkes, Willie Carr, John McAlle, and many more. That’s why we’ve got such a close former players’ association.

“My playing career came to an end in Portugal, after a brief spell on loan at Derby County, with Peter Taylor as manager,” Richards, WFPA chairman, recalls. “Re-joining Wolves as a non-executive director in 1985 was a great honour, but my subsequent experiences as managing director were somewhat challenging and a bit of an eye opener!

“We all feel grateful for the careers that we had, though, and particularly the players we were lucky to play alongside; loads of characters as well as being outstanding footballers. And not forgetting the managers we worked with – some very good, and others not so good – that’s a topic for my pal Kenny.”

n Wolves Icons – The 70s takes place at Oakengates Theatre, Telford, on February 7. Tickets are priced £22 and can be ordered here

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