Express & Star

Dean Edwards: The ex-Wolves striker who did Steve Bull a big favour

For all the hope that his stay at his hometown club might have been longer, that he might have become a bigger part of Wolves’ dramatic revival, Dean Edwards has always remained philosophical.

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Being denied the chance to build on a promising initial impact at Molineux ultimately opened up doors and other experiences which the former striker would otherwise not have been able to enjoy.

Including twice finding the net at Wembley!

And that’s football.

Sometimes it’s not just talent and hard work that determines the trajectory of a career.

There is timing, opportunity, relationships with team-mates and managers, and also, luck.

As England prepare to kick off their European Championships campaign this weekend, the last Wolves player to make an appearance at a major tournament is still Steve Bull, 34 years ago, at ‘Italia 90’.

And yet, when talking about timing, and opportunity, Bull’s England career might not have got off to the explosive start which it did, had it not been for Edwards.

Because, as was outlined by Wolves club historian Peter Crump at his latest excellent talk at Wolves Museum last week, the goals plundered by one Wulfrunian striker paved the way for another from just down the road in Tipton to make his international bow.

The story goes like this.

Back at Molineux with Mick Holmes, Jackie Gallagher and Jon Purdie

In defence of the Sherpa Van Trophy back in 1989, Wolves, then runaway Division Three leaders, were expected to comfortably overcome Torquay, sitting 11th in Division Four.

Incredibly, and despite two late Bull goals clinching a 2-1 away win for Wolves on a rain-sodden night in Devon in the first leg, the second proved far from a formality and the Gulls flew off with a place in the final thanks to a 2-0 success, 3-2 on aggregate.

Edwards, by now a Torquay player, two years after moving on from Molineux, scored in both legs, including the crucial opener at his former stomping ground.

That took Torquay to Wembley for the final against Bolton, played at the Twin Towers on Sunday May 28th.

Amid Wolves’ devastation at their semi-final collapse, and even if he didn’t know it at the time, for Bull, the cup exit was pivotal.

Because, having amassed five England under-21 caps as an overage player, towards the end of Wolves’ season he picked up three caps for England ‘B’ – scoring twice – impressing sufficiently to secure a senior Three Lions call-up from Bobby Robson.

He then came off the bench at Hampden Park to score on his debut in a 2-0 win against Scotland. On Saturday May 27th.

Had Wolves reached the Sherpa Van Trophy final, Bull wouldn’t have been involved in the senior international set-up and, in all likelihood, not been excused from the final league fixtures to represent England ‘B’.

Given his goalscoring form and unstoppable determination, he would surely have made it to the England set-up eventually.

But, thanks to Edwards and Torquay, that process was quickened, helping Bull to quickly become part of the Three Lions furniture and head to the 1990 World Cup.

“I hadn’t really thought of it like that until Crumpy mentioned it in his talk, I’ll have to let Bully know as well,” Edwards laughs.

“It was quite a weekend, that.

“Friday night was the title decider when Arsenal beat Liverpool at Anfield, and then on Saturday we travelled to Wembley with Torquay to prepare for our final the next day.

“We were there in time to watch England and I was rooming with Mark Loram and we both jumped in the air when Bully scored – we were buzzing!

“Bully was flying the flag for all of us from the lower leagues at the time which was brilliant, and he’s such a great lad, isn’t he?

At the museum last week for talk from Wolves’ historian Peter Crump

“I’ve always got on well with him, what you see is what you get with Bully, he’s stayed so down to earth all this time.

“I was on my way out when he came to Wolves and I think I only ever played alongside him once, in a Birmingham Senior Cup tie, and I was on the bench in a league game at Preston when he started.

“When I left, I followed his career with great interest, in a way he took my shirt, but if there was ever someone who was going to take my shirt, I couldn’t have wished for anyone better.”

Edwards may not have hit the goalscoring heights of Bull during his own career – very few did.

But he has every reason to feel proud of his own footballing CV, onto which Wolves could have featured earlier than it eventually did.