It was another emotional day in Wolverhampton as the city's football fans, former players and dignitaries joined Peter Broadbent's family and friends to pay their final respects to a Wolves legend. David Harrison was there......
Of all the Wolves players I have seen as a supporter over the years, Peter Broadbent was the best. No exceptions. No arguments.
Those who attended his funeral service at St. Peter’s Collegiate Church and never saw him play were left in little doubt about his brilliance.
Those who were fortunate enough to watch him were able to confirm the excellence of the Wolves inside forward both as a footballer and as a man. The tributes came thick and fast.
Hundreds of fans gathered at the city centre place of worship to pay their final respects to a man who was hero-worshipped during his playing days yet who wore his cloak of greatness humbly, gracefully and gratefully.
The mourners included his Wolves contemporaries wing half Ron Flowers and goalkeeper Malcolm Finlayson who shared with him Wolves finest moments in the fifties and sixties.
Also in attendance were ex-Wolves players Ray Crawford, Peter Knowles, Graham Hawkins, Jim Barron, Fred Davies, Mel Eves, Phil Parkes, Steve Daley, Derek Parkin, John McAlle, Les Cocker, Ted Farmer, Johnny Walker and Terry Wharton. Former clubs Aston Villa and Shrewsbury were represented by Dave Pountney and Ted Hemsley while Jez Moxey, Richard Skirrow, John Gough, Matt Grayson, John Hendley and Graham Hughes attended on behalf of the current Wolves.
Peter’s coffin entered the church to the strains of Frank Sinatra’s “My Way” and the theme was developed by Wolves chaplain and St. Peter’s Rector Rev David Wright who said: “Peter did it his way whether it was swaying past defenders with his body swerve or serving as a husband, a dad or granddad. He was unique.”
The Rev Wright recalled that Peter’s funeral completed a hat-trick, following in the recent final footsteps of David Wagstaffe and Barry Stobart. “In football hat-tricks can be a marvellous feat but these are three body blows which have been felt by the football club, the city and their families. On Boxing Day 1964 Peter played his last game for Wolves, Dave played his first and on the opposing Villa team was Barry so that is a remarkable link between the three men.”
Former Express and Star sports editor Steve Gordos paid an eloquent and heartfelt tribute to a player he had idolised from the terraces before going on to write his excellent biography and becoming a close family friend.
Steve said: “To be a Wolves fan back then was to be in Molineux heaven. There were golden gates not pearly gates but we did have our own St. Peter. He was a player who made your blood tingle and put a smile on your face whenever you saw him play.
“He had the ball skills of Lionel Messi, the passing ability of David Beckham and could score goals from midfield like Frank Lampard. He was idolised by George Best and Sir Alex Ferguson rated him very highly and you don’t get higher praise than that.”
Ron Flowers was a close friend and team-mate of Peter’s and when they first joined Wolves they shared the same digs. They also shared the same bed for a while!
Ron recalled: “It was rather a large bed. I once said to his wife Shirley ‘You know I think I slept with Peter before you did.” She laughed: ‘That, you will never know.’ Peter was not just a great player he was a real gentleman.”
Malcolm Finlayson recalled how he and Peter were team-mates for the RAF representative side before they became colleagues at Wolves and remembered one game against an FA X1 which illustrated their humble beginnings.
Malcolm said: “We were both called up for national service at the same time and in the game against the FA X1, we came up against what was virtually a full England team. They stayed in the very luxurious Hendon Hall Hotel and we stayed in the Union Jack Hotel which cost 10 shillings (50p) a night. We slept in a dormitory.
“We went out for a meal and you have to remember there was still food rationing then. The menu outside the restaurant offered sirloin steak, chops, chips and peas. Peter decided to have some of that and then he noticed a sign in the corner which read: “Only the finest horsemeat served here.”
The Rev Wright recounted stories of Peter the family man – the son of a pit worker from the coalfields of Kent, who married the love of his life Shirley after meeting her at a dance at the Civic Hall. The glamorous couple were considered the Posh and Becks of the day. Shirley was probably football’s first WAG while Peter was content to be a devoted husband, father and grandfather with a mischievous sense of humour.
Peter played 497 games and scored 145 goals for Wolves before moving to Shrewsbury and then Aston Villa. He won seven caps for England and scored twice for his country. He collected three Championship titles, and FA Cup winners’ medal and played in the famous victories against foreign invaders Honved, Moscow Dynamo, Moscow Spartak and Real Madrid.
All this came to Wolves for a fee of £10,000 that Stan Cullis handed over to Brentford for his services.
But the statistics do not fully illustrate his impact on the team or the mesmeric skills which lit up Molineux as brightly as the famous floodlights.
Peter’s life was dimmed in his later years by a long and distressing battle with Alzheimers Disease but Shirley maintained his spirits with her daily vigil at his rest home at Himley Mill.
Once, while visiting her family in America, she asked Steve Gordos and his wife Lindsay to visit Peter.
Steve recalls: “I am not certain Peter knew who we were or what we were discussing but we talked to him all the same. Before leaving I just had to say to him: ‘Peter, thank you for the magic.’”
The magical memories still make the blood tingle. I can still raise a smile when my mind drifts back to Peter and that exaggerated body swerve.
As his body left St. Peter’s Church, the final musical tribute acknowledged what we all knew anyway. Even Tina Turner endorsed it. He was Simply The Best.