The press box at Molineux won’t quite be the same next season as the man who has covered the club’s fortunes for an incredible 54 years has hung up his notebook.
When Ron Warrilow first took his place in the press box at Molineux, Stan Cullis was Wolves manager, the club were winning their last FA Cup, the likes of Elvis Presley and The Shadows were topping the charts, and Harold Macmillan was Prime Minister.
Fast approaching his 70th birthday, Ron, a hugely popular figure with colleagues and members of the Molineux faithful alike, was presented with a signed shirt and director’s box tickets for a game next season by club secretary Richard Skirrow and fellow journalist David Instone before the Carlisle game at the weekend.
Ron says: “As I tell people, I was a pre-D-Day baby, and I first sat in the press box at Molineux when I was 16.
“It has been the best of times and I’m not sure anyone else will ever match it!
“It was strange how I started out because at the time I was at Dudley Grammar School preparing for my exams.
“I was finding it all a bit dull to be honest, and I spotted an advert in the Express and Star for a young reporter with a Wolverhampton news agency.
“All the candidates were asked to go along to a Central League match on a Saturday afternoon and write a 300-word match report.
“On the Saturday evening I got a call to say I’d got the job.
“I left school on the Monday, had a day off on the Tuesday, and started as a reporter on the Wednesday!
“And that has been my whole working life.
“I did news stories, particularly court stories, in the week and then on a Saturday it alternated between Wolves first team games and reserve team games in the Central League, which also took place at Molineux.
“It was even in the days before radios and so at the end of the reserve games the fans would come over and wait for me at full time.
“I’d phone my copy through and then find out from the copytaker how the first team had got on in their away match before relaying the news back to those fans who were waiting down below.
“Later on I formed my own agency and started to alternate between watching Wolves the one week and West Bromwich Albion the next.
“When I left school to start the job I’d been put in for my exams so I had to pay £2-7s-6d.
“After 54 years watching Wolves it’s probably the best bargain I could ever have asked for!”
Combining court reporting with that of football certainly provided Warrilow with plenty of perspective in his early days.
Because, in the early 1960s, he can recall seeing people sent to their death at Stafford Assizes!
When it comes to football, however, and Wolves, there are many wonderful memories of players and managers to look back upon
“It’s been a great last season for me,” he replies.
“These are very exciting times for Wolves and Kenny Jackett deserves a massive pat on the back for the job he has done.
“The way the team has played and with some of the players now at the club I think the future is looking very rosey.”
Warrilow has worked out that Jackett is the 22nd Wolves manager he has covered in charge during his near five-and-a-half decades on the Midlands’ beat.
He remembers with much fondness – literally – the cakes Mark McGhee used to bring to his weekly pre-match press conferences.
The first he dealt with was the late and great Cullis.
“Stan Cullis was brilliant with me – I was a 16-year-old sprog and he really took me under his wing,” he says.
“He could see that I was young and raw and was very co-operative and tried to help me.
“Bill McGarry was another who was very good while Ian Greaves would invite us to go over to his drinks cabinet and help ourselves – it was always a pleasure to go into his office!”
It has not however always been as cordial with the opposition managers, as Warrilow explains.
“Call it the exuberance of youth but I remember when Wolves beat Ipswich and Bobby Robson said Ipswich had played all the football, I asked him how it was that Wolves had won?
“He hit the roof! I suppose I paid the price for being young and inexperienced.
“On another occasion Ron Atkinson came in after a game with Manchester United and was saying how they had been denied what he felt was a clear penalty.
“”No it wasn’t’, came a voice from the back of the room belonging to a reporter from Hospital Radio – Ron walked out!
“Looking back I feel privileged to have been around what were golden times for journalism and have met some great people, and made some great friends, along the way.”
Warrilow perhaps didn’t feel quite as privileged on a couple of particular occasions – when he found himself locked inside Molineux.
On one occasion it needed a 999 call and the Police to come with bolt cutters, and the other required a quick scaling of a mesh fire fence to escape the stadium’s environs.
No such problems lay in wait on Saturday afternoon, and while Warrilow is looking forward to more leisurely Saturday afternoons, he will never forget the memories.
“I’ve met some great people and great reporters in that press box down the years, and made some great friends.
“Now I’ve got a bit more of an opportunity to spend more time on a Saturday with my lady wife and family which I’ve perhaps not had since 1960.
“But I have enjoyed each and every moment and feel very privileged to have covered Wolves for all these years.”
*Wishing you a long and happy retirement Ron and thanks for all your company and good humour – from everyone at Wolves!
This article was originally published in the matchday programme on Saturday when Wolves met Carlisle. Ron is pictured receiving a signed Wolves shirt from club secretary Richard Skirrow and long-serving Midlands' journalist David Instone.