“Mutchy got 100 goals in about 300 games – and would have got a lot more if he knew the offside rule.”
“Waggy would come in at half time, be straight into the toilet and looking for the Park Drives (cigarettes) which he’d hidden in there.”
“Malcolm Finlayson went off for stitches in a head injury playing for Millwall – but came back after treatment only to forget that he’d missed half time and the teams had changed ends….”
The one-liners and anecdotes were – as ever – filling the room as much as the packed number of guests at last night’s Hall of Fame dinner in the Hayward Suite at Molineux.
Malcolm Finlayson, Dave Wagstaffe and Andy Mutch were the three Wolves heroes inducted who were present at the popular event joining all the other legends honoured at the three previous Hall of Fame evenings.
And they were joined by the moment of Wolves beating Honved in 1954 – Ron Flowers and Eddie Stuart representing that famous team – and pioneering manager Major Frank Buckley, who passed away in 1964.
It was another fantastic trip down Memory Lane , perhaps summed up most succinctly by record goalscorer Steve Bull, who went slightly but genuinely off message on stage during his tribute to former striking partner Mutch.
“Can I just say what a fantastic night this Hall of Fame is,” said Bully.
“I think the way the club looks after and honours its former players is brilliant.”
More on Mutch’s tribute which finished the night later.
But after a warm welcome from Jez Moxey, in which his questioning of whether previous Hall of Fame inductee had received due prominence in the FA’s 150th anniversary celebrations drew applause, it was Major Buckley who was first to be honoured.
One of the excellent pieces of video footage began the tribute, after which local author and lifelong Wolves fan Patrick Quirke joined host Bob Hall on stage to add further reflections on Buckley’s Wolves tenure, which stretched from 1927 to 1944, and included bringing in two similar Club legends in Wright and Stan Cullis.
Quirke related how ‘the Major’ was perhaps ahead of his time when it came to management, not least with suggestions of injecting monkey glans into players to improve performance, desire for overnight stays ahead of matches and use of psychology for those in the team struggling for confidence.
The thought meanwhile that the Major saw women as a distraction for footballers drew one or two gasps from female members of the audience!
Next up on stage was Dave Wagstaffe, fondly known of course as Waggy, who recalled his Wolves debut in a pair of baseball boots as the footwear he brought with him from Manchester City wasn’t suitable for the surface.
“They were brilliant days,” Wagstaffe said of his 12 years at Molineux, which included a League Cup winners’ medal and UEFA Cup runners-up spot having scored in the second leg of the final against Tottenham.
“You don’t really realise how good it was until you are finished in the game, but it was fantastic.
“I really wish I could do it all again!”
Then it was time for Phil Parkes and John McAlle to describe Waggy’s unique pre-match and half time routine.
“Five minutes before the game Waggy would disappear into the toilet to have a fag,” said Parkes.
“And at half time he’d be back in there where he’d hidden his Park Drives,” added McAlle.
That however was a mere sideshow to what Waggy’s former team-mates really thought of the mercurial winger.
“They talk about Lionel Messi now, but you can’t tackle anymore, and I’m not sure how he’d be doing if he wasn’t being kicked into Row Z like Waggy was,” added Parkes.
“Great and legend can sometimes be words which are over-used – but in Waggy’s case they are certainly not.
“He did love a moan mind you..”
And prior to Wagstaffe having been presented with the special ‘red book’ given to all inductees, there was an extra special surprise courtesy of a framed letter which had been received by friends Steve and Lindsay Gordos.
Wagstaffe regularly holidays with wife Val at the Royal Estate in Balmoral, and the Gordos’s had written to the Queen mentioning the former winger’s impending Hall of Fame honour.
A reply arrived from Her Majesty’s Lady-in-Waiting Jennifer Gordon Lennox, in which she wrote:
‘The Queen was pleased to hear how much Mr Wagstaffe has enjoyed staying on the Balmoral estate in recent years.
‘The Queen would be glad if you would tell him that her Majesty was interested to know that his former club are holding a ceremony in his honour on January 17th during which he will be inducted into their hall of fame.
‘I am to congratulate Mr Wagstaffe on this tremendous achievement, and I hope this special occasion will be most enjoyable for all concerned.’
Super stuff. And fitting that attention then turn to players probably considered as Wolves royalty with the moment of the ground-breaking friendly victory against Honved, coming as it did after the England team had been thrashed by Hungary.
It was Flowers and Stuart, both involved in one of Molineux’s most famous nights, who offered their recollections.
“Heading so many heavy balls may have affected my memory but I remember that game,” said Stuart, who added that he remains extremely proud of the five medals won with Wolves locked away for safe-keeping at a bank in his home town.
“It was just a time then we were never felt we were going to lose,” added Flowers.
“I remember on the day of the game I was at Molineux and saw a few of their lads in the treatment room – so I quickly went down the bookies and put another fiver on us!”
Flowers proceeded to read out an excellent poem sent to him about the Honved game by a Wolves supporter, before the two received a warm ovation as they returned to their seats.
One of the pair’s later team-mates Malcolm Finlayson was the next inductee to be honoured, a prevailing theme of the video footage shown and information provided by on-stage guest and Hall of Fame committee member Steve Gordos the bravery and courage of the former Scottish goalkeeper.
“When he was playing for Millwall against Walsall he suffered a head injury which needed stitches,” Gordos explained.
“He went off to hospital and then came back, managed to get into the ground again and went back out onto the pitch.
“Only problem was – he forgot that there had been half time since he had left and so he went into the wrong net!”
Turns out Millwall won the game 6-5, and the presence of suitably impressed Wolves scout George Noakes paved the way for Finlayson’s later switch to Molineux.
The man himself meanwhile explained that the bravery and courage shown between the posts also had to be worked on – it wasn’t all natural.
“It was back in the days when you couldn’t really catch the ball on your goal-line,” he said.
“If you did that someone like Nat Lofthouse would just barge you over the line and it would be a goal.
“I used to practice with punchballs with a boxer called Freddie Mills who was the light heavyweight champion.
“That helped me with punching the ball during matches, although sometimes it was very unfortunate that a striker might also get in the way….”
And with that it was onto a striker who wasn’t bad in the air himself – a certain Andrew Mutch.
One of the key figures involved in helping bring about Wolves’ return from the depths of the lower reaches of the Fourth Division, not to mention near extinction, was clearly delighted to be joining the Hall of Fame ranks.
“When I was young I used to watch a programme called Kick Off, and remember seeing Wolves sides including players like Geoff Palmer, Kenny Hibbitt and Willie Carr,” said Mutch.
“So when I joined the club from Southport it felt like I was in the big-time!
“Then I received my first pay-cheque…and it bounced!”
Mutch was joined on stage not only by his former striker partner Bull, but two others whom also played such a crucial part in Wolves’ Eighties darkness becoming light.
Robbie Dennison and Andy Thompson.
And the one-liners were certainly flowing as the quartet quickly showed that years spent amid the banter of a footballing dressing room can very quickly be recaptured.
“Bully could never do any one-twos with Mutchy,” said Thommo. “Because he could only get to one!”
Dennison chipped in: “Mutchy scored about 100 goals in 300 games – and would have got a lot more if he’d ever understood the offside rule.”
“I didn’t like him at first I have to admit,” said Bully.
“But once we’d had a few days out with the ‘Tuesday Club’ when we used to go over to Birmingham after training, we quickly got to know each other.
“And after that I don’t think we said a bad word to each other through the whole six or seven years!”
Team spirit was clearly such a major part of Wolves’ renaissance at that time, with Dennison also regaling guests with the time – on his first day at the club – when Mutch’s giggles at a prank from David Barnes interrupted a Graham Turner address.
“Graham had a right go at all of us, saying everything had turned into a joke, and I was starting to wonder if I could cancel my registration,” said Dennison.
“He’d given us this almighty dressing down but then when he tried to leave the room someone had covered the door handle in Vaseline so it took him a few attempts!
“On a serious note though I think it was that talk from Graham that proved the turning point – from there we really picked up and had some great times with that squad.”
Indeed they did, and the last word of the evening, prior to all the inductees being invited back on stage, was left to Mutch.
“I am just so honoured and want to thank everybody concerned,” he said.
“And most of all the fans who have always supported me. No fans – no club.”
PICTURES: JIM MAYER