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Special Feature: Jody Craddock Dinner

PUBLISHED

13:43 15th November 2013

Promotion heroes back at Molineux

“He’s had a career of minimal fuss.”

And there, perhaps in one line from former Wolves boss Mick McCarthy, came a succinct endorsement of Jody Craddock’s career.

It was in no way to downplay the quality, commitment and leadership provided by Craddock during 20 years in which he graduated from non-league football to grace the Premier League with both Wolves and Sunderland.

The line, delivered at last night’s hugely successful testimonial dinner, was designed to illustrate the popularity and value of such a character to a manager and a team.

“I’ve been sat there tonight before coming up thinking ‘have I got any funny stories about Jody?’ but there is nothing,” said Mick.

“Nothing apart from his qualities as a player and as a bloke.

“I’ve heard him talk about not doing much more than heading it and kicking it, but speaking as someone who did pretty much the same that is nothing to be embarrassed about.

“Let me tell you –every manager the country is looking for a defender who can head it and kick it – well, that’s what he did.

“You never really had to tell him too much –well maybe once or twice that when he was backing off if he ran past our goalkeeper than maybe he had gone too far!

“But no – he just did it all and got on with his job – he did exactly what it said on the tin.

“Yes I sent him on loan to Stoke and maybe I was trying to bring in younger players and freshen things up but I got that one wrong.

“After he went we were talking about bringing him back because centre forwards were dropping off us with no-one following them in.

“Anyway, Jody came back and did it with aplomb, following his man then taking the ball cleanly and I looked at Terry and we said ‘It’s great to have him back’.”

“He was like a comfort blanket!

“He was the nicest fella off the pitch but horrible to play against, someone who would put his heart and soul into it on the field and I loved him for it.”

Both McCarthy and Terry Connor received a rapturous ovation as the they took to the stage to round off an eagerly acclaimed trip down memory lane as Jody’s testimonial dinner was combined with a reunion for the 2008/09 Championship winners whom he led for part of that season.

“We’re here tonight to honour Jody and rightly so,” said Connor.

“You don’t stay at a club for ten years like he did because of himself – you do that because you always put the team first.

“But while we are here for Jody and it was him and Karl Henry who lifted the trophy that season was all about teamwork.

“If one player was missing then another would come in, and the spirit and togetherness went a long way to what was achieved.”

A spirit and sense of togetherness is something which has carried Craddock in both his professional and personal life, with the strength of his family and particularly wife Shelley a massive factor given some of their trials and tribulations.

Most recently the youngest of the couple’s three children Toby was diagnosed with leukaemia 18 months ago, and having come through some intensive and difficult treatment at Birmingham Children’s Hospital is now into the maintenance phase of the three year plan.

“As you can all see, Toby is doing really well,” said Jody after the three appeared on stage to receive a gift of a mascot place at a home game this season and some kit presented by Karl Henry and Kevin Foley.

It is a sense of gratitude for the care received by Toby as well as the knowledge that many more families are going through exactly the same agonies that prompted Jody to decide to donate a proportion of his testimonial proceeds to the hospital.

You could have heard a pin drop inside a packed Hayward suite as a video was shown featuring interviews with Jody and Shelley and the medical professionals who have treated Toby over the last year-and-a-half (CLICK HERE TO VIEW)

And Dr Mark Velangi, Clinical Lead for Haematology at Birmingham Children’s Hospital, certainly brought a sense of perspective to the evening by explaining that he arrived at Molineux having had to break the news to two sets of parents that day that their children had leukaemia.

The hospital are past halfway in an appeal to raise £4million for a new Children’s Cancer Centre, and that will benefit from Jody’s donation at the end of the year.

And plenty was certainly raised on the night from some terrific raffle and auction prizes, including one of the ‘poppy’ shirts worn by Danny Batth and a trip to see The Bodyguard and meet its star, lifelong Wolves fan, Beverley Knight.

Talking of stars and lifelong Wolves fans, Vice-President Robert Plant was certainly a popular attraction for guests at Molineux, obliging all of those queuing up for a picture during the evening’s schedule.

And the Wolves hierarchy were also well represented, chairman Steve Morgan, CEO Jez Moxey, directors John Gough and John Bowater and Club Secretary Richard Skirrow all present to hear the various anecdotes and stories.

Above all though it was Jody’s night, and pretty much every player who could make it  - barring club and international commitments – did make it.

During the on-stage interviews Moxey said Wolves couldn’t have had “a better ambassador and a better man.”

Chris Iwelumo recalled the defender as a “maxed out footballer” for his courage and commitment while Matt Murray said he cites the example of Craddock’s integrity and professionalism in work for the PFA.

There were some great words too from John Griffin, the scout now working at Crystal Palace who first spotted Jody’s talents with non-league Christchurch and helped take him to Cambridge (CLICK HERE TO VIEW).

The gathering of former promotion heroes was extensive, featuring not only  the aforementioned Henry, Foley and Iwelumo but also Carl Ikeme, David Jones, Richard Stearman, Matt Hill, Neill Collins, George Elokobi, Dave Edwards and Sylvan Ebanks-Blake.

Members of the backroom staff also made sure they were there to show support – as Jody himself recalled it was like a “family” when Wolves lifted the Championship title.

The theme which pervaded the entire evening was of that indefatigable Craddock commitment and determination, a will-to-win and never-know-when-beaten feeling which served him so well in a Wolves stay spanning ten years and an overall career spanning 20.

“At the start I was never sure I was going to be good enough,” he recalled.

“And I used to beat myself up about every single mistake.

“When I did finally make it I think it was the fear of failure which kept me going, of wanting to do the very best that I could every time that I played.

“I had some great times though, and would like to thank everyone who is here tonight and from the club for their support.”

In truth it was probably the other way around last night with everyone present, whether board member, manager, coach, player or fan, keen to thank the former Wolves number 6 and support the first major event of his testimonial year.

And yes, certainly something to make a fuss about!

*Jody announced last night that his testimonial match will be between representatives/former players from Wolves and Sunderland, and will take place at Molineux at a date to be fixed at the end of the season.

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