A packed Molineux audience rose in admiration for a man whose name is often forgotten among the many legends and illustrious names who have added to the golden glitter of Wolverhampton Wanderers.
But Graham Hawkins deserves his place in the history books, never more so than in recent years.
His courage and humility have shone through during a period of his life which have brought him much heartache and despair.
Graham has fought against non-Hodgkin lymphoma with which he was diagnosed three years ago. He confronted the disease head-on – just as he tackled opponents as a player and manager.
And as a tribute to those who helped him battle against the most difficult opponent he has encountered, he organised two fund raising dinners, including one at his beloved Molineux.
A collection of former colleagues joined Graham at the dinner– Ron Flowers, Mike Bailey, Gerry Taylor, Wayne Clarke, Dave Wagstaffe, John McAlle, John Richards, Fred Kemp and Keith Downing along with his close friend and former boss at Shrewsbury Graham Turner.
Graham was genuinely moved by the reception he received from his audience.
“I only wish I could have had the same applause when I left Molineux in 1984,” he joked.
That was a reference to his sad departure from Wolves when, after leading the club to promotion after being appointed manager during the ill-fated Bhatti-regime, he was abruptly sacked.
A bad season back in the top flight cost Graham his job and he left with his head high and his dignity intact but without any true recognition of the amazing feat he pulled off with a team made up of young kids and a handful of experienced pros.
Hawkins is unique in his own way. He is the only person to have supported, played for and managed the club.
And he admitted: “I dared to dream and I lived the dream by signing for Wolves. It’s 50 years since I signed and it’s difficult to describe the unbelievable feeling to walk through the Molineux doors for the first time knowing all your heroes were in the top dressing room.”
From the back streets of Darlaston as an eight year-old, he had only one ambition – to wear the old gold and black shirt.
It brought him under the watchful gaze of the manager Stan Cullis , who was a man to be feared as well as respected.
Graham can still hear the clip-clop of Mr. Cullis’s steel-tipped shoes as he marched the Molineux corridors of power. Grown men, international footballers of some stature, would run for cover at the sound of his footsteps.
When he was offered his first professional contract, Graham dared to ask for an extra £2 10s on his basic wage. “No,” was the stern reply from the Iron Manager.
“I just grabbed the pen,signed the contract and left the room,” said Graham. “Suddenly I found myself along some of the great names I had pretended to be when I was playing in the street – players like Ron Flowers, Mike Bailey, Gerry Harris.
“What I’ve never forgotten is how those great stars treated all the younger players with such respect. What they were teaching us, of course, was how we should treat people in our own lives and it was a lesson I never forgot.”
Mr Cullis always loomed large in his life and on one occasion after the young player had committed a mistake in a youth cup game, Graham had to face the wrath of the manager.
“Mr Cullis never swore,” Hawkins explained. “But he cornered me in the treatment room and said: ‘if you ever flippin’ do that again you’ll never play for my flippin’ team again.”
Graham glosses over the sad circumstances of his departure as manager and prefers to dwell on the success of the 1982-83 promotion season, when, against all odds, he pieced together a team of teenagers and seasoned played like John Burridge, Alan Dodd, Kenny Hibbitt, Geoff Palmer and Andy Gray.
Having taken the club into the top flight, he was denied the funds which were needed to keep Wolves there.
He left without bitterness and went on to coach overseas and eventually he became Head of Player Development at the Football League.
Graham decided to quit football after his health problem emerged and now is enjoying some long-overdue quality time with his wife Jane.
He still attends games and is never happier when he is watching Wolves play. The club is engrained in his DNA. Graham Hawkins is proud that he lived the dream and Wolves can feel proud to call him one of their own.