Hopefully the sun will be shining and there will be a good Molineux turnout on Bank Holiday Monday afternoon as fans of Wolves and Sunderland join forces to pay a final and official tribute to one of their most popular former players.
Just before 2pm on Monday, Jody Craddock will walk out of the tunnel with sons Joseph, Luke and Toby – and it’s fair to say that there will not be a single person in the Stan Cullis and Billy Wright Stands that won’t rise to salute the career of a man who defines the words ‘top professional’.
There should then follow 90 minutes of fun and entertaining football between some of Craddock’s former team-mates at Wolves and Sunderland, and probably far more entertainment in the second, following the usual raft of testimonial substitutions!
In truth of course the result doesn’t really matter, a few goals would be nice, and presumably, in true testimonial style, referee Alan Wiley may well chip in to help things on their way should that be required!
But the real message of the day will come via the thousands of fans who come to support the inspirational defender, and those on and around the pitch who have given up their time to head to Molineux to play.
First of all Kenny Jackett and the current Wolves squad – who could perhaps be forgiven for putting their feet up to enjoy the success of their labours – are to attend the game to support Craddock and take to the pitch to parade the Sky Bet League One trophy one more time at approximately 1.30pm.
There will also be a fairly illustrious cast list on both sides of the Midlands/North East divide who are foregoing any normal Bank Holiday plans to pledge their backing to Craddock and Birmingham Children’s Hospital, which will receive a proportion of proceeds from his testimonial year.
The teamsheets have endured plenty of changes up until the big day with play-off and other commitments affecting those final line-ups.
Among the ex-Wolves contingent will be the most recent managerial regime before Kenny Jackett to have won a title at Molineux in Mick McCarthy and Terry Connor.
Players set to feature, as well as Craddock, include – amongst many others - Matt Murray, Carl Ikeme, Richard Stearman, George Elokobi, Dave Edwards, Christophe Berra, Matt Hill, Sylvan Ebanks-Blake, Michael Kightly and Seyi Olofinjana.
Sunderland, managed by Bobby Saxton, will re-unite their legendary strike partnership of Niall Quinn and Kevin Phillips, and are also set to include Kevin Kilbane, Julio Arca, Thomas Sorensen and Gavin McCann.
And there are others, like Craddock, with a foot in both camps, such as Alex Rae, Michael Gray and Neill Collins.
It wouldn’t be a testimonial without a few special guests and from the world of showbiz come Wolves fan Mark Rhodes and Ayden Callaghan, joined in the Wolves side by his Hollyoaks counterpart Charlie Wernham, while Sky Sports News presenter David Jones will be lining up for Sunderland.
Half time also promises to provide some fun and frolics.
Three advance ticket purchasers Leigh Brettwood, Kieran Newey and Scott Humphries have already won the chance to take a penalty at Matt Murray.
And then CEO Jez Moxey will follow up his ‘interesting’ goalkeeping appearance at Murray’s testimonial by doing it all over again – with rock legend Robert Plant the man taking the penalties.
All this will be refereed by another Vice-President, the one and only Steve Bull, while rumour has it George Elokobi may also mark his final Molineux appearance in Wolves colours by stepping up as well!
The fact so many are turning out is message if it were needed of how highly Craddock was respected in the game prior to his retirement, not only by Wolves fans but also those from a couple of hundred miles further North as well.
It is over a decade since Craddock completed his six years on Wearside, but the support from both fans and media in terms of making the trip tomorrow says much about his continuing popularity with a Club which supported he and wife Shelley so magnificently following the loss of their first child Jake to cot death while he was there.
The Craddocks have suffered further off-field tribulations in recent years with youngest son Toby diagnosed with leukaemia, and that is why Birmingham Children’s Hospital has been chosen to receive some of the testimonial proceeds.
Toby is progressing really well – as fans will hopefully see tomorrow – whilst another of the mascots with the Craddock boys, Kiahna, owes her life to the hospital having undergone five heart operations in her early years.
Collectors from Birmingham Children’s Hospital will be outside Molineux tomorrow for fans wishing to donate, and they will also be selling the special testimonial brochures and matchday pamphlets for the game.
So eyes down for what should another memorable Molineux day in tribute to one of Wolves’ and Sunderland own – and someone whom, as Terry Connor said at the testimonial dinner, was always a bit better than “alright”……
Tickets priced at £10 for adults and £5 for concessions are still available in the Billy Wright and Stan Cullis Stands. A family ticket of £20 for two adults and two children is available in the Billy Wright Stand only, and will be available on the gate for both tiers, subject to availability. Tickets can be purchased online with printing at home to avoid booking fee or collected from the Ticket Office which opens at 11am on Monday. All tickets will be available on the gate for the Billy Wright Stand, but tickets for the Stan Cullis Stand must be purchased from the Ticket Office after it opens.
TROPHY PICTURE OPPORTUNITY
Supporters who have purchased in advance can have their photo taken with the Sky Bet League One trophy from 9am-1pm tomorrow (Monday), next to the Megastore, subject to availability. Tickets will have to be shown and supporters will have to take their own photograph. There will be further picture opportunities with the trophy in the future.
A big thanks to the Fox at Shipley run by Neil Taylor – a major fundraiser for Birmingham Children’s Hospital – for sponsoring the testimonial game. And also to Wolves’ Directors John Gough and John Bowater who are the managers sponsors.
KICK OFF IS AT 2PM BUT A REMINDER TO ARRIVE AT 1.30PM IF YOU WISH TO SEE KENNY AND THE CURRENT SQUAD ON THE PITCH WITH THE TROPHY.