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John 'Foz' Hendley | A Tribute

John Hendley. Foz. Fozzie. Whatever the nickname, including the self-christened ‘Fozzie Lovegod’, he will always be forever known as Mr Wolves.

His was a loyal and unswerving support of Wolves which spanned over 50 years and included, for the best part of the last two decades, a true labour of love in working at his beloved Molineux.

Foz first started going to games as a 15-year-old having been introduced to the club by a fellow student from the Polytechnic College where he was training for a career in the catering industry.

Having worked as a chef, and then at New Cross Hospital and Manders in the City, it was in the late 1980s that he started to write historical pieces for Wolves’ matchday programme.

He soon became a member of staff at the company which produced the programme, as well as several others, and, with the advent of the internet, was then taken on as a full-time member of Wolves’ staff in 1999.

Across those years he was a meticulous contributor and later Editor of the Wolves programme, winning numerous awards, assisted in the day-to-day running of the press office and served as the club’s historian, an interest extended to writing several extremely well-received books about Wolves’ past.

He was also fiercely proud of his run of attending consecutive Wolves games, eventually passing through the 1000 mark in succession, which included attending one fixture whilst suffering with chickenpox, and driving himself straight to hospital after another. Yes, really!

It comes as absolutely no consolation amid such sad and devastating news, but somehow it feels fitting that his final Wolves memory will have been in soaking in Ryan Bennett’s last gasp winner at Ashton Gate on Saturday evening.

Foz’s interests away from football were wide and varied.

He loved steam trains, and was a keen collector of steam-related memorabilia alongside football programmes, music, and other artefacts.

Infact, pretty much all types of memorabilia – you name it, Foz would want to buy it. And generally he did.

Foz loved speedway, attending all of Wolves’ home meetings at Monmore and many away, loved cricket....indeed loved many other sports.  

But perhaps his main other beloved pastime apart from football was folk music.

A keen singer and guitarist, he was heavily involved in the folk scene running clubs in and around Wolverhampton and performing at venues throughout the country, a love he had picked up again in recent years including the production of a CD with long-time friend and musical partner John Richards.

He was also a keen lover of pets, including his beloved Yorkshire Terrier Poppy whom he would walk around Bantock Park and, in recent years, a couple of budgies who would provide him with countless entertaining stories.

Foz was also a joyous mix of contradictions.

The man who constantly announced he despised reality TV shows, and was then found giggling with a Susan Boyle CD tucked away in his car.

The man who hated motorway driving to the extent that when heading North he would always insist on driving up the A449 through Penkridge to junction 13 rather than 12 – even when needing to traverse the entire carriageway to a pre-season friendly in Celtic!

The man who could mis-identify current members of the Wolves squad, but would pinpoint games, scorers, attendances, whatever was needed, with unshakeable accuracy stretching back over those 50 years of support.

And perhaps the biggest of all, an often outwardly dour persona - some of which I am convinced was put on deliberately - which concealed a true heart of gold underneath.

Because above all else Foz was kind, entertaining, generous to a fault, and one of life’s true characters and personalities.

Players past and present loved him, managers and coaches too.

For me he was unbelievably helpful when I started out covering Wolves as a hugely naïve reporter with the Birmingham Mail some 15 years ago.

We shared that lifelong love of Wolves, and Foz played a key part in ingratiating me with the players and management at Molineux to make what to me was a daunting job just that tiny bit easier.

That continued when I started working for the club in 2008, with Foz again instrumental in helping me make the transition and we went on to share some fantastic times, particularly travelling around the country in that 08/09 promotion season and then again in the Premier League.

There is an unwritten rule about press box etiquette where you shouldn’t really celebrate if your own team scores.

I lost count of the times I would end up with a dead arm as Foz decided the best way of controlling his emotions would be to give me a smash as a crucial Wolves goal went in.

Michael Kightly at Forest, Andy Keogh at Derby, Sylvan Ebanks-Blake at home to QPR – there were a fair few big moments, and therefore punches, towards the end of that season.

Foz loved pre-season trips, not least the refuelling in the bar at the end of a long day of work, where he would have managers like Dave Jones, Glenn Hoddle and Mick McCarthy – who playfully christened us Dumb and Dumber back in the day - in fits of laughter with his quirks and anecdotes.

One such quirk came with his much-told story of an argument that ensued with a former female partner.

“You love the Wolves more than me,” was the accusation thrust angrily in Foz’s direction at the end of a blazing row.

“I love the Albion more than you,” was his instant retort. Textbook Foz.

Well I think everyone loved Foz, with all those wonderful quirks and eccentricities which undoubtedly hid such a deeply caring and generous nature.

Colleagues, visiting press officers, the media, all whom he came into contact with – everyone knew there was always a lively conversation to be had when Foz was in town.

Sleep tight mate. We will miss you more than you will ever know.