A tribute to Ron Flowers MBE

By David Harrison

It was pure coincidence but, during the golden reign of the Stan Cullis era, the gentleman manager did seem to prefer blonds.

There was, of course, the incomparable Billy Wright, whose golden locks shone like a beacon and then along came Ron Flowers, a product of the Yorkshire nursery club Wath Wanderers, while later local lad Graham Hawkins, eventually to become a Wolves manager, and Ken Knighton extended the flaxen-haired half back line.

Flowers was instantly recognisable and not just because of his shock of blond hair. He was a football giant, with an imposing physique, his all-round ability, powerful shooting and versatility.

His multi-purpose talents, either as an attacking wing-half or later in a more defensive role, earned him one FA Cup and three League championship medals, during a lifetime at Wolves with over 500 appearances for the club.

England too were appreciative of those skills and his 49 caps and 10 goals, all from the penalty spot, were additional honours for the modest, quietly spoken Yorkshireman who made his home in the West Midlands and became a cherished ambassador for the club and town.

Once his illustrious playing days were over Ron opened a sports shop in Queen Street in the centre of Wolverhampton where visitors were always welcomed by the proprietor whether buying his goods or just simply wanting to chat about football.

He grew up in an era when players were approachable and not shackled by the restraints of their modern-day contemporaries who are shielded from the glare of a much fiercer spotlight from fans and media. Like all those from his day, he could mix freely with public and press alike.

I remember as a young, stary-eyed Wolves fan visiting Molineux or the training ground, clutching a huge collection of photographs, ready to be signed by members of the team. I distinctly recall one day approaching Ron with at least two dozen pictures awaiting his signature.

As he patiently signed them, he asked me what I was going to do with all of them, maybe sell them? No, they were for my own collection, I insisted. What I didn’t tell him that his was a prize capture because of his stature as a Wolves and England player and could be easily traded with fellow autograph hunters from other clubs.

What should have been the pinnacle of his international career ended in disappointment when he failed to make the starting line-up for any of the 1966 World Cup games, though he did almost make it for the final victory over West Germany at Wembley.

He was approached by manager Alf Ramsey the night before the final and told that if Jack Charlton had not recovered from a bout of flu next morning Ron was in the team.  As it turned out the big centre half was declared fit and ultimately Flowers never kicked a ball at the tournament.

Eventually all non-playing reserves from Ramsey’s squad received winners’ medals from the Prime Minister Gordon Brown at a ceremony in Downing Street in 2009. With typical modesty the former Wolves man said at the time: “It has been and long wait and to be honest I did not expect a medal. I was just happy to be part of one of the greatest days in English football history. Alf made sure we all felt part of it. We were a band of brothers.”

So, even though Ron did not enjoy the pleasure or privilege of receiving his World Cup medal from Her Majesty the Queen on that summer’s day at Wembley in 1966, eventually he should receive his MBE from Royalty at Buckingham Palace. Never has there been a more worthy recipient.