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Tributes as Peter Broadbent remembered

Sport | Published:

He was a player loved by fans of Shrewsbury Town and Wolves.  Chief football writer Martin Swain remembers Peter Broadbent.

Peter Broadbent, front centre, with some team-mates and Australian fans at Gay Meadow during Shrewsbury Town’s FA Cup run in 1966

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The Shrewsbury and Wolves legend, who has today lost a long and cruel battle against Alzheimers, was a breakthrough artist amid the muck and nettles of the post war English game.

A creative inside forward, a midfielder in modern terms, Broadbent brought to Molineux's legendary team of the late Fifties and early Sixties the flash of style to accompany the fast-raiding wingers.

He was, in short, a player who more than any other drew lavish praise from the great and the good.

Today, across the nation and beyond, there will be a generation of football fans moved to hear of his passing and dabbing a tear from their eye as they recall his footballing splendour.

He recently celebrated his 80th birthday but in truth the curse of dementia, which seems to have taken such an extraordinary toll on his contemporaries, has brought an arduous struggle to Broadbent throughout his later years.

It has also demanded from his ever-present widow Shirley a commitment of extraordinary love and devotion as she has tended his care over the years of his declining health.

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Peter Broadbent in action for Wolves during one of his 497 appearances for the club

Their's was a love story which began around the dance halls and hot spots of Wolverhampton as the 1960s arrived with Broadbent, a sharp-suited, Elvis-quiffed star of a team regularly jostled for position at the summit of the game in this country.

Rightly so because there was something about Broadbent that took him above the rest, that made him out of the ordinary. Mention his name and those who saw him play become misty-eyed at the memories.

A superbly-gifted player, Broadbent could make goals and score them. Broadbent joined Shrewsbury from Wolves in January 1965, helping Town embark on a then record FA Cup run to the fifth round, where they were toppled by Chelsea.

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He made 69 appearances for the Gay Meadow club, scoring seven goals, before joining Aston Villa in 1966.

He had an outrageous body swerve, immaculate ball control and pinpoint passing ability. It says everything about his standing in the game that two more of football's most gifted players, Best and Peter Knowles, were ardent admirers.

Best was a wee lad in Belfast nipping around the neighbours' house – they possessed the only TV in his street – to watch the famous floodlit games when he was left dumbstruck by the flickering images being beamed from a packed and throbbing Molineux.

From that moment, Best became a Wolves fan and a particular devotee of Broadbent. Strangely enough, and a few years later after Best himself had been catapulted to fame, he bumped into the Wolves man as their respective groups were enjoying a summer holiday abroad.

Broadbent found himself more than a little humbled to hear Best tell him he was his hero. It was the start of a friendship that endured throughout the career of one of the greatest players the world of football has produced and the fact that Broadbent was a vital touchstone in Best's story speaks volumes for the impact the Wolves man left behind.

Knowles, too, was another huge admirer. He described Broadbent as like a "ballet dancer on grass".

When Broadbent was signed from Brentford aged 17, the £10,000 fee made him the country's most expensive teenager. The buy proved to be a bargain.

He won three First Division championship medals and played in the 1960 FA Cup final win over Blackburn.

He was top scorer in league and cup games in 1958–9 with 22 goals. Broadbent also played in England's first ever under-23 international in 1954 but his debut in a senior international did not come until the 1958 play-off against USSR in the World Cup finals in Sweden.

For Shrewsbury and Wolves fans, there has never been a better pure footballer than Broadbent.

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