‘King John’ still loves being part of Wolves family at 70

Having just turned 70, John Richards is thankful for all his ‘lovely memories’ at Wolves – and says his affinity with the club keeps growing.

The current climate resulted in some unique celebrations on Monday, but it allowed Richards to reflect on how his time at Molineux made such a lasting, positive impact.

He played 486 games, scored 194 goals, won two League Cups, made it to a Uefa Cup final and would later serve as the club’s managing director.

And, ultimately, Wolverhampton is still home for him. Richards, affectionately known as ‘King John’ by fans, grew up in Warrington but after donning gold and black, everything changed.

Along with wife Pam, he has raised daughters Kim and Abbie in the city, and his connection with the club which offered him so much is as strong as ever.

“It keeps growing! Because it’s not just the players who you played with, but it’s the affinity you build with some of the younger players over the years,” said Richards.

“People like Steve Bull, Don Goodman, Matt Murray, Andy Thompson – it’s not just your own generation of players.

“If you’re a former Wolves player, you connect to all of them. And while I don’t know many of the current crop, I have met some of them and been welcomed by them.

“That same affinity is still there regardless of ages. I can speak naturally and comfortably with an 18 or 19-year-old Wolves player, just as much as I can with one my own age.

“That’s what is so special of being part of the Wolves family, which I’ve been part of for just over 50 years now. It’s fantastic and long may it continue.”

Richards’ Wolves journey began as an 18-year-old and now, at 70, he is proud to serve as vice-chairman of the Wolves Former Players’ Association, which has helped him stay in close contact with many of his old team-mates – and forge friendships with younger ex-players.

Picking one highlight along the way cannot be done, but he is able to whittle it down to two – those League Cup wins at Wembley in both 1974 and 1980.

Richards scored the winning goal to beat Manchester City in the first one, and the second against Nottingham Forest was just as sweet.

“It’s a series of things, but the highlights are winning the League Cup twice,” he said. “As a player, my generation, getting to Wembley for a cup final is what you dreamt of.

“I was brought up on very little football on the television, but what was on every year was the FA Cup final.

Wolves legend John Richards is now 70

“Religiously, it was watched by everyone, so to go to Wembley twice and win twice, that’s one of those things where you’ve achieved everything you wanted to as a footballer.

“Obviously, I played for England, at Goodison Park, and that was a highlight, but it still doesn’t rank as high from a personal point of view as the Wembley victories.”

On the subject of England, many feel Richards should have represented the Three Lions more than once – but he still counts himself very lucky for what he has experienced over the years.

“To play alongside people like Mike Bailey, Derek Dougan, Dave Wagstaffe and Frank Munro was a privilege,” he said.

“As a young lad from Warrington, going to a club like Wolverhampton Wanderers – one of the biggest in the country name-wise – was a dream come true.

“I remember first walking through the big double doors off the Waterloo Road, and it was all oak panels, almost like a country house. There was just this huge trophy cabinet and I stood there in amazement as a young 18-year-old. Lots of lovely memories.

“After playing as well, I was involved as a director and lucky enough to be asked by Sir Jack Hayward to be managing director.

“It was nothing I could’ve ever thought of as a young lad from Warrington leaving home for the first time. I just look back and think, how lucky have I been?”

Richards, who ended his career in Portugal with Maritimo, is a big admirer of boss Nuno Espirito Santo and has loved watching his squad take the Premier League by storm over the past few years.

He cannot wait to be back at Molineux to see them in action, too.

“It’ll come. This will be another time we look back on as a tough, difficult time with a lot of sadness,” said Richards.

“But at the same time, there has been some good bits from it as well. All the kindness and fundraising, ringing vulnerable people.

“A lot of goodness has also been created, and you just have to try to look at the positives.”

And on the bright side, Richards was still able to see his friends and family on Monday – albeit via a screen.

“We had a virtual party! On Zoom, with some of my family in Australia, some of my family in Yorkshire, and some close friends too,” he added.

“Kenny Hibbitt was there and we had a good laugh for a couple of hours, so that was smashing.

“All my Wolves Former Players’ Association pals have been taking the mickey out of me for reaching 70, but I’ll get my own back as plenty of them are coming up to 70 soon, including Kenny.

“It was good fun. Considering the circumstances, it was a fantastic day.

“I got so many well-wishes from fans as well, hundreds of Facebook messages, so I’d just like to give them a sincere thanks.

“It was really humbling, and a real indication of why I feel so at home in Wolverhampton. It was lovely.”

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