The hope is what keeps us going but it is the history that helps define the journey; the memories are what we all dine out on.
It is perhaps fitting that, as two Football League founder members meet at Molineux today, we reflect on the actions of a recently-departed Wolves fan who played a big part in preserving the legacy of those players who have graced the Molineux turf in days gone by.
Peter Creed, who died at the age of 90 last month, played a crucial role in persuading Wolverhampton Council Leader John Bird and others to form an action group in a bid to save Wolves from the clutch of the Bhatti brothers during the 1980s.
A former Express & Star director, Creed was Wolves to his core and the club was eventually saved, but he didn’t stop there.
He was fully aware of just how close Wolves had come to disappearing off the face of the football map.
The great players from the halcyon days of the 1950s rarely met and it was at the funeral of one of their number, Jimmy Mullen, that Creed decided something must be done to capture the club’s living history.
With the support of the Graham family, publishers of the Express & Star, he organised the inaugural meeting of the Wolves Former Players Association (Wolves FPA).
Held at the company’s sports club in Tettenhall, in 1988, it proved to be a who’s who of Wolves and England greats.
Stan Cullis was elected president, Billy Wright chairman, and Malcolm Finlayson treasurer. Also in attendance were Bill Slater, Bert Williams, Ron Flowers, Dennis Wilshaw, Bobby Thomson, Peter Broadbent, Roy Swinbourne, Johnny Hancocks.
How would you even begin to put a price on those names in today’s money?
Wolves FPA has now been going strong for 34 years and is earning a growing reputation for the work it is achieving in the local community.
It is driven by the former players themselves and a tireless committee who have built up a strong working relationship with Wolves, while maintaining their independence as a body who are best placed to represent those no longer employed by the club.
“We’re very grateful for the work Peter did in establishing Wolves FPA in conjunction with Billy Wright and other members of that great Fifties team,” says John Richards, Wolves FPA chairman. “Without his input, it would never have got off the ground.
“Initially, the purpose was to provide a social network – something other than meeting up at former colleagues’ funerals!
“This gradually developed into supporting and organising events to raise money for local charitable causes and that is still a key part of our work today.”
In January, Wolves FPA and Wolves Foundation came together to great effect. Molineux Memories is a group delivered by Wolves Foundation in partnership with the Black Country NHS team based at Groves Therapy Services, Penn Hospital, for dementia sufferers and their carers.
Several former players used to make regular appearances at Molineux Memories prior to the pandemic, and the Foundation’s health department has now teamed up with Wolves FPA.
Richards, Geoff Palmer, Terry Wharton and Steve Daley – a quartet comprising almost 1,500 Wolves appearances – attended the sessions earlier this year to share stories and answer questions.
In February, Richards appeared at Wolves Foundation’s Walking Football tournament at the dome in Aldersley to present the trophies.
“Not surprisingly, our most important ally is the club, and we are beginning to work together on many fronts,” Richards continues. “Wolves Foundation, in particular, does amazing work in the local community, and recently we enjoyed helping out with their sessions.
“The support of the club is very important, and much appreciated, and we look forward to even closer ties in the future.”
Last month 13 former players were given a tour of the Sir Jack Hayward Training Ground by Matt Wild, head of football administration, where they were able to meet for a chat with head coach Bruno Lage and defenders Conor Coady and Max Kilman.
“There was much discussion about how things have changed since our days,” Richards adds. “I don’t suppose today’s players tuck into a pre-match steak or have a tot of brandy at half-time.”
The 1970s was the last decade of sustained top division football for the club, prior to the current team, so it is fitting that so many from that era are members of Wolves FPA.
The annual golf day organised by Daley has gained a reputation as one of the best charity events in the calendar.
Wolves FPA are always welcoming newer recruits, though, as retirement hits the younger generations.
Karl Henry was guest speaker at the last annual dinner before the pandemic hit, with Kevin Foley and Carl Ikeme also in attendance.
“In more recent years, and especially during the pandemic, the focus has been on making links with former players and their families,” Richards explains. “We’ve been using whatever means necessary – our website, social media, newsletters and WhatsApp groups.
“We’ve had Zoom meetings with ex-team-mates who live further afield.
“It was special to see and chat with the likes of John Holsgrove and Les Wilson, the latter living in Vancouver and not seen at Molineux for almost 50 years.”
Wolves FPA’s presence in the community and further afield is growing all the time, with the former players always happy to share their memories with every generation of supporter, no matter how old or young.
“A lot has happened since Wolves FPA was formed in 1988,” Richards reflects. “And there is much more to come. I’m sure Peter would be very proud of what he started.”