Former Wolves man Mick Hollifield all set for golden day out
Sometimes you don’t need to make hundreds of appearances or win a bagful of medals to build up an affinity with a football club.
Sometimes it is about the moments and the experiences, and the forging of friendships which stand the test of time. That is pull and the power and the ever-enduring legacy of the game of football.
Mick Hollifield made 25 appearances as a young left back for Wolves between 1980 and 1982.
The 1980/81 campaign, when made up the majority of that figure, would prove the last season in which Wolves maintained their top-flight status for almost three decades, until Mick McCarthy’s men in 2009/10.
By his own admission, as Wolves’ fortunes nose-dived during the Eighties, Hollifield, too, was unable to kick on in his own career in the way which he might have hoped.
And yet, 40 years on from his actual departure from Molineux when leaving Wolves for Hull, memories of his time in the Midlands continue to be readily shared with close pal and former team-mate Mick Matthews, even from a distance in excess of 10,000 miles.
Hollifield now lives in Australia but, for the first time in ten years, is on a visit back to England which will include one of the fixtures that brought him – and later Matthews – so much success.
As a 19-year-old, playing only his second home game for Wolves, Hollifield was part of the team which defeated all-conquering Liverpool 4-1 in November 1980. And Matthews, in the following August, scored the only goal of the game as Wolves again triumphed over the Reds, 1-0 on home soil.
The two will be reunited at Molineux on Saturday lunchtime, along with other former team-mates Hughie Atkinson and Bob Coy, and Hollifield can’t wait!
“It’s going to bring back a lot of memories for us, I am sure,” he reveals.
“I’m sure myself and Matty (Matthews) will be reminiscing about our parts in those games.
“I used to get back to England every three or four years but the last time I was actually over was for my Mam’s funeral ten years ago.
“When I was looking at dates and saw the Liverpool game, I thought it would be great to try and tie the trip in with another visit to Molineux.
“I will spend some time back in the North East catching up with old school mates and then meet Matty for the game and hopefully Hughie and Bob as well.
“As you get older, I think you realise life is all about the people you meet along the journey, and I have been fortunate to meet some really good lads around the traps through football – I’m really looking forward to catching up.”
Hollifield’s football journey began in his native Teesside, playing for the Kiora Youth Club, whilst, on reaching 16, he left school and went to work at Parkfield Foundries in Stockton.
Kiora were well-known and successful in bringing through plenty of promising young talent, and so Hollifield was invited to a week-long trial at Wolves, after which he was a regular visitor back over a number of months.
There had been the misconception that, because Hollifield was working, he was too old to be taken on as an apprentice, but when coach John Jarman discovered he was still only 16, chief scout Joe Gardiner was despatched to the family home to secure an apprenticeship which was signed and sealed just a week before his 17th birthday.
“It was also just before the end of the season, although I remember we had a couple of trips still to enjoy, to Bellinzona in Switzerland and another one to Holland,” Hollifield recalls.
“I did the 12 months apprenticeship, doing all the other stuff like cleaning the boots and cleaning the sheds, and was then fortunate to be taken on as a young professional.”
This was a time, as John Barnwell moved in as a manager to replace Sammy Chung, that Wolves were finishing in the top six of the top division, and winning the League Cup in 1980, still the most recent major trophy.
Hollifield had been one of an unprecedented five apprentices turning pro from his year group – Matthews, Atkinson, John Humphrey and Craig Moss completing the set – but he had already made his mark well before his first team debut.
That came in an appearance for the reserves, also against Liverpool, but this time at Anfield.
Playing at left midfield, Hollifield first set up Matthews to open the scoring, and then found the net himself with a long range screamer in front of the Kop End.
“I can’t remember specifically when the game was, but it must have been the Winter as I remember it was an orange ball,” he said.
“I also remember Richie Barker, who hadn’t long been in as John Barnwell’s assistant, coming into the dressing room at half time, pointing at me and telling me that would be the best goal I would ever score in my career.
“I was young at the time – but he was certainly proved right!”