Former Wolves hardman who was 'saved by God's hand' after a life of turmoil on and off the pitch
God has forgiven and embraced soccer sinner Derek Jefferson, despite the livid stud-marks that remain on a succession of forwards who pitted their skill against his centre-half savagery.
And in the Almighty, the grandfather has found purpose and fulfilment in a once troubled life.
Having witnessed the violence Jefferson doled out while prowling Wolves’ backline, his allegiance to Solihull Renewal Christian Centre – described as a “dynamic family church” - is hard to comprehend.
He has helped those battling addictions, he has provided church-led football coaching courses.
Derek is a very different individual from the brutal hatchet-man who spread a thick layer of fear over football pitches.
His private life was a chaotic rollercoaster ride of women, booze and brawls.
Derek is now one of God’s footballers, a description first bestowed on Old Gold hero Peter Knowles by protest singer Billy Bragg.
The father-of-six is happy, content and settled. He and second wife Linda – Derek’s rakish ways wrecked his first marriage – have been together for 43 years. She is the daughter of a Pentecostal preacher.
Sobriety, common sense and sadness have re-shaped the hardman. He lost a daughter when she was only two years old and, more recently, five friends were taken by Covid.
His 'Saul on the road to Damascus' moment came in 1978, following a serious motorway crash near Worcester.
“I’d been drinking, maybe taken something,” he told me this week, “and was in hospital for two days with concussion. I went back to my parents’ home in Middlesbrough to rehabilitate, attended church and realised the life I was living was not up to God’s standards.
“I just burst out crying. I dropped to my knees and asked God for forgiveness.”
Derek had belatedly stepped back on the Biblical path his parents placed him on decades before. “As a child, they’d take me to a little evangelical church,” he said. “I’d sit at the back and throw sweets at the girls. I wasn’t interested.”
There are a number of 1970s terrace idols, still carrying the scars from X-rated collisions with Derek, who will wish Christianity called during his playing days.
He took no prisoners, often administering tackles so late they began in a different time zone.
If Chelsea defender Ron Harris was “The Chopper”, Molineux had a machete in Jefferson.