Golden memories of Wolves' 'jack of all trades' Carlo Federico
Mick McCarthy used to call them the engine room of the football club.
Those members of staff, often high in number, who work so diligently and enthusiastically behind the scenes to ensure that the cogs keep turning, the wheels keep moving. Who not only perform specific tasks but also have a role to play in creating the atmosphere behind the team.
And, in doing so, offer the best possible opportunity to football players and coaches, and managers like McCarthy, to try and produce positive results on the pitch.
Carlo Federico, Chico as he was better known, was exactly one of those people.
In almost 20 years spent at Molineux, ultimately on a full-time basis in the Academy, he was very much a jack of all trades, delivering so many different tasks and roles, but each and every one with the same air of integrity and unbridled professionalism.
The job description of ‘schoolboy liaison officer’ was one which hid a multitude of sins!
“Working for a football club, in whatever capacity, is not so much a job, more like a way of life,” explains former Academy physiotherapist Gavin Blackwell, who also had an extremely varied portfolio himself whilst at Wolves.
“Your job title or job description defines a very narrow view of your function, and the broader application of being a member of the staff team is probably more accurate.
“That was the same for Chico, was a conduit in linking everything together.
“From coaching, sorting tickets, driving the minibus to games, picking up players for training, arranging refreshments, sorting fixtures and officials, organising flights, answering the phones, and so much more – so many aspects fell under his remit.
“Remember as well, this was in the days before mobile phones and even emails.
“Technology was nothing like it is now, so when a schoolboy fixture was called off, it would need 120 phone calls, and Chico would deliver most of those.
“His sense of duty and professionalism was unbelievable.”
Chico was part of the engine room at Wolves for almost two decades. And a crucial and valued part at that.
Sadly, he passed away last week, after a long illness, at the age of 78.
For the staff who so enjoyed working with him, and the young players who were so appreciative of his good nature and wise counsel, such was the intensely close-knit nature of life in the Academy in those days that they feel like they have lost a member of their family.
And the tributes have been as heartfelt as they have been sizeable in number.
“Chico, even his nickname was cool,” reflects Matt Murray, who emerged through Wolves Academy to become Wolves number one and the best goalkeeper England never had.
“Just a lovely, lovely man – that’s the only way I can describe him.
“A big guy, with dark hair and a big ‘tache, and such a nice manner about him, someone who really cared about the players.
“It’s such sad news, and I was only actually thinking about him the other day, and remembering what a warm and special person he really was.”
Chico was actually the first full-time appointment made by respected Academy director Chris Evans after he himself stepped up from coaching to head up Wolves’ youth arm in 1997.
Of Italian descent, Chico was born just outside Shifnal, and spent many years with Shifnal Town having had trials at both Wolves and Shrewsbury.
At the same time, his talents and people skills were also honed and developed during three decades spent working in agriculture, including in management.
“Chico was very much at home in the countryside, and myself and Tony Lacey would joke that if he wasn’t involved in football, he could go out ferreting instead,” laughs Blackwell.
“His copy of The Countryman’s weekly was just as important as the latest coaching session!”
His interest in football led to taking his coaching qualifications, from where he was first brought to Wolves by physio Paul Darby in the days of Graham Turner, going on to work with schoolboy players at East Park, the Jennie Lee Centre in Wednesfield and at Aldersley.
A keen student of the game, he had been a member of Shropshire Football Coaches Association where he listened intently to guest speeches from the likes of Jack Charlton and Dave Sexton, and would regularly visit Lilleshall to observe coaching courses and pick up tips.
At the same time, he was also helping distribute players’ tickets on a first team matchday at Molineux, and helping with access to the Players’ Lounge.