Shropshire Star

Remembered in a chippy! Former Wolves man Gary Mulligan still pulling the boots on

Gary Mulligan didn’t get many minutes during his time with Wolves and Sheffield United, but he did pick up vital experience which helped him build a career in the game. And he’s still going!

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Gary Mulligan in action for Wolves at the Sixfields Stadium in Northampton where he is now based. Inset, far right, with Harborough Town

When you have played for Wolves, even if it is just for a really short time, it is difficult to completely escape.

Even when visiting a chippy, many miles from Molineux!

Later this year, it will be two decades since striker Gary Mulligan enjoyed his 15 minutes of fame in the Wolves first team, coming off the bench in a Championship game at Burnley.

It is not something he shouts about, or an accolade which appeals to any sort of ego. Far from it.

Indeed, in Mulligan’s eyes, his reflections of life at Wolves are more an appreciation about providing a starting point of a career which would blossom later, particularly at Gillingham.

It is, however, clearly something to be proud of, especially when making the odd weekend trip for a takeaway!

“I have fond memories of Wolves, always will have, and it’s the first place in England that I lived,” recalls the Dubliner.

“I’m always looking out for their results, and it’s great to see how well they are doing and the win at Spurs at the weekend.

“I live in Northampton now, and the lad that owns the chip shop nearby is a big Wolves fan.

“I always have a decent craic with him if I pop in on a weekend, we’ll chat about results and so on.

“For me Wolves will always be really important, as without them my career would never have happened.”

Visits to the aforementioned chip ship must be carefully timed to tie in with a training and playing schedule because it’s a career, for Mulligan, which is still going.

At 38, he plays for all-conquering Harborough Town, who, having won the United Counties League Premier Division South title a couple of years ago, now sit top of the Northern Premier League Midlands division with an opportunity to climb to Step 3 of the non-league pyramid.

His minutes may be more limited these days, often from the substitute’s bench and no longer up front but either at the back or sitting in midfield in front of the defence.

“My striker days are over and I certainly can’t run the channels like I used to,” Mulligan laughs.

But the fact he is still training twice a week and turning out at the weekend – coupled with a full-time job as a teacher at Kettering Buccleuch Academy - is certainly a sign of an enduring love of football that is showing no signs of fading with time.

“Obviously I’m only playing part-time now and not as much as I used to, but the lads keep asking me, ‘when are you going to retire’?” he quips.

“I’ll be honest, that’s a question which hasn’t even entered my head.

“Football is all I’ve known since coming over from Ireland when I was 16, I don’t know anything different and I still really enjoy it.

“Touch wood I’ve never really had any bad injuries, and I’ve kept myself reasonably fit and must have a good metabolism as I never really put on weight.

“Working in a school now also means I can get into the gym before and after school to keep me ticking over.”

It was after leaving school as a student that Mulligan first set out on his career path, heading across the Irish Sea to join Wolves as a 16-year-old.

He enjoyed his youth football with Belvedere in the much-vaunted Dublin District Schoolboy’s League which produced many top players and thus, attracted a steady stream of scouts from professional clubs in England.

In school holidays he would come over for trials with several different clubs, not just Wolves but also the likes of Manchester City, Liverpool, Manchester United and Coventry.

Eventually, the choice for a scholarship came down to City and Wolves, who had renowned Irish scout Willie Byrne in their corner, and Mulligan opted for a move to Molineux.

It must have felt like a big step to leave home in Ireland at such a young age, but it was a time when a steady stream of aspiring hopefuls were making that similar journey.

Mulligan headed over with compatriot Patrick Flynn, to a club which already had an Irish contingent with others such as Graham Ward and Keith Andrews, who was something of a senior figure to the Academy players.

“It might have been a big step but I was looking forward to it because I wanted to be a footballer – all of us did,” Mulligan recalls.