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There was a time, three-and-a-half decades ago, when Wolves against Brentford was a Sherpa Van Trophy fixture.  It was also a time when a cheeky supporter got himself involved in a celebration party.

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Alan Blount, ‘Nobby’ to his mates, was walking down Waterloo Road when he spotted his opportunity.

Wolves had just effortlessly dispatched Notts County in the second leg of the Sherpa Van Trophy Final at Molineux.

Which was actually an occasion far grander than it sounds, as anyone who was there will testify.  Some 18,413 were – given the reduced capacity – effectively packed in.

Molineux had been rocking. Surfing a tidal wave of delight and emotion. Even with two sides of the stadium shut, it had been one of those truly special nights.

The natives were growing restless. But excitedly restless. Full of anticipation. They could tell something was stirring.

After many years of misery, of seeing their club – such an historic club – so close to disappearing into extinction and oblivion, those natives were daring to dream.  Dreaming about a team of new heroes, modest but hungry heroes, fiercely committed to wearing the gold and black.

And Blount – Nobby – was strolling down Waterloo Road, with his brother and his two mates, savouring the victory, drinking it all in.

“Those were the days when the Players’ Entrance backed right on to the Waterloo Road, and I remember, as we went past, I saw there was a window open,” he recalls.

“So, me being me, I was wondering what was behind it, so I got the lads to give me a ‘leg up’, and all of a sudden, there I was.

“Looking into the home dressing room, with all the team celebrating after winning the semi-final!”

What happened next would, in modern parlance, be described as ‘going viral’, as Blount joined the party.

Steve Bull was sat on the bench with his back to the window and Blount – in the nicest possible way – grabbed him around the neck.

‘You’re the best thing since John Richards,’ he bellowed, before adding, with a spontaneous slogan which has stood the test of time all these years on: ‘Come on me babbies.’

It made the front page of the following day’s Express & Star, and appeared extensively on the local evening television news as part of the coverage of the game.

Which came as something of a surprise to the man himself, who had just hopped down from his perch, and quietly made his way home.

“I had no idea what I was going to find when I stuck my head through the window but there they all were, including the ‘one and only’, with his back directly to me,” Blount continues.

“It was like a dream come true, and it was all spontaneous so everything I said was completely off the cuff.

“King John was one of the greats – I remember being at his debut – and Bully was the best we’d had since then.

“It was a great moment and I couldn’t believe the attention it got – when I got down and walked off, I had to tell the lads what had happened because obviously they couldn’t see what had gone on!”

That win against Notts County came 35 years ago next week, off the back of a 1-1 draw in the first leg at Meadow Lane when the incompara-Bull’s clinical opener had been cancelled out by Ian McParland.

Wolves were top of the old Fourth Division and yet, with the Sherpa Van Trophy contested by teams from the two lower divisions, were still considered underdogs given Notts County were third in the division above, aiming for promotion to what is now the Championship.

That counted for nothing, however, as on an electric night at Molineux, Bull produced two trademark powerful runs and finishes, and Keith Downing, against his former club, added an excellent third.

“At the time it just felt like we were steamrollering everyone,” recalls Robbie Dennison, the mercurial winger who was another of the key influences in Wolves’ return from the abyss.

“There wasn’t a lot between those two divisions, quality wise, and we were winning so many games and scoring a lot of goals, especially in that competition.

“I don’t think it was any surprise that we did so well against teams who were above us, and that night was one of many statement wins that year as we looked to get the club moving back in the right direction.”

“That was such a great night,” adds Bull.

“Notts County were a good team and we knew it was going to be tough but we just went out there, took the game to them and got the goals.

“We were flying at the time, and just knew on that night that the prize at the end was a massive one – a trip to Wembley for the final.”

The often long-suffering Wolves fans were right back on board and it felt like the atmosphere and reaction to that Notts County victory – with a much-celebrated lap of honour from the team – was another positive watershed moment.

Wolves’ goalkeeper was the experienced and hugely popular Mark Kendall, who mixed some crucial interventions that night with some of his trademark ‘showboating’ which was always such a delight to the Molineux faithful.

Kendall is much missed having passed away suddenly back in 2008, and his son Lee, who has just led Barry Town to the JD Cymru South title as manager, still has such fond memories of seeing his Dad play for Wolves.

“When I look back at the highlights of that night, I think it epitomised a lot of what Wolves were about,” recalls Kendall junior, seven-years-old at the time.

“The goal where there was a forward ball from a centre half and Mutchy (Andy Mutch) flicked it on for Bully – Wolves scored so many like that in what was such an incredible season.

“We were watching that game from the old John Ireland Stand, and I remember we all came down before the end to stand in that corner by the scoreboard where the fans in wheelchairs were situated.

“We knew it was going to be a celebration, and Dad came over and handed me a scarf which someone had thrown to him – they were such great times.”

That convincing victory over Notts County secured a place in the final against Burnley at Wembley, but Wolves had already made one visit to the Twin Towers just days before the second leg.

Via the one-off Football League Centenary Tournament, known as the Mercantile Credit Classic, marking – as the name suggested – 100 years of the League.

Sixteen teams from the four leagues qualified for the tournament based on their results during a timeframe between January and March, Wolves and Tranmere representing the Fourth Division.

Wolves went out on penalties after a 1-1 draw with Everton, then in the top four of the topflight, but not before Dennison had struck an absolutely glorious long-range equaliser past the mighty Neville Southall.

“The games were only 20 minutes each way but the chance to play Everton was a great opportunity for us,” recalls Dennison.

“I think each club got maybe 3,000 tickets, and Wolves sold out, and we had a really decent support.

“I scored a lot of decent goals from outside the box in my career, even when I was younger I could hit a decent ball, so I was always willing to give it a try.

“To do it from that distance at Wembley against one of the best goalkeepers in the world at the time was pretty nice!

“All these years later, people will still stop me and talk about that goal, and it’s one I maybe didn’t appreciate fully until looking back after I had finished.”

As a reminder of the context of Wolves in the 1987/88 campaign, it was the first full season under boss Graham Turner.

Having won the League Cup in 1980 – still the club’s most recent major trophy – Wolves had nearly gone out of business in 1982 and 1986, but what they had most definitely done was the disaster of tumbling from First to Fourth Divisions in successive seasons.

Turner assembled a squad based on the exuberance of youth and a sprinkling of wily experience, and, having missed out in the play-offs after his first six months at the helm were, thanks to an all-round team effort lit up by the goalscoring of Bull and Mutch, blazing a trail to the Fourth Division title.

Finances were tight, there was nothing remotely resembling a regular training ground, and one pre-match Friday session on the pothole-filled car park turned into a weekly superstition when it led to victory the day after.

The players did however loosen their own purse-strings for the infamous ‘Tuesday Club’ drinking sessions, which followed a gruelling training session but were a surefire way of building an impenetrable team spirit.

For Bull, in his first full season, and the first of two when he notched a half century of goals, it was a very special time.

“I’m not being cocky or big-headed but that was the time when I just felt I could always score goals,” he recalls.

“It was like ‘feed the bear and he will score’ and I was probably a bit too selfish in those days.

“All that was in my head was to score and I remember the lads just trying to get the ball to me and Mutchy and us trying to get the goals to win the game.”

Promotion was secured with an away win at Newport County – Kendall’s former stomping ground – and the Fourth Division title followed less than a week later with a 2-0 success against Hartlepool at Molineux.  They managed to keep Blount out of the dressing room this time.

After that, all that was left was the icing on a golden cake, and that Sherpa Van Trophy final against fellow founder members of the football league, played in a fantastic atmosphere.

The passage to the final, culminating in that superb night against Notts County, also included putting four past Brentford – then flying high in the Third Division and not a Premier League clash as will take place this weekend – and Peterborough.

But in the final, played in front of a crowd of 80,841, Wolves didn’t quite hit the same sort of goalscoring heights, still getting the job done thanks to goals in each half from Mutch and Dennison.

And Dennison’s, of course, was a perfectly executed free kick, off the back of that similarly spectacular effort at the same stadium just a few weeks earlier.

“That was just showing off, wasn’t it? Getting greedy,” says Dennison with a chuckle.

“It’s another one that people always mention to me, before then asking about missing the penalty against Sheffield Wednesday in the FA Cup!

“I didn’t think we played particularly well that day to be honest, we had a couple of injuries in the first half which affected us, but we were on such a roll that I never ever thought we weren’t going to win.”

More scenes of celebration followed.  This was the Sherpa Van Trophy, not one of the three league titles gloriously secured in the 1950s, not one of the club’s four FA Cup triumphs, or even the League Cup wins of 1974 and 1980.  But to those 50,000 Wolves fans at Wembley that day, and the thousands more who joined in the celebratory open-top bus tour back in the town afterwards, that didn’t matter.  

This was the revival.  A Wolf which had been battered and bruised, limping and on its last legs, had rediscovered its bite.

Although, inexplicably, having scored in each and every one of the previous Sherpa Van rounds – 12 goals from seven games – Bull failed to find the net at Wembley.

“Thanks for reminding me,” he laughs, albeit perhaps he was saving those Wembley goals, notching a brace for England against Czechoslovakia less than two years later.  An incredible progression.

“I think I tried too hard to score for Wolves that day.

“Of course, I didn’t know I would go on and score for England at Wembley but I would have loved to do it for Wolves first.

“It probably took about six pints of beer to get that out of my system and realise that the team winning the game was the main thing!”

“Those couple of seasons were a massive turning point for the club at the time,” says Dennison.

“Getting back-to-back promotions, a couple of trips to Wembley, it felt like a huge team effort to drag Wolves back from where they had been and back on the right road.

“I think that is why we are remembered quite fondly and looked upon as having achieved something in the history of the club, and what a great group of lads to achieve it with.

“So many of us are still in touch and still meet up for a beer from time to time – there is a friendship and camaraderie developed all those years ago that will never leave us.”

For Lee Kendall, the celebrations went slightly awry back at the Mount Hotel as the families gathered to toast Wembley success.

He gulped down a couple of glasses or what he thought was orange juice – only it was Bucks Fizz – prompting an early lesson in alcohol consumption and a stop-off to be sick in Perton as the family returned home to Codsall after the party.

“That was a crazy end to such a great day,” he recalls.

“I remember being a little upset that I wasn’t mascot – Graham Turner’s son did that which was understandable – but my Dad’s Dad travelled up from South Wales and we watched the game with him.

“It was such an unbelievable time for me, growing up with Dad around that team, and so many wonderful memories.

“My Mum’s still got all the medals from the league titles, the Centenary tournament and the Sherpa Van, and whenever I put something on social media about Dad and Wolves, I always get some lovely comments.

“How that team did it – with two sides of the ground open, training wherever they could, even on the car park on a Friday, hat’s off to them all and to Graham Turner, Garry Pendrey and Paul Darby, it was a brilliant achievement.”

That six week spell three-and-a-half decades ago was certainly a momentous time. A real line in the sand for what had been before – and what was to follow.

And for Blount, now a Season Ticket Holder in the North Bank, it perfectly cuts in half his Wolves-supporting life to date.

Then 35, he recently turned 70, and was surprised at Molineux thanks to the club’s Wolves Wishes initiative, by another meeting with the Bull!

WOLVERHAMPTON, ENGLAND – MARCH 21: Steve Bull surprises a Wolves fan as part of a Wolves Wish at Molineux on March 21, 2023 in Wolverhampton, England. (Photo by Jack Thomas – WWFC/Wolves)

Which included, not the first time, recreating that memorable embrace from the dressing room all those years ago.

“I’ve met Bully a few times and he’s always so approachable,” says Blount.

“He once did a piece in the paper and called me a ‘portly gentleman’ – I had him about that afterwards – and when we met recently I said he’d have had 400 goals if he hadn’t missed so many chances when he couldn’t hit a barn door when he arrived.

“I told him he owes me a lot of money for making him as famous as he is!

“He’s a God though, isn’t he? Absolutely fantastic, all those lads are, they gave me so many highlights from a lifetime supporting Wolves.”

“Yeh, he told me I should have had 400 goals – how greedy is that?” Bull replies.

“At the time I remember we were there celebrating and he suddenly appeared and it was like, ‘how the hell has he got up there’?!

“He looks the same now apart from losing the moustache, and I’ve still got his armprint around my neck where he squeezed me!

“Seriously though, he’s a top man with a great family and it was lovely to see him again- we’ve met a few times down the years.

“It’s always nice to look back at the good times and remember the things that happened and that was one of them that people have never forgotten.”

For Blount too, the memory lives on.

“That dressing room moment is one I’ve never been able to escape.

“Every now and again I think it’s been forgotten and then someone will walk past and shout: ‘Come on me babbies.’

“And I’ll reply and say, ‘it wor me it was my brother’!

“It’s great though isn’t it, such a magical moment just from deciding to climb up and see what was the other side of that open window – brilliant!”

One magical moment among many from that era, an era which – even with the successes which have followed since, generally at a higher level, remains so fondly and wonderfully remembered.

Through the dressing room window on that balmy, and barmy, April night, a golden future lay ahead.