Here is a quiz question that will stand the test of time.
When Wolves became the first team ever to score 7,000 league goals, who was it that popped up with the landmark strike?
John Richards? Steve Bull? Kenny Miller? Sylvan Ebanks-Blake? Raul Jimenez?
Actually, none of the above.
Step forward, as he did at Selhurst Park 15 years ago tomorrow, South Korean international Seol Ki-Hyeon.
It wasn’t the best goal from the winger’s extensive portfolio, a cross-come-shot which sneaked in at the near post.
And Wolves were later pegged back by an Andrew Johnson equaliser as the Championship fixture against Crystal Palace finished 1-1.
But that doesn’t in any way dim the enthusiasm or delight of the man himself.
“It was such a great honour and pleasure to score a goal like that and leave a mark at a club with such a strong history as Wolves,” Seol recalls.
“And with such a big fanbase as well, I am really proud of it.”
It wasn’t the only pivotal goal that the affable frontman notched during a career which took in several different outposts both in South Korea and across Europe.
He was the first ever South Korean to score in the Champions League, for Anderlecht, and memorably, on home turf at the 2002 World Cup, notched the late equaliser against Italy which set up extra time and ultimately the last 16 win that made every member of that squad a national hero.
A month before that historic goal at Palace, his drilled shot which flew in off the post against Norwich at Molineux was also destined to become Wolves’ Goal of the Season.
A man for the big occasion!
That World Cup strike, when the tournament in South Korea and Japan captured the imagination of the footballing public across Asia, is one which went down in folklore.
South Korea’s memorable and action-packed run to the semi-finals secured their status as the first ever team from outside Europe and the Americas to reach the last four of a World Cup.
But with three minutes left they were heading for defeat against the Azzurri, before Seol, then 23, seized on a miscued clearance to despatch a low shot beyond Gianluigi Buffon in the Italian goal.
“Appeal for handball, not given, and the ball has gone in,” screeched the magnificently excitable tones of legendary commentator Barry Davies.
“And its Seol Ki-Hyeon!
“Three minutes to go and the Italians have been made to pay – why, why, why do they always do it?!”
Seol even had a chance to win it before the final whistle shooting into the side netting from an acute angle but it was Ahn Jung-Hwan who made the Italians pay in added time with a decisive goal to send an already delirious Daejeon World Cup Stadium into utter pandemonium.
What a memory for a generally calm and quiet footballer whom, went called upon to deliver, found the perfect contact to emphatically etch his name in South Korean history.
“It was a significant goal for the country but also a significant goal for me,” Seol recalls.
“It was the biggest match of my footballing life, and I will never ever forget it.
“And everyone else still remembers it too – even though it was so long ago so many people still remember it when they see me.
“It is strange because I was playing with Anderlecht at the time, and I hadn’t been playing very well ahead of the World Cup.
“When I went back afterwards, I was playing much better than before, and in Belgium the journalists were asking me what had made me different? They said I was a different player!
“It was such a huge experience for me, maybe it was just more confidence, but that tournament certainly improved me as a player.”
South Korea’s incredible run would come to an end at the hands of Germany at the semi-final stage – we all know about that – but it was a time of celebration that, for Seol in particular, would continue in the weeks which followed.
Because wife Amy gave birth to their son Luke, now 18, shortly after their tournament.
The couple’s daughter Jean, now 15, would make her arrival a few years later, at Wolverhampton’s New Cross Hospital no less!
Conducting the interview via video call, Seol switches between a decent and passable grasp of English and his native tongue, with Luke kindly carrying out translation duties when required.
Now 41, Seol is a manager with Gyeongnam in K-League 2, the second tier of South Korean football, and is speaking barely 72 hours after a brutal end to his first season at the helm involving both the play-offs and VAR. More on that dreaded combination later.
But being back working on home soil ensures that his career has come full circle from growing up with a footballing dream, and especially a European dream, which saw him head to Belgium to join Royal Antwerp, and then Anderlecht.
As well as the Champions League landmark, other highlights included notching a 12-minute hat trick in the Belgian Super Cup and winning a Championship medal in 2003/04.
Not long after that however, Seol was on the move.
The Premier League remained the overall ambition, and while Wolves had just exited that particular stage, he saw enough potential to both hope and believe it might prove only a temporary absence.
“I enjoyed my time in Belgium, but I always wanted to play in England, and I remember when the people from Wolves came out to meet me and make their offer,” Seol recalls.
“It was such a great opportunity for me.
“Yes I really wanted to play in the Premier League, but it would have been difficult to go straight in at that level so this was a chance to go and try and get promoted with such a big club as Wolves.
“There is a big difference between Belgian league football and England, and with the second division in England being so strong it gave me a good chance to get used to the environment.”
There weren’t however too many opportunities to get used to the management of Dave Jones, whom just three months into the season, found himself out of a job.
His replacement would be Glenn Hoddle, whose highflying footballing reputation – in Seol’s case at least – didn’t precede him.
But he enjoyed working with the former England player and coach, even if, ultimately, that leap to the Premier League proved elusive.
“Dave and Glenn had very different styles as managers, but both had success in their careers,” Seol explains.
“I didn’t know at first that Glenn was such a big name in English football but the other players told me, and in training I could see he was a very talented coach.
“He tried his best efforts to get promoted, all of us did, but it just didn’t quite work out.”
Hoddle left Wolves at the start of July, 2006, and Seol would follow less than a fortnight later when, fresh from another World Cup appearance, he was finally able to fulfil his Premier League dream with Reading.
He left however with a heavy heart, not to mention some happy Molineux memories garnered from a spell of 76 appearances yielding ten goals.
Those strikes against Palace and Norwich, a memorable last minute winner at Millwall, FA Cup ties with Arsenal and Manchester United.
Not to mention the lure and thrill of Molineux itself.
“Such a beautiful stadium, and so many fans,” Seol recalls fondly.
“Such a strong fanbase, for a team who were in the second division at the time.
“There was always a good crowd in the stadium, and you could tell how much they wanted us to win the games.”
Suddenly he pauses.
“Do they still play that song when the team runs out?”
Yes Seol, they do. Which then prompts his own unique version of ‘Hi Ho Wolverhampton’. Live and direct from South Korea. Brilliant!
“Whenever I heard that song, it gave me energy,” he continues.
“I loved playing for the Wolves fans.
“I always felt welcomed in the dressing room and a good chemistry although communication for me at times was difficult.
“Seyi Olofinjana was the player I was probably closest to, and I remember so many others – Kenny Miller, Matt Murray, Paul Ince.
“Wolverhampton was a great place to live, and I remember going to the bank and the accountant was a big Wolves fan.
“He would help me with things and if I couldn’t understand anything or had some paperwork to sort out, I would go and see him!
“It was a great two years for me, even though we didn’t get to where we all wanted to be at that time.
“I still feel it was a real honour to have my first experience in England in Wolverhampton at a club with such history, which makes me very proud.”
Having said all that, there was perhaps one aspect of life in Wolverhampton which did unnerve Seol just a little bit.
Staying at the Mount Hotel, and very much enjoying it, he then read somewhere a suggestion that the site was haunted. (We have no such evidence of this by the way and The Mount comes very highly recommended!)
Seol takes up the story.
“When I signed I was staying at the Mount Hotel which was so beautiful and amazing, it was perfect.
“Then I read somewhere that it was supposed to be haunted, and to be honest I was scared!
“So I moved and went to another hotel, before the club found a house for my family to live in.
“We had moved in, and then, all of a sudden I realised, it was back very close to The Mount!”
Spooky scenes. Ultimately however, Seol wasn’t destined to stay at Molineux too long, and it was next stop Reading, and then Fulham, as he finally pushed on, to savour the Premier League.
He looked at home there too, especially during a season with the Royals, but eventually, after a loan spell with Al-Hilal in Saudi Arabia, it was back home to see out his career in South Korea.
And that was to be reunited with a nation who had very much embraced the game and seen their national team develop into something of a footballing superpower in Asia since the 1980’s, having now played in nine successive World Cups.
When Seol was at Wolves, a corps of South Korean media would be at each and every game, always keen to chat, while one family from Wolverhampton who became friends got to see at first hand the appeal of players to their country’s supporters.
Mark Fletcher, an accountant and former trainee goalkeeper at Wolves, was able to get a ticket for South Korea’s group game with France at the 2006 World Cup Finals in Germany, and the decision to wear a Wolves shirt Seol had passed on to him made for a lively night in the Zentralstadion in Leipzig.
South Korea were unable to repeat their 2002 heroics, and would go out in the group stage, but Seol made another positive impact, coming off the bench to deliver the cross which set up the late equaliser against France for Park Ji-sung.
“When I arrived at the stadium in Leipzig I soon became aware of a lot of interest In Seol’s Wolves shirt that I was wearing,” Fletcher recalls.
“Seol had written a message to my family on the shirt when he had given it to me at the end of that season.
“Much to the hilarity of my French mate, one or two tentative Korean fans asked for a photo and before I knew it I was posing with different groups of excitable face-painted Korean fans draped in their nation’s flag.
“It was great to be able to witness Seol later lay on the Korean goal to earn a draw against the eventual finalists.”
All in all, Seol would make 83 appearances for his country, scoring 20 goals, and after retiring in 2015 – which would later include a special ceremony at a friendly game with Jamaica – he set about fulfilling his coaching ambitions.
Prior to taking his first senior post with Gyeongnam last December, he spent several years coaching Sungkyunkwan University and has further experience as assistant coach on the national team and working for K-League 1 club Seongnam FC as the head of their performance improvement department.
“I had always wanted to become a coach, and playing in Europe really helped me with that as it means I learnt a lot of new styles and worked under many different coaches,” Seol explains.
“In the Korean leagues a lot of coaches play in the classic Korean way, but the challenge for me is to try and bring in my experiences from Europe and build a team to play good, passing football.
“That is why I didn’t necessarily want to be a number two at club level and work under another head coach because I felt I might be too influenced by them.
“I wanted to use my own experiences straightaway, and that is why I started at a University team.
“It was a chance to practice, to learn on the job as a coach, without the same pressures from the professional game.
“I could make mistakes and try different things and learn from them, and if you get a few bad results, you are not going to get sacked like you might at a professional club.
“It was great experience, and after four years or so I decided the time was right to then look for an opportunity in the professional game.”
Now approaching his first anniversary in charge of Gyeongnam, it was an impressive first season at the helm as they aimed to make an immediate return back to the top division following relegation.
And yet, there was a loose connection to some familiar tales of woe for Wolves supporters in the way the season concluded.
Connection in the sense of play-off misery which the Molineux faithful have felt so often – with one notable exception – and VAR, which continues to cause so much debate across the entire footballing world.
Gyeongnam finished third in the division, leading to a play-off to determine who would join champions Jeju United and secure a spot in the top flight.
In one off games, if the score was level at full time, the higher ranked team would progress, which worked perfectly as Gyeongnam drew 1-1 against fourth placed Daejeon Hana Citizen in the semi-finals.
Sadly however, a similar score in the final against Suwon saw Seol’s side fall at the final hurdle, but the result in no way told the story of how events transpired.
“We were winning 1-0, going into four minutes of added time, and we were so close to being promoted,” he explains.
“We were almost there, and then the referee stopped the game and awarded a penalty from VAR, which they scored.
“There was a lot of talk about the situation and what the referee decided to do, but he made his decision and there is nothing we can really do about it.
“But it does still feel that there is something wrong overall with how VAR is working.
“It was a disappointing end to my first season as a coach but apart from that I have really loved it so far.
“I have made mistakes, and learnt a lot, and we got so close.
“We will come back next year and be better for the experience, myself as a better manager and the players as a better team, and will try our best to go that one step further.”
Seol remains remarkably philosophical about such a desperately disappointing finale, although Gyeongnam themselves had benefitted from the VAR technology in the semi-final.
Somehow he still managed to maintain the calm, unruffled presence that hides a fierce determination and will to win.
“Have I changed much since becoming a coach? I don’t think so,” he insists.
“I still try and keep cool, and don’t say too much in the dressing room.
“Again from all the different coaches I have worked with I have seen a lots of different styles, some were very strong and direct and others more relaxed.
“I have taken bits from all of them, but I think it is about showing your own personality and never changing too much.”
Having also had the Covid-19 pandemic to deal with during his first year, which delayed the start of the K-League season, Seol certainly won’t forget his introduction to senior coaching and will undoubtedly have improved for the experience.
He remains in touch with life in England, and the family returned to see friends in London and Wolverhampton three years ago as well as taking in some football and watching Tottenham’s Son Heung-min amongst others.
Time then to finish, as we started, with a question.
Which Ballon D’Or nominee from 2012 also starred in the much-famed Nike ‘secret tournament’ commercial sharing airtime with the likes of Eric Cantona, Ronaldinho, Thierry Henry, Francesco Totti and Hernan Crespo. Amongst many others.
Once again, Seol Ki-Hyeon.
But while having mixed with some of football’s top stars throughout his career, and had an influence for his country on the world stage, Seol retains a strong sense of pride to have left a little piece of history at Molineux.