Alf Bishop will be inducted into Wolves Hall of Fame at this year’s FPA Annual Dinner on April 28th. As part of a series of extended feature articles looking at the 2023 inductees, here are the words of Steve Gordos, a member of the Hall of Fame committee.


Tough as they come, Alf Bishop was “Mr Consistent” for Wolves in the early years of the 20th century. Not even a broken jaw could prevent him playing in one of the club’s most famous victories.

A keen footballer as a lad, he played for his school Wollaston Church of England, and began his football career as a full-back with Stourbridge. He later moved to Halesowen Town, both teams being in the Birmingham League. His ambitions to play for a Football League club took a big step forward in 1904.

Every season the Birmingham FA picked a young team to face the youngsters of the Scottish Junior FA and in April of that year Alf was named at left-half for the game which was staged at Villa Park. It was always a shop window for aspiring young players and attracted scouts from many League clubs.

Sports Argus report of the game said Alf was “soon conspicuous” for the Birmingham FA but the Scots scored through Lavity midway through the first half when the upright twice denied the home team. In the second half there was, according to the Argus, a “marked improvement in the play of the home men, the half-backs in particular.” Two goals from centre-forward Charlie Tickle turned the game around for the Brum team. The first came when a fierce shot by Alf was kept out by a Scottish defender’s hand. Tickle’s spot kick was saved but he followed up to score. His second was a shot from 30 yards. 

Tickle had already made his debut for Blues and clubs were running the rule over the other young players who might make the grade. Alf had done well and Aston Villa officials, clearly impressed, moved in to sign him. After the game there was a banquet for the players and officials at the Midland Hotel followed by a visit to see a show at the Empire Theatre. Having signed for Villa, Alf must have thought a career in the top flight beckoned but it did not work out. He was later loaned back to Halesowen where his displays attracted interest from Wolves and he signed for them in the summer of 1906.

Wolves were at a low ebb when Alf joined them. Founder members of the Football League in 1888, they had been relegated for the first time and began life in the Second Division with Jack Addenbrooke, the club’s long-serving secretary, still in charge of team affairs.

Addenbrooke and his selection committee were clearly taken with Alf and he quickly established himself as a key member of the side. He was named at right-half for their first game in the lower tier, a 1-1 draw with Hull City at Molineux. He then had a spell of four games at left back before switching to centre-half for the second half of the season after an injury to skipper Billy Wooldridge. He did so well that Wooldridge, when fit again, returned to the team in his old position of centre-forward

It was in his new role that Alf scored his first goal for the club – the opener in a 5-0 home win over Grimsby Town. Towards the end of the campaign, he showed his prowess from the penalty spot, scoring twice in a 5-1 home win over Barnsley.

Alf completed the season as the only ever-present for Wolves, playing in all 38 League matches, though there was a low-key finale as Wolves, who finished sixth in the table, were beaten 4-0 by promoted Chelsea at Stamford Bridge and 3-2 at Chesterfield. However, a year later Alf and his teammates would be celebrating one of the greatest seasons in Wolves history

Wolves FA Cup winning team: (back row, l-r) Rev Kenneth Hunt, Jackery Jones, Billy Wooldridge, Tommy Lunn, Ted Collins, Albert Bishop; (front row, l-r) Billy Harrison, Jack Shelton, George Hedley, Walter Radford, Jack Pedley

Alf started the 1907-8 season as centre-half but the arrival of former Sheffield United centre-forward George Hedley from Southampton saw Wooldridge switch back to the middle of the half-back line with Alf moving to left-half.

Wolves were only on the fringe of the promotion race but soon the fans’ interest switched to the FA Cup. In those days Football League sides came into the competition in the first round, the equivalent of the present third round, and Wolves started with a 1-1 draw at Bradford City. A goal from Hedley was enough to win the replay. There followed 2-0 home wins over Bury and then Swindon Town, the latter game seeing Alf’s half-back colleague Kenneth Hunt forego an England amateur cap so he could play for his club.

So Wolves were in the fourth round, the quarter-finals. They faced a tough task against Staffordshire rivals Stoke at the Victoria Ground, but won 1-0 thanks to a goal from inside-left Walter Radford. In the semi-final Radford and Hedley hit the goals which saw off Southampton 2-0 at Stamford Bridge. Wolves were in the final.

Three days after his team had secured a visit to the famous Crystal Palace ground in Sydenham, the dream of playing in the final looked in doubt for Alf. In a League game against Fulham at Craven Cottage, he broke his jaw. Alf dashed across to check a raid by Fulham winger Charlie Millington and a report in The Sportsman newspaper said: “Both men were going at a rare pace and they collided and fell. The result was that Bishop had to retire with a broken jaw and Millington was carried off unconscious.”

It got worse for Wolves as Wooldridge went off with an ankle injury and then wing wizard Billy Harrison joined him in the dressing room after sustaining a leg injury. With the game ending as ten men against eight it was not surprising that the Londoners won 2-1.

Alf missed the next five games but was determined not to miss the final. He was declared fit enough to play in Wolves’ final League game before the final and able to take his place on the big day. Those five games were the only ones he missed that season as he played in all three half-back positions as well as a lone game at centre-forward. He also figured in all seven FA Cup games.

The final created more history as Wolves beat favourites Newcastle United 3-1. Wolves had finished ninth in the Second Division and remain the lowest-placed Football League team to win the trophy. On a trivia note, was the fact that there were only four players in the game whose surname began with the letter ‘H’ and each of them scored – Hedley, Harrison and Hunt for Wolves and Howie for Newcastle.

Hunt and Hedley scored goals in the final two minutes of the first half, Howie reduced the arrears on 73 but a solo effort by Harrison sealed victory four minutes from time. It was the Geordies’ third final in four years and they had lost all three.

According to The Sportsman newspaper, Alf was a key figure in the match. The match report mentioned Newcastle’s change of plan in the second half: “For a while they seemed inclined to exchange tactics and tried to emulate the long-passing style which had paid their adversaries so well. But the variation was not a success, possibly because Hunt and Bishop continued to stick to the wing men, Wilson and Rutherford, like leaches. All round the Wolves were quicker on the ball and the continued alacrity of their defence – Bishop was like a marionette – was amazing.”

In the Daily Mirror, correspondent ‘Citizen’ wrote: “The three half-backs did their work vigorously and surely. Bishop, the left half back, played a dashing, fearless game and came out of the match with full honours.”

Lord Mayor of London Sir John Bell was there to present the cup and medals and Sir Alfred Hickman, Wolves’ president, was also among the crowd of nearly 75,000. 

Wolves 1908 FA Cup winning team: (top-bottom, l-r) Jackery Jones, Tommy Lunn, Ted Collins, Rev Kenneth Hunt, Billy Wooldridge, Albert Bishop, Billy Harrison, George Hedley, Jack Pedley, Jack Shelton, Walter Radford

The players travelled back on Monday afternoon. When they stopped at New Street Station, Birmingham, about 3,000 people were there to cheer them, including Aston Villa manager George Ramsay. Alf and the others stayed on the train but the cup was held out of a carriage window to huge cheers from the crowd. On arrival in Wolverhampton many thousands greeted the team who were welcomed by the Mayor and the borough band, before they went on a tour of the town. The scenes in Wolverhampton were something Alf and the rest would never forget. 

On the day of the match supporters had crammed into Queen Street close to the Express & Star offices, the paper having a reporter telephoning news back from the Crystal Palace. Men then went among the crowd, and carried placards with details of the game’s major incidents.

In the next seven seasons up to World War I calling a halt to football, Alf proved to be the cornerstone of the Wolves defence. In 1908-9 he missed only two games and then played in all 38 in both of the next two campaigns. When he next missed a game he had amassed 110 consecutive League and Cup appearances.

There was another ever-present season in 1914-15 which also saw Alf score his sixth and final goal. In a blizzard at Molineux he fired in the opener from a corner as Barnsley were beaten 4-1.

Though only 5ft 8ims tall, Alf was a sturdy no-nonsense player whose appearance total is testament to the fact he rarely got injured. He was clearly a club stalwart and his standing with officials and players was reflected by the fact he was the obvious choice to be appointed captain when Wooldridge retired.

When football resumed after the war, though well into his thirties, Alf, still captain of the team, made another 31 appearances to take his total to a then club record 382. That total puts him joint 16th with Phil Parkes in the club’s all-time appearances list. Alf’s final League game was a 3-0 defeat at Stoke when George Garratly was carried off injured which meant Alf’s last 45 minutes in a Wolves shirt were spent as an emergency left-back.

Alf moved in 1920 to Wrexham. The Welsh club were in their final season as a Birmingham League side before becoming founder members of the Third Division North where Alf made just a few appearances before returning to his old club Stourbridge for a brief spell.

His football world had turned full circle but Alf had carved his name into Wolves history.