Wolves 7, Chelsea 1.
What a scoreline. The sort of scoreline requiring brackets (SEVEN) on the BBC’s famous teleprinter back in the day.
But that was the reality, a glorious reality, on March 18th, 1975.
Wolves 7, Chelsea 1. Surely one which will never happen again? Imagine if it did this Sunday?
We digress. One of Wolves’ key protagonists that day was Steve Kindon, in one of his most famous Molineux hours.
He scored once, a fierce shot after a powerful run, and had some sort of an impact in the other six. Some going.
Fantasy League managers with Kindon in their team would have loved it! Especially as captain.
“When the team watched the video back it looked like I played a flawless game,” recalls Kindon, who turns 71 tomorrow.
“It was almost like every time I touched the ball it resulted in a goal.
“Phil Parkes would kick it out and I would head it on, straight to Kenny Hibbitt’s feet.
“Willie Carr, making his debut, would pass to me and I would lay it off, straight to John Richards to score.
“Deep down I knew that header could have gone anywhere, that pass the same, but it was just one of those days where everything came off, and it looked like a flawless performance.
“The Sunday People used to give ratings for each player, and that was one of the three occasions in my career I was awarded top marks, ten out of ten.
“So naturally, it sticks in my mind!”
It was a very different Chelsea side to the current model – they were relegated at the end of that season – and, during Kindon’s five years at Molineux, Wolves won five and drew three of their eight meetings.
That memorable afternoon was one of the many highlights of the winger’s career, which covered not just Wolves but also Burnley, twice, and Huddersfield.
And yet, it’s a career that might never even have started. At least not with a round ball anyway.
“Growing up I played rugby, which my family had always played, it was like it was in my blood,” Kindon recalls.
Born and brought up in Warrington, like his future team-mate and friend Richards, Kindon recalls the two actually meeting around the age of 11, when both were representing the town.
For Richards, it was football, and so he moved on to the local grammar school, but for Kindon, after passing his 11-plus exam, it was a case of a daily eight-mile train journey to a rugby playing grammar school in Widnes.
As you would expect with his bustling physique and explosive pace, Kindon excelled at rugby, but a certain event of 1966 captured his teenage imagination and got his cogs whirring as to whether there was a different sport he should be pursuing.
“I was 15-and-a-half when England won the World Cup, and I said to my Dad I was going to play some football the next season,” he recalls.
“I was playing representative rugby at the time and on the one day we had a game postponed because of a hard frost and so I came back on the train.
“By the time I got home there had been a heavy thaw, and so my pals asked me to go and have a game of football with them instead.
“I did, and I loved it.
“This was November of 1966, and by the following February I had signed as an apprentice for Burnley, in the December I turned professional and by August, 1968, I had made my debut in the First Division.”
A quick and meteoric rise. But it’s fair to say not everyone anticipated Kindon’s instant success in giving up the oval ball for the round version, particularly the headmaster at afore mentioned grammar school.
There is a wonderful tale told by the man himself, which throws open the dilemma when you interview Steve Kindon.
That being the irony, almost a problem, that with his skill with words and timing of execution, he can deliver any story far better than anyone else.
So, without further ado, take it away Steve!
“When I got the chance to sign as an apprentice for Burnley, word got around school, and the headmaster called me into his study,” he begins.
“In those days headmasters at grammar schools wore the mortar board, you know, the flat hat, a cape, and my headmaster had an outstanding gait.
“He bounced while he walked, taking long strides with his gown flowing out behind him, like Batman.
“’Sit down Kindon’, he bellowed – they always called you by your surname at grammar school.
“’Rumour has it you are going to be playing professional football?’
“’That’s right Sir,’ I replied.
“He asked me if I understood that I had a good academic brain on me, that I could go to University or that with my ability on a rugby field I could have gone on and played for England.
“’You don’t realise Kindon’, he continued. ‘You are making a very big mistake.’
“I told him that was my final decision, and I left the office, by which time I think he was a bit upset.
“Anyway, it was 18 months later, in the summer holidays, by which time I had played in the Burnley first team, and I was in the Lake District with a few of my pals.
“All of a sudden I saw my headmaster, I knew he did a lot of walking trails and I recognised him from half a mile away, because of his gait.
“As he passed the pub garden where we were sat he spotted me, and he stepped over the little trellis entrance and came over.
“And the first two words he spoke had a tremendous effect on me.
“’Mr Kindon’, he began. After five years of referring to me by my surname he now called me Mr Kindon.
“’Good afternoon Sir’, I replied.
“’Do you remember when I told you that deciding to play football was going to be a very big mistake?’
“’Yes’, I replied.
“’Well I do apologise, I was entirely wrong.’
“I always remember that little story from that part of my life.”
And that Burnley part of his life, establishing himself as a first team influence despite his tender years, was an extremely happy one for Kindon.
He was a key influence in the team which won the FA Youth Cup in 1967/68, along with later Wolves winger Dave Thomas, and became an England youth international.
Kindon’s spell at Burnley came during an illustrious time for Lancashire football with not only the Clarets but also Blackpool, Preston, Bolton and Blackburn occupying the top division.
The abolition of the maximum wage several years earlier had, however, opened up fresh financial opportunities for players to move elsewhere, and so while Burnley chairman Bob Lord – whose early stance on televised football promoted the Saturday ‘3pm blackout’ which still exists today – was happy to increase salaries, he also insisting on recouping income via big sales.
Burnley stars such as Willie Morgan and Ralph Coates had moved on by the time it came to Kindon’s turn, and a switch from Turf Moor to Molineux for a fee in excess of £100,000.
Boss Bill McGarry had kept an eye on Kindon since he impressed up against Derek Parkin in an FA Cup tie between Wolves and Burnley although from the first conversation after the deal was done it was difficult to think so!
“Wolves had just paid that big fee for me and within seconds of signing the contract Bill McGarry told me I wouldn’t be playing much over the season,” says Kindon.
“When I asked why he said I could play centre forward or left wing, but he had Derek Dougan at centre forward, and Dave Wagstaffe at left wing, and they were both better than me.
“I have to say I agreed with him, although it was a strange thing to say just after spending all that money.
“But the problem for me at Wolves was that I don’t think Bill McGarry liked me very much.
“I was a bit too bright for him, a bit arrogant, and I would pick up something that he said that was inaccurate and mention it out loud instead of keeping my mouth shut.
“And while those players were definitely better than me when I signed, as they grew older I don’t think they were, and it was McGarry sticking with a team of mainly older players that eventually led to us being relegated.”
Kindon still made plenty of appearances, despite initially not being first choice, and notched 31 goals in 167 games for Wolves, including many more highlights than just his Chelsea demolition job.
He scored on his debut against Newcastle and was a regular in the second tier title-winning 1976/77 campaign after his opener on the final day of the previous campaign in the championship-or-relegation showdown with Liverpool didn’t prove enough.
On the flip side, Kindon was ‘heartbroken’ when he wasn’t named as substitute for the 1974 League Cup Final – a doubt over Alan Sunderland prompting Barry Powell to get the number 12 shirt instead – and decided to leave the club in late 1977 after feeling he wasn’t receiving the same treatment as some of the club’s more established players.
After missing a game with a ‘slight knock’, Kindon was asked by Sammy Chung to prove his fitness in the reserves, when others in similar situations had previously gone straight back into the first team.
“I used to live near Bantock Park and would cycle the three miles into Molineux to keep up my fitness but a car knocked me off my bike,” he recalls.
“I had a bit of bruising but was generally o-k and so I didn’t need a game back in the reserves.
“I told Sammy I had gone through five years of being classed as an understudy, and just had a good season in the Second Division, so I wasn’t going back to that.
“I think he was shocked, and asked me to rescind the request, as did the Chairman, but I’d had enough and felt it was time to go somewhere where I might feel more appreciated.”
That ‘somewhere’ was back to Burnley for two years, before spending another three as a player at Huddersfield, rounding off his career with another promotion before then becoming the Commercial Manager for the Terriers.
Kindon’s time with all his clubs is remembered with much affection, including
at Molineux where he is regarded fondly as one of those much-loved personalities from the team of the Seventies.
His nickname of ‘The Tank’ was very much a term of endearment.
Does he have regrets? Perhaps. Perhaps he didn’t make the most of the opportunities that were afforded him but equally, there is never any fear that he didn’t give his all every time he crossed the white line.
“I wouldn’t have said this when I was 30, but looking back I don’t think I took the game seriously enough,” Kindon explains.
“I represented my county in five different sports at school – whether it was rugby, cricket, tennis it all came easy to me, and maybe it was too easy.
“So when at 16 I became an apprentice at a Division One club and made my debut at 17 and got sold for £100,000 at 21 it was a case of, ‘yeh, so what – that is what I do’!
“That’s not being arrogant at all, I just think maybe I took it all for granted because it came so naturally.
“But what I never took for granted was the effort I put in when I played a game.
“A certain generation of fans loved watching Paul Gascoigne because nobody in the stands at Newcastle, or Tottenham or wherever he was would have watched him and thought, ‘**** me, I could have done that’.
“They just stood back in awe and admired his abilities.
“In my era that sort of player was George Best, for my Dad it was Stanley Matthews.
“Obviously I was nothing like that, I was a rugby player and so it made me slightly clumsy at times on the football field.
“But what I could always guarantee, every week, is that I gave the fans 100 per cent every single time.
“Sometimes the ball would go under my foot and out for a throw-in when I was trying to trap it.
“Sometimes I would cross the ball and it would go behind the goal.
“But for some reason, the fans didn’t seem to mind?
“I’m not saying they were chuffed with me, but I don’t think they minded because they knew I had done the best I could and had given it everything.
“Between ten to three and quarter to five, or sometimes at half past four, I was absolutely knackered because I had given it my all.
“And that’s not just Wolves, but Burnley and Huddersfield as well.
“When you talk about those two places, small cotton and woollen towns, the people there always had to properly graft for their money.
“Those fans in their flat caps didn’t want a fancy dan trying out all these skills but if you always gave 100 per cent? ‘You’ll do for me lad’.”
Kindon’s career was also blessed by the odd moment or two which was out of the ordinary.
Everyone knew he was rapid, but he officially became known as the country’s fastest footballer, winning an annual competition seven years in a row during which his quickest time for the 100 metres was 10.7 seconds.
Kindon used to train at the Wolverhampton & Bilston athletics club where then national sprint champion Roger Walters was resident, and once took him on in a race – and won!
Whilst at Huddersfield, Kindon was part of another piece of footballing history, when he had to take over in goal after the goalkeeper Andy Rankin was injured in an FA Cup tie against Shrewsbury, and then returned to the outfield later when chasing the game.
All in all the Terriers fielded three different goalkeepers over the 90 minutes, and all conceded a goal apiece in the 3-0 defeat.
Kindon continued to cast his eye for the out of the ordinary in life post-playing, his innovations during several years as Huddersfield’s Commercial Manager helping them become the first club to install CCTV cameras, to have a disabled area for fans and to host golf days where supporters could play with the first team squad.
He also went on to work as a global sales manager before his after-dinner speaking commitments took hold, and a talent discovered when he was involved in entertaining Q&A sessions as a player with companies across Wolverhampton certainly bore fruit.
Put simply, Kindon is hilarious. If you haven’t seen him, you should try to. He wasn’t a regular winner of the Soccer Speaker of the Year award for nothing.
He is also a great supporter of Wolves Former Players Association events, golf days and dinners, when he regularly not only shares hosting duties with Steve Daley – quite a double act – but also loves the chance to catch up with former team-mates.
When Kindon speaks, it is clear how much those catch-ups mean to him.
It is those from Kindon’s era who are usually the most represented at FPA events, a statistic he says applies at his other former clubs as well.
A generational sense of togetherness? Kindon thinks so.
“I think it is unique from our era.
“John McAlle and Derek Parkin are best pals, I always shared a room with John Richards, Kenny Hibbitt with Willie Carr, Steve Daley with Alan Sunderland – two Yorkshire lads.
“On the coach we played a card game called Hearts and I would always sit with John Richards and we would play against Dave Wagstaffe and Frank Munro.
“It was just automatic, we all knew each other so well, and that is why we have all stayed so close and love meeting up.
“It is the same at Burnley and the same at Huddersfield as well, maybe I was lucky to play in the era of friendships in football!”
And those friendships have been particularly important during what has been a difficult couple of years on a personal level for Kindon.
He lost his 46-year-old son Adam to Covid at the start of the pandemic, then contracted long Covid himself a year later and has also suffered with heart problems.
However, he certainly isn’t feeling sorry for himself, and is pretty emphatic when answering the question of how he manages to stay positive amid such testing challenges.
“It’s been a difficult time, losing our son and then I was rushed to hospital in an ambulance when I was struggling,” says Kindon.
“I do get very short of breath at times now – I can walk and I can talk but I can’t do both at the same time!
“I have had to be more careful and look after myself a bit more.
“I used to do over 100 speaking engagements a year but now if I can get one a week I am happy.
“But do you know what?
“My father was born on September 10th, 1919.
“The Second World War broke out on September 3rd, 1939, and so a week before my father was 20 we were at war with Germany.
“He was in the Army, and he didn’t come home for six years, fighting the enemy who were shooting bullets at him.
“And now? If I go to the supermarket I have to wear a mask, and it’s a bit more difficult to go and have a holiday in Spain.
“So yes I am trying to stay positive, but at the end of the day what are we all moaning about, eh?”
Kindon clearly takes the approach of looking on the bright side of life, and humour is never too far away.
He roars at the memories of fans’ anecdotes of opening the gates at the side of the pitch as was unable to slow down after tearing down the touchline.
Life as a public speaker has allowed those fans to continue to enjoy Kindon’s personality and talent in a very different arena, whilst also serving as a reminder that he was also a half decent player in his time.
Especially the day Wolves were in Seventh Heaven against Chelsea at Molineux.