Sky Sports' Johnny Phillips: My Greatest Wolves XI...
Sky Sports Johnny Phillips became an internet sensation back in May commentating on the drama of the last seconds of the Watford v Leicester Championship play-off game.
Leicester City’s French starlet Anthony Knckaert had his 96th minute penalty saved by Manuel Almunia who then saved the follow up. Watford broke immediately and in a swift counter attack powered a shot past the Foxes keeper Kasper Schmeichel. Cue pandemonium. Johnny went as bonkers as the Hornets fans at the madness of it all.
His deranged reaction struck a chord with millions of football fans worldwide who could empathise with the sheer joyous unpredictability of the beautiful game. The millions of hits his commentary received on youtube was also a testament to his passion for football.
Johnny Phillips has been reporting on football the length and breadth of the country over the last ten years, but as he says in his new book, Saturday Afternoon Fever, he’s a fan first and foremost.
Read on to hear about his heroes that have graced the famous Old Gold of the West Midland giants, including languid playmakers, cult figures, diminutive pyscho’s, and the legend that is Steve Bull...
1. MIKE STOWELL
Wolves spent the vast majority of the 1990s trying and failing to get into the Premier League. They were never consistently good enough but, had they made it to the top, one of the players who would have flourished was goalkeeper Mike Stowell. He was an incredibly solid keeper who had very few weaknesses. Picked up for £250,000 from Everton reserves in 1990, he served Wolves with distinction for the entire decade.
2. DENIS IRWIN
With manager Dave Jones failing to take Wolves up by a whisker in the 2001/02, he turned to two former Manchester United players to help Wolves make the final step. Paul Ince had left United many years earlier, but Irwin was still a Red when Jones persuaded him to help out. He only played two seasons for the club and was used predominantly as a right back, but without him Wolves would never have been promoted.
5. FLOYD STREETE
A big bruising centre half in Graham Turner’s double promotion winning team of the late Eighties, ‘Bruno’ became a cult figure amongst the supporters on the terraces. He could play a bit too but most of all, the Jamaican born player was a dominating leader who was always up for the fight.
6. DEAN RICHARDS
The most complete player I have ever seen at Wolverhampton Wanderers. With the ball at his feet or in the air he was peerless. He had better technique than most of the supposed playmakers further up field, he scored many important goals, and did it all with a grace and ease that made everything he did look serene and unhurried. A car crash caused a long term injury that took something away from him when he moved on to Southampton and Spurs. For me, he should have been an England regular.
3. ANDY THOMPSON
Signed from arch rivals West Bromwich Albion in a joint £65,000 deal with Steve Bull, Thommo was Mr Reliable at left back for over a decade. Unfussy in his outlook and uncomplicated in his style, he defended resolutely and delivered many a tantalising cross when overlapping down either flank during his time at Wolves. His penalty taking was deadly.
7. MICHAEL KIGHTLY
A fantastic signing by Mick McCarthy for £25,000 from non-league Grays. A key part of the 2008/09 promotion winning team, he had the ability to beat a man on either foot and scored many outstanding goals.
8. PAUL COOK
My second favourite player ever to play for Wolverhampton. He was often criticised for a languid style that made him look like he wasn’t trying. Cook didn’t huff and puff - but he was a playmaker par excellence. His left foot was like a wand and he could find a man on a six pence from 50 yards. As brilliant an exponent of passing as I have ever seen.
4. KEITH DOWNING
‘Psycho’ sang the crowd when the blonde-haired diminutive central midfield launched himself into one of many bone-crunching tackles. A perfect foil for Cook in midfield, his guts and determination dragged Wolves through many a game. Won two promotions under Turner.
11. ROBBIE DENNISON
Northern Irish international winger who’s crossing & free-kicks were often undervalued. He was a mainstay of Turner’s team for many years.
10. ANDY MUTCH
Not much competition here when looking for a front two. The Bull/Mutch partnership scored a ludicrous 140 goals in two seasons as Wolves stormed Divisions Four and Three in successive years between 1987-89. Mutch’s flick-ons and slide rule passes often unleashing Bull for a powerful finish. His partner wouldn’t have scored half his goals without Mutch.
He said to me some years later, “They named a stand after Steve - and I didn’t even get a bag of chips.” But if the club didn’t recognise his talents, the fans certainly did.
9. STEVE BULL
No contest. A team of Steve Bulls would do me. The only hero I have ever had.
A legend of the club whose goals hauled Wolverhampton Wanderers from the depths of despair to the brink of the top flight.
He scored on his England debut as a Third Division player and went on to represent his country in the World Cup of 1990, which still ranks as England’s most successful campaign ever away from home soil.
Bull was a giant of the game whose loyalty was never repaid. He deserved to grace the top flight, but he turned down countless offers of glory elsewhere.
306 goals for the same club. There will never be another like him...
Johnny Phillips book “Saturday Afternoon Fever – A Year On The Road For Soccer Saturday” is out now.
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