Liverpool: How The Wonder Stuff's Drummer Made Wolves My Second Team

A passionate paean to the Wolves Black Country boys from an unexpected Liverpool-based source
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A passionate paean to the Wolves Black Country boys from an unexpected Liverpool-based source


Liverpool: How The Wonder Stuff's Drummer Made Wolves My Second Team...

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As we’ll all have gathered from the intermittent shower of bottled p***, bagged faeces, tasteless songs about tragedy and mindless booing of race-hate victims, there aren’t too many rules and regulations in the official Football Supporter’s Code of Conduct. Only two, in fact: Firstly, you cannot switch your allegiance. Ever. Treachery and shame be upon you, anyone who dares. And secondly, you cannot support more than one club. Pretty straightforward, then.

There is, however, some small print. Small print that allows you not necessarily to support another club but to at least acknowledge a passing admiration. AKA the Soft Spot. You’re allowed to have a soft spot for another team. Maybe a couple. So long as it stays soft.

There are many reasons why I have a soft one for Wolverhampton Wanderers. For starters, it’s easy to like a club who never win anything. Nobody revels in the success of others, it reflects badly on us, our own failings, and no one wants to be reminded how dismal their own existence is. Wolves, bless ‘em, will only ever remind you how lucky you are not to be a ‘Tatter’ (ask a West Brom fan – I don’t know either).

Nobody revels in the success of others, it reflects badly on us, our own failings, and no one wants to be reminded how dismal their own existence is

Secondly, there is something endearingly unpleasant about their kit. To proffer a childhood analogy, I regard it in much the same way I did any meal ever made by my dear departed grandmother: obnoxious to the senses but gladly stomached if only to spare a loved one’s feelings. Once and only once have I dared voice an opinion on their club colours, politely as possible I might add, referring to their shirts as ‘orange’ within earshot of a certifiable Molineux zealot with instant pantone recall. “Old Gold!” he barked, eyes so hot with incredulous fury you could’ve boiled soup on his face.

It’s not, mate, it’s orange. Black and orange.

Thirdly, and it has to be said, mainly, because Wolves were the club Martin Gilks supported.

To those who recognise the name, Martin was the drummer from The Wonder Stuff. To those who don’t recognise the name, he was the drummer in The Wonder Stuff. I literally just told you – keep up. And to those who don’t know who or what The Wonder Stuff is/are/was/isn’t, may I suggest you head in Google-erly direction. I can’t be bothered playing pop culture tour guide today.

To me, however, Martin was simply ‘Gilksey’, a ludicrously beloved friend.

We met a few years after The Wonder Stuff had called it a day (first time round, that is) and I have to confess to being a little starstruck for the first few minutes. Gilksey, now running a music management company with his brother Tank, had made the 4 yard yomp from their office to my band’s rehearsal studio with a view to adding us to their roster. We’d already met a few other managers but within a nanosecond everyone in the room, band and management alike, knew we’d found what we were looking for. No papers were signed, no lawyers called, just a round of handshakes and the deal was done.

A quick aside so you get a feel for the depth of character we’re dealing with here: despite the absence of legal safety nets, gum shields, condoms or ink, I have never been privy to a more clean and binding agreement before or since. Through good times, bad times, very bad times, bankruptcy proceedings, abject misery, a brief resurgence then more misery, the Brothers Gilks fought our corner. Because they said they would. Men of their word, in its most absolute sense.

Honesty and loyalty are rare qualities in every walk of life. In the music industry they are almost completely non-existent; a terrible state of human affairs which only served to make Martin’s unequivocally gem-like status seem all the more precious. Not wishing to gild his lily into mawkish oblivion but I am yet to meet a less affected person anywhere. And that, rightly or wrongly, is exactly how I choose to see the club he adored: 100% bullshit free. Refreshingly so. And with manager Mick McCarthy complimenting that Black Country straight-talk default setting beautifully, I don’t see my opinion changing any time soon.

Honesty and loyalty are rare qualities in every walk of life

You’ll have guessed by the use of the past tense that Martin is no longer with us. And the world a far worse place for it. A motorbike accident, April 3rd 2006, if details are important to you. And there hasn’t been a Liverpool v Wolves fixture since where the final whistle hasn’t brought with it a dreadful ache. A yearning for a phone call or a text message – he played the role of gloater or gloatee with equal dexterity; hilarious, succinct, taking the mick or deadpanning defeat into the insignificance it truly is.

No one knows what the hell Bill Shankly meant when his glorious gob first birthed that quote – I’ve a suspicion he only said it because he knew it sounded dramatic. In stark contrast, loss of a loved one is something we all understand, if not yet then one day, and come kick-off this evening football won’t be a matter of life and death by any stretch of the imagination. It’ll just be football; a futile yet poignant abstraction of both.

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