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Most of the iconic images of Kenny Hibbitt in the 1970’s saw a shirt heavy with sweat from the toil of the midfield engine room that he industriously worked in for many years as general of the Molineux boiler house. Over 500 appearances for Wolves tells you that Kenny deserves every accolade he is given and, as a human being, nobody is more deserving.

It all started for Kenny at former league club Bradford Park Avenue. “I was 15 years old and got a two-year apprenticeship. I left school on the Friday and started at Bradford Park Avenue on the Monday. I got in the first team aged 16 relatively quickly and, although they were struggling in the lower end of the Fourth Division, I always wanted to play for my home town club.” It was little wonder that in 1968 Kenny joined Wolverhampton Wanderers and, two years later, Bradford Park Avenue, who had held league status from 1908 to 1970, dropped out of the league and have never returned to this day.

“Joe Gardiner was Chief Scout at Wolves and he had been chasing me,” adds Kenny. “The manager Jack Rowley told me of the interest of Wolves but I didn’t know what to do. My Dad had just died of a heart attack aged 40 and Terry my brother was living away. I wasn’t sure if I could leave my mother and sister but I knew it was my father’s ambition to see his two sons play in the First Division and at the top level.”

That was the motivation that Kenny needed and he put pen to paper to join Wolves.

An earth shattering £5,000 was parted with for Wolves to recompense Bradford Park Avenue for their star midfielder. Sadly for Kenny, his father would never get to see his wish come true. “It’s still a regret, absolutely. I am now nearly 70 and I still think about it to this day. All of the hard work he put into us and he wasn’t there to see the end product. It would have been great for him to see Terry captain Newcastle and me captain Wolves and play against each other. I know he would have cried his eyes out that day. That was his dream.”

Kenny’s footballing sibling, older brother Terry, played for Leeds, Birmingham and Newcastle. You could say that their father got to see the dream materialise but through their mother’s eyes. “In 1974 my mother and sister came to Wembley to watch the League Cup Final. She never saw the second half though as her eyes were full of tears thinking of how proud my Dad would have been. Seeing our family name in lights on the old Wembley scoreboard when I scored just before half time. I used to watch every final on the TV and I never ever thought I would get to play at Wembley.”

That same year, just two months later, brother Terry played for Newcastle in the 1974 FA Cup Final against Liverpool losing 3-0. It was bittersweet for the Hibbitt family. “My mother got to see both of us play in a cup final at Wembley that year.” How proud must she have been with his father looking down on his sons too, beaming with pride.

A proud moment for Kenny was his Wolves debut, but it wasn’t without hard work. “When I joined Wolves as a 17-year-old I was within a squad of 40 professionals. I had come from a squad of 17 at Bradford (Park Avenue) and thought to myself, ‘what am I doing here’? I knew it was a massive club, watching them on the TV in gold and black and they looked so powerful and strong. Ronnie Allen signed me and on that day he took me to the gym to watch them train and I am thinking, ‘how am I going to get into this team’? Peter Knowles stuck out in my mind that day and he was taking the mickey out of players as he did out on the pitch on a matchday. It was an opportunity to dig in and listen, just like my Dad had taught me.”

It all started moving quickly for Kenny and it was soon all change. “My first game was a reserve game against Manchester United at Old Trafford. I had been used to playing at Halifax, Accrington and Hartlepool so this was a huge step up. Three days later, Ronnie Allen got the sack and I was his last signing. Then Bill McGarry came in and he had his favourites and I didn’t think I started too well under him to be honest and thought that I may have to leave to progress elsewhere. Then an injury happened, he threw me in against Chelsea for my full debut and I scored against Peter Bonetti and we drew 2-2. I was so proud I couldn’t sleep for about three or four nights and I certainly didn’t sleep on the Friday night before the game. It was a wonderful, wonderful feeling.”

I had previously made contact with Kenny for a special series of the podcast where the players get to pick a ‘Best XI’ from their time at the club. Kenny was dignified in his response and declined to take part. “Every player I played with was my favourite as without them I couldn’t have had the career I had. From being at the club from 1968 to 1984 there is no way I could pick eleven from that.”


I singled out Peter Knowles, who Kenny had previously mentioned during the interview. It still fascinates people to this day of his decision to walk away from the professional game at the age of 23 to follow his beliefs. I have contacted Peter by politely writing to him to ask him to appear on the podcast to talk about whatever he wishes. At the time of going to print there had still been no reply.

“Peter was a tremendous loss for Wolves,” Kenny told me. “He was that good he could make a ball talk! He had a swagger, charisma…you can only have that if you are a good player.” It was only recently that Kenny found out that he had actually played in the same side as Peter. “I only ever got to play 15 minutes with him. I came on as a sub against West Brom at Molineux and there was only one sub back in those days. I was so focused on the game that it was only recently that somebody told me that Peter had played. It was a shame he left the game but you have to respect his decision. I have seen him a number of times over the years and I can tell you he’s a really happy bunny and he said something to me the once that always stuck in my mind – that he regrets playing as he used to kick people.”

In the 1970/71 season Wolves finished fourth in the First Division, ninth in 1971/72 and fifth in 1972/73. Make no mistake, we were a top side. “We were!” agrees Kenny. “I remember Butch Wilkins (Ray) telling me that when they came to Molineux they couldn’t wait to get back on the bus and go back home! Teams didn’t like coming to Molineux and, in my opinion, the fans helped make us a top side by making it a fortress.”

The course of true love never did run smooth. Wolves lost in the 1972 UEFA Cup Final to Tottenham, won the League Cup in 1974 beating Manchester City and got relegated in 1975/76 before bouncing back at the first opportunity. Kenny’s first taste of disappointment came in that heroic UEFA Cup run. “It wasn’t an easy run to the final. We had a youngish side and we were going to places we had only heard about! We played so many top teams in Europe and to beat the likes of Juventus and Ferencvaros was incredible.

“Tottenham had beaten Inter Milan in the other semi-final and I think that if we’d have played Inter Milan we’d have won the cup. They were great trips, playing behind the Iron Curtain. When we played Juventus, John Charles, who was a Juve legend, really looked after us. He said on the quiet that if we get a result in Italy they won’t bring a side over to England. John was right and they didn’t like the ‘crash, bang, wallop’ of English football.”

Wolves though fell at the final hurdle. “Tottenham were always a bogey team to us. In the second leg of the final I thought we had the edge, but that’s Tottenham…and I’ve never liked them since.” Kenny joked of course, but we did have history. “They beat us in the League Cup semi-final, the UEFA Cup Final and the FA Cup semi- final.” More about that later.


The end of the 1971/72 season saw Wolves prevent Leeds from winning the league in emphatic style, embroiled with controversy and Kenny had his own take on events. “I had watched the FA Cup Final on the Saturday and for the FA to make them play us on the Monday in such an important game was disappointing and I really felt sorry for them afterwards. I remember playing in the ‘74 and ‘80 finals and it took me at least two days to recover. The Leeds players looked tired.”

The alleged brown-envelope scandal and so-called offers of bribes to the Wolves players was the talk of the town. “Being a young lad, I didn’t get to hear much about it. I can only remember Bill McGarry calling a meeting on the morning saying he had heard this and heard that. I was never approached, then the story got in the papers. Bill said that the only way we can answer this is by beating them. It was a massive game, 53,000 fans inside Molineux and people were still locked out. Leeds were looking to win the double but it was massive for us too because of the talk of what was going on.”

The story reared its ugly head years later and Kenny was approached by a newspaper for his version of events. “A reporter knocked on my door and I just sent him away as I didn’t know anything about it.” It may have left a sour taste with Kenny but his real taste of glory was still to come.

The 2nd of March, 1974. Wembley Stadium, London, England. “I remember on the morning of the semi-final McGarry was talking tactics and he asked me a question. ‘Uh’, I replied. ‘I hadn’t been paying attention.’ ‘Are you f***ing listening?’ he scowled. ‘I was dreaming of Wembley boss’! That’s all I was thinking about. I had only seen Wembley on the TV and I was a nervous player especially before games. I remember lining up in the tunnel. There was Denis Law, Rodney Marsh, Colin Bell and Francis Lee. They have all played at Wembley before and it’s like a home game for them. They are tossing the ball onto their shoulder, then on to their knee looking really relaxed. I’m standing looking across and the nerves grew and grew.”

The butterflies were kicking round in the stomach, the palms were sweating, but Kenny needn’t have worried. “Just as we were coming out of the tunnel, there it was, a sea of gold and black scarves and flags and it just erupted. My nerves disappeared.” Out of darkness, cometh light.

“I then felt confident and the fans played a big part in the result. We had a performance that I had never seen before from a young goalkeeper in Gary Pierce. John Richards had a groin problem towards the end and was in absolute agony. Waggy (Dave Wagstaffe) pulled his hamstring and Barry Powell came on for him. That meant John had to stay on the pitch and he scored the winner minutes later! If Waggy hadn’t have pulled his hamstring John may have gone off! It was a significant piece of luck for us, though not with Waggy getting injured. When John scored he never really celebrated as he couldn’t run and was in so much pain. He couldn’t get away from us anyway!”


The scenes of the jubilant supporters will remain forever in Kenny’s memories. There was one player though who had worked so hard throughout the competition but missed out on the special day, only to make way for the man-of-the-match and birthday boy Gary Pierce. “I felt for Phil Parkes to miss it. Looking back, Gary Pierce was outstanding in goal. He hadn’t played many first team games and Lofty had had a spell where he never missed a game for years but nobody was more happy for Gary than Lofty.”

Luck played its part that day for Kenny too. I asked Kenny to put the myths to bed that his spectacular half-volley goal was mis-hit as for all these years the jury was out with the dubious goals committee. ‘Keith MacRae was in goal and he went for the power shot…so I went for the slice.” A moment of magic Kenny? “It was a great cross from Geoff Palmer to the edge of the 18-yard box where John Richards had his back to goal. As I went to anticipate the volley John put his foot up so he could turn and get his shot off and I don’t think he saw me. I lost vision of the ball and just carried on through with my shot and I sliced it with the outside of my boot. I never saw it hit the net, I just turned away and the players jumped on me.” More luck than judgment but if Kenny had have made a true connection, he’d have taken the net off. More importantly, Kenny was being watched on by his biggest fan. “My name was in lights and my mother broke down in tears. I never heard a word of what Bill McGarry said at half time!”

Full Time: Manchester City 1, Wolverhampton Wanderers 2.

In 1975/76 the rollercoaster was at full tilt. Wolves were relegated and parted company with Bill McGarry. Wolves bounced back up the following season at the first attempt as champions under Sammy Chung and Kenny was honest in his assessment. “It’s easy to say we didn’t deserve to go down but we did. I think five of us that promotion season were in double figures with goals and we were too good for the Second Division. We had a powerhouse of a side.”

The 15th of March, 1980. Wembley Stadium, London, England. “We were underdogs in both of the finals. I was looking forward to this game, as with experience I knew what to expect and I knew what was coming. Forest were the European champions and League Cup holders so we had to pull our socks up and work as a unit. The back four that day were outstanding. They dealt with Trevor Francis and he was one of the quickest strikers in the country. We changed tactics to stop John Robertson which was the right decision to make, putting Peter Daniel out wide and me tucking inside. It worked, and Peter struck a lovely 40-yard ball which enabled Andy Gray to score the winner. To this day, Andy told me he ‘read it’ and I told him to get knotted! I’m just glad he put it in with his left foot and not his right foot!”

Full Time: Nottingham Forest 0, Wolverhampton Wanderers 1. Two League Cup finals, two winners’ tankards.


Kenny was top scorer in the 1980 League Cup run and was within the elite group of four players who had played in both ‘74 and ‘80 finals, with Derek Parkin, Geoff Palmer and John Richards making up the quality quartet. “In the cup run we had a tough game at Grimsby and it took us three games to beat them. When we drew them we thought, ‘that’ll do’! They should have beaten us at Molineux and then the third game was at the Baseball Ground, Derby, on a really heavy pitch. We won a penalty and I had to take it. I stepped back, looked at the goal, looked at the mud and it slowed my run down but fortunately I scored.”

I asked Kenny how he thought he would fare on the billiard-table pitches of today. “Things have changed. The facilities, equipment, training grounds, surfaces, the balls. We used to try and find a good one at training as we were limited to how many good balls we trained with. We would have loved to have played on the pitches of today. Saying that, playing in the mud made me look quick!” The real question is, could the players of today have played on the pitches of yesteryear?

Wolves faced their nemesis Tottenham in the 1981 FA Cup semi-final at Hillsborough. Willie Carr, as cool as a cucumber, slotted home the penalty but there has always been speculation that Kenny took a dive to win the resulting spot kick. Surely not. Clive ‘The Book’ Thomas who officiated, certainly wouldn’t have tolerated theatrics in such an important fixture?

“Let’s get this cleared up for the 1000th time,” Kenny begins. I interjected. As a Wolves fan, I hope you did dive Kenny. “Nobody has ever come up to me and said what a great goal I scored that day. The ball came in from Wayne Clarke and Andy Gray was on the 18-yard box. He chested it down and I volleyed it in with my left foot and it screamed into the bottom corner. Nobody mentions that.

“In the last minute I went over from a tackle from Glenn Hoddle. It was a heavy pitch, I tried to get in the box with the ball so I could find an opening and have a strike on goal. I went past Steve Perryman and I didn’t do that very often, I was about to pull the trigger when Glenn Hoddle made a really good tackle from behind, scooped the ball off my feet and out for a corner and I fell over his back foot. I heard this cheer from all of our fans who were behind the goal and I though that’s one hell of a cheer for a corner! I’m on the floor, face down, John Richards came up to me and said ‘Hibby, Hibby get up, it’s a penalty. You’re taking it’! ‘I’m not taking that,’ I told him. It was the first penalty I bottled out of taking.”

Up stepped the calm and collected Wille Carr to the plate. “I roomed with Willie and I always used to say to him that if I ever feel I can’t take a penalty, will you take it? ‘Of course I will’ was always his reply. I never had any doubts he would put it in the net. Willie was such a calm player. He picked the ball up and put in with ease and all this after a delay as the Spurs players were complaining and surrounding Clive Thomas. It went into extra time and they were on their knees and that was the chance to take our fans to an FA Cup Final. We couldn’t get the goal, the replay was at Highbury, we never turned up and got battered 3-0.” Highbury, the neutral venue smack bang in between Tottenham and Wolverhampton.

“That was really unfair. Our fans had to travel to the other end of the country and they just went across town!”

Kenny still hadn’t answered my initial question. “It was a corner, never a penalty. I got a lot of stick after that game from the press. Barnwell told me not to speak to the nationals, just the locals. The next morning I got back home, picked up the paper and on the back pages the headline read: ‘Hibbitt – I dived.’” Kenny continued: “It made me feel sick. No way have I ever dived, I would never try and cheat anyone out of anything and reading that made my belly turn over. It was a really tough match and it spoilt all memories of the game for me.”

Kenny then felt the full force of the Spurs supporters. “I got some really nasty letters from Tottenham fans but they were only reacting to what they had read in the papers. The questions had been put to me by a reporter after the game. ‘Did you have to go down?’ I said ‘yes, I fell over his back foot’. ‘Did you know it was the last minute?’ Basically, they put two and two together and made seven. The next league game we played at Tottenham I ran out and got some stick from the fans. I was warming up in front of them so I pretended to trip up inside the box and they started laughing. I held my hands up, gesticulating to them that I didn’t dive. After the game I came out of the dressing room to walk down to the coach and there was a wall with about six or seven Tottenham fans waiting for me next to it. I thought, ‘well, this is it’. They came around me and I explained exactly what had happened and they forgave me and shook my hand.” Kenny was no cheat.

Kenny though would have dived at the chance of playing for his country, an honour which was never bestowed on him at full international level. He did win an England Under-23 cap and whilst still a huge honour it was a travesty that he didn’t play tens of times for his country given his ability and Wolves record in the 70’s. “I’ve always been an honest guy and I’ll give an honest answer. It never hurt me or got to me. The truth is, I would have been so proud to represent my country and I would have been the proudest man on the planet to win a full England cap. I was down to go on an England ‘B’ Tour and I broke my ankle and never got another look in. I was fortunate and happy to play for Wolves and be picked and selected for the club.” Wolves’ gain will always be England’s loss.


The 1981/82 season ended in relegation for Kenny and Wolves, and Kenny took a loan spell to America. “Ian Greaves was the manager at the time and as a player you don’t always know what’s going on behind the scenes. He had me in the office and he told me that he was hopefully here for the long term and wanted to build his team around myself and Willie. But he said there were real problems off the field and the club was struggling financially, so he suggested I got out as a lot was going on. ‘Why don’t you go and play in America?’ he said.

“I didn’t want to go as I thought America might be the place to go when I was 36 or 37. Ian Greaves to me was an honest guy and I knew something wasn’t quite right. There were options to go to Portland Timbers, Vancouver Whitecaps and Seattle Sounders. Steve Daley was already out there at Seattle and there was a scout / liaison officer in Wolverhampton who put me in touch with Alan Hinton. It was on, then off. We packed, then unpacked but we went across in the end. There were a lot of English players there but I didn’t know what was going to be happening at Wolves. It was a successful time, we won the league, the Soccerbowl final and I took all of my family, but all of the time I was thinking, ‘am I coming back to Wolves?… Will there be a Wolves’?”

The gold and black blood was still running through his veins but Kenny felt it best at the time to experience an American adventure as he really didn’t know what the future would hold at Molineux. “I found out that Derek Dougan was leading a consortium to take the club over and he called me to say he wanted me back. I couldn’t at the time as I was under contract. I had calls to go to other clubs too but I was gold and black through and through. When Derek took over I thought that at least there would be a club for me to come back to.”

Wolves had a new lease of life under the enigmatic Dougan and were sitting atop of the league when Kenny returned. “I came back in the September of 1982 and we were at the top of Division Two. There were a lot of young lads and they needed an experienced player so I signed for two years which took me through to 1984.”

The 1982/83 season ended in promotion with Wolves finishing runners up to Queens Park Rangers. But the 1983/84 campaign saw Wolves again relegated from the top flight, winning only six games all season and taking bottom place, 12 points adrift of Notts County. That was the start of three successive relegations. Nobody could halt the slide.

“It broke my heart to leave the club,” Kenny admits. “Tommy Docherty came in on a short-term basis and he knew I was leaving. He asked me if it was the money and I told him that money had never motivated me and I told him straight that it was the club that I was worried about.”

Kenny left the club in 1984 ending a 16-year stint which saw him don the old gold on no fewer than 574 occasions, rippling the net 114 times, a highly creditable record for a midfielder. Kenny, to date, is still the second highest appearance maker in the club’s history, but he had played the last of his 574 games.


Kenny, with reluctance, left Molineux and continued his playing career at Coventry City and Bristol Rovers and latterly managing Walsall and Cardiff City. “I followed my old manager John Barnwell at Walsall and enjoyed my time in management.” Later still, Kenny became a Premier League referees’ assessor. An unlikely job for somebody who spent many a Saturday afternoon in the ref’s ear as he sought to attain three points in a gold shirt at all costs.

Whilst still a player, Kenny had to endure the agony of watching the club he loved agonisingly almost slip into oblivion. “I watched Wolves go down and down and down and they were always in the back of my mind. I did apply for the manager’s job when it became available. I had an interview with the Bhatti brothers and they were really nice, kind and positive people, though I didn’t get the job! They clearly didn’t think I was good enough.”

It led to a ‘what if’ moment. “It was always in my mind to one day get the job but it never happened.” Things, as they say, do happen for a reason and we have all seen great players who have been revered by clubs come back to manage them in a fairy-tale moment for circumstances beyond their control to spoil any chances of a happy ending. Kenny, I am sure, would have done a great job but with the club at the time in dire financial straits, it wouldn’t have been fair for him to shoulder that burden. Wolves though, did eventually turn the corner.

“What Graham Turner, Bully (Steve Bull), Mutchy (Andy Mutch) and Thommo (Andy Thompson) did to help to take the club to where it is now was amazing. Graham Turner should have been given a medal for what he did.”

Kenny is still a Wolves man. In 2011 he received his greatest honour and was inducted into the prestigious Hall of Fame. “It’s something I would never have dreamt of when I joined Wolves back in November 1968. It was a wonderful night, my family were present and I remember looking down from the stage at my daughter who had tears in her eyes and it got me going.” A tear was never far away from the passionate Hibbitt family.

Kenny then finished: “It was the best 16 years of my life playing for Wolves.”

At that point I could hear Kenny’s voice begin to break. I had got enough out of him and just as he was as a player, he gave his all and left nothing behind. After the tape had stopped recording Kenny paused and said: “Wow, that’s brought it all back. I think I need a beer now.”

Kenny you deserve every privilege that comes your way. Thank you for giving the best seasons of your life to Wolves.

Jason Guy, Always Wolves Fan TV


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