TALES FROM THE TAPE
TERRY WHARTON - LIKE FATHER LIKE SON
BY JASON GUY
I arrived at Terry Wharton’s humble abode that he shares with his lovely wife Sue in the idyllic village of Brewood. His porch adorned with two framed pictures, one of himself, proudly in a Wolves kit and one of his father Johnny, in a Blackburn Rovers kit.
As I sat down and was greeted by Charlie the dog, another framed picture caught my eye. “Biscuits with this tea Jase?” asked Terry. I couldn’t help but be mesmerised by the picture on the wall of the 1963/64 Wolves side, it was like looking through a window of Terry’s past. The strong Northern voice echoed from the kitchen: “Most of them have gone now Jase.”
To put Terry at ease from that statement I told him how well he looked. “No, don’t say that,” he replied. “Me and my mates have a joke that everybody who gets told that, well, something happens. You usually end up in your coffin.”
Terry was doing well. Born in wartime, on 1st July 1942 to proud parents, I asked what it was like growing up in a household with your father as a professional footballer. “My father was a pro at Preston, Man City and Blackburn amongst other clubs. Watching him made me want to be a footballer. There was no pressure from him though. I remember an early Christmas I got bought an Arsenal shirt, a case ball which I got every year and nuts and chocolate in my stocking.”
It was certainly humble beginnings for Terry but he was following in good footsteps. “I watched my Dad play in the FA Cup semi-final in 1952. I went to the replay at Hillsborough. I was nine years of age and school let me have the day off.” Terry continued to get lost in those stories. “He went to Plymouth from Bolton when he was 14, on a steam train. He lost his mother, my grandmother, when he was just eight, so it was tough for him. He made his league debut against West Brom at 17 in the Second Division and scored twice. I made my debut at 19 in the First Division and scored one. I used to ask my Mam who had the best record?. ‘Your husband who scored twice against West Brom or your son who scored on his debut in the big league’? She always pointed at me.”
Fond memories for a young Terence Wharton who was making waves of his own as a young boy growing up on the streets of Bolton where he had been born and bred. “I remember a school game. We were winning 14-0 at half time and I had scored 11. The teacher blew the whistle and refused to bring the kids out for the second half. I know what Mr Cullis would have said, he’d have told me I should have scored 12.”
It was a standing joke. The great Stan Cullis only expected the best from his players and the young protégé Wharton was no different, but more about that later. “I first went to Notts County who were managed by Tommy Lawton who was a Bolton chap. He knew my father and at first Dad had sent my mate down but not me as he didn’t think I was ready. I got sent there three months later. Tony Hateley and Jeff Astle were on the ground staff at the time at Notts County but then Tommy got sacked and I came home. I then got spotted by a Wolves scout, George Noakes, and I went on trial at Castlecroft on a Wednesday evening.”
Mr Stan Cullis was the manager of Wolves at the time and they had been winning everything. A young Terry was in awe as he arrived at the club and wasn’t quite sure how he was going to fit in as he had big boots to fill. “The season prior to me arriving they had won the league championship. Then the following year they won the FA Cup, two amateur leagues, the Worcester Combination, the Birmingham League, the Birmingham Senior Cup and the Central League. They had six teams and were winning everything and I thought to myself, ‘I’ve got no chance here’.” The gauntlet was down.
Terry arrived as a young man, in an unfamiliar town and was up against it from the start. “I got off the train in my little Gabardine mac with my little case and I remember walking down from the station, through the old market and down Molineux Alley. I walked across the creaking wooden floors into the dressing room and looked at the teams on the wall. Jimmy Mullen and Norman Deeley were the wingers in the first team, Des Horne and Gerry Mannion in the reserves, Cliff Durandt in the third team, Alan Hinton in the fourth. Then there were two amateur teams and I had been put in one of those. I thought to myself ‘how can I get up from here, through six teams with such big squads’?”
Terry needn’t have worried. He was about to climb the ranks quickly and within two years made his debut in the first team. “I got told on the Thursday that I was making my debut. I nearly missed it as the week before I had been playing in the reserves against a player called Ronnie Fenton. I kicked him during the game and he took a swipe at me. Luckily, I ducked. If he’d have connected or I’d have hit him back, I could have been suspended!”
It was the 1961/62 season. Fortunately, the serene and tranquil Wharton had shown no sign of retaliation that day and made his debut on 17th November, 1961. Ipswich Town were the opponents and Terry was 19 years of age. In his still thick, northern accent, Terry told me: “I scored with my head that day. It were lovely. It were brilliant! My mate Alan Hinton scored the other goal. There was no better feeling than running out in front of that crowd. Ipswich won the league that year and they had a good side. After that, I never looked back.”
I impressed on Terry that he had a fantastic goalscoring record for a winger. Scoring a credible 79 times in 242 appearances, giving better than a one in four return. “I made a lot of goals too and they didn’t count assists back then.” Terry is certainly proud of his achievements and rightly so.
It was ‘Mr Cullis’ that gave a young Terry his bow in league football. Mr Wharton had only good things to say about the man he respected so much. At first he referred to him as Stan but corrected himself quickly as if he was back in the dressing room. “Stan… Mr Cullis was frightening. Even Ron Flowers and Peter Broadbent were scared of him. In training, if the trainer came up to you and said Mr Cullis wants to see you, you’d think, oh dear me. If it was before training you would feel sick whilst you were training. I had big respect for him.”
Not even a hat-trick in a local derby against West Bromwich Albion could save him from the wrath of the manager. “I scored three against the Albion and on the following Monday I was told that Mr Cullis wanted to see me. It was our day off and I was due to be playing golf but I had to report to Molineux to see Mr Cullis. I had got all the headlines in the Wolverhampton Pink and the Sunday papers and I wasn’t sure if anything was wrong. When I got to the ground he said: ‘I could have scored those three goals’. He brought me right back down to earth!”
Mr Cullis clearly liked to keep the team on their toes. Arguably, our most successful manager had a method to his madness and always liked to assert his authority and stay one step ahead. “I remember one game when we were playing in the Worcester Combination out in Malvern. It was an evening game and we were 2-0 down at half time and I was having my cup of tea. He called me into the corner and threatened to send me back home to Bolton. He told me that he was writing to my Dad and I was being sent back home. It must have worked as we won 3-2 and I scored two and made one.”
This chilling message resonated deep with Terry and it had a profound effect. “It just hurt me. I couldn’t eat my meal after the game and cried my eyes out on the night when I got back to my digs. I just didn’t want to let my parents down or let Wolves down. The next morning I turned up at the Molineux to sweep the stands as there had been a first team game at the weekend. I kept looking over towards the main door to see if Mr Cullis was going to come out or send for me. It never happened.”
Terry made an impact almost instantly after being blooded into the first team. He scored 11 goals in his first 25 games but he had a tough act to follow. “Me and Alan Hinton were following Johnny Hancocks and Jimmy Mullen – now they are legends! I didn’t feel any pressure though if I am honest. The wingers in those days at Molineux were hard trainers and powerful players and that’s what we worked on day in, day out. Mr Cullis would get the pitch watered before games so the opposition couldn’t play against you but we trained like it every day so we knew what to expect.”
The remnants of that glorious team from the late 1950’s were ageing. Wharton was part of the new breed, the new up and coming talent which was to serve the expectant crowd that had been spoilt for over a decade. Wolves had always had good wingers in the good sides, so the levels of belief had continued to rise. Terry knew what was expected of him and he had to deliver to his team-mates and to the supporters who had been richly entertained during the glory years of the Fifties.
“I remember the Doog’s (Derek Dougan) home debut. We beat Hull City 4-0 and Derek scored a hat-trick and Peter Knowles got the other. Me and Waggy (Dave Wagstaffe) were on the wings that day and all four crosses came from us. Two from me, two from Waggy. That was our job. Derek Dougan came over at the end of the game and said ‘thank you very much’. Playing with somebody up front like the Doog made my job so much easier as a winger.”
Terry turned the clock back and his memory was still as sharp as his crossing once was. “I remember Eddie Clamp playing against Arsenal. It was just before I made my debut and Vic Groves was the Arsenal captain. Eddie stuck the nut on him and everybody in the crowd saw it except the referee. The following week Eddie left for Arsenal and Vic was his captain. You couldn’t write it.”
Terry then reeled off the names that were still fresh in his memory as if it were only yesterday. “My debut side was Finlayson, Stuart, Harris. Clamp, Slater, Flowers who were the England half back line. Myself, Mason, Murray, Broadbent and Hinton.” Not one pause for breath, not a glance up to the photo. “What a team! It was a shame really as 18 months later the great players were getting to the back end of their careers.”
As much as Terry says he didn’t feel the pressure there must have been a weight of responsibility on his young shoulders. His debut season of 1961/62 saw them narrowly escape relegation from the top flight. A fantastic season ensued in 1962/63 as Wolves finished fifth under Cullis. The 1963/64 season saw them dip into the bottom half of the table and 1964/65 ended in relegation. The following season Wolves finished sixth in the Second Division until they bounced back with promotion in 1966/67.
“I went through a spell where I never won anything, just promotion from the Second Division in 1966/67,” says Wharton. “We were a very young side that needed rebuilding. We had five or six teenagers in the starting eleven – usually myself, Bobby Thompson, Freddy Goodwin, Dave Woodfield and Alan Hinton.”
Terry’s articulate memory continued to amaze me. There was me relying on reference books and internet sources to conduct the interview and Terry was spot on every time, never missing a beat. “During the 1962/63 season we went to Tottenham. They had Jimmy Greaves and Danny Blanchflower playing and were a great side. There were 61,000 in White Hart Lane that day. It was a midweek game and they absolutely hammered us. We won 2-1 with me and Chris Crowe scoring. They had a big 6ft 6’ centre half called Maurice Norman. He used to take his teeth out and be left with two fangs. Mr Cullis told me to stand in front of him when they have a corner and to make sure he doesn’t run. Well I’m 5ft 7’ so there wasn’t a lot I could do! You tried your best for Mr Cullis and gave your all.”
It was a great start to Terry’s first full season. “We went 11 games unbeaten at the start of that season. We were third at the time when we played Spurs who were sitting top and Everton were second. I remember getting on the low-level platform to travel down to London for the game and Everton were on the same train as they were playing Leyton Orient that evening. Orient, who finished bottom that season, battered Everton 3-0 and our win over Spurs meant we went top.
“A few games later we were playing Bolton away at Burnden Park, my hometown club. It was a Saturday night and I gave my Dad all of my 25 tickets as my family were coming to watch me. I gave them to him at the door outside. I then got a knock on the dressing room door a few minutes later as he needed more. I saw the Bolton manager Bill Ridding who I knew and he said he would do his best to get me some more. I got another 15 tickets and gave them to my Dad. There were 40 members of my family there. To cut a long story short, I had a stinker and we lost 3-0 to get knocked off the top. We beat them at home later in the season 4-0 and I scored so that made up for it a little bit.”
Terry had an almost encyclopaedic memory that fascinated me. I had conducted thorough research for the interview but I needn’t have bothered as Terry was laden with the facts. It was about to get better and Terry needed little prompting when he was in full flow. He recalled the players he played with and against. “Terry Cooper was a great left back. He was quick and always used to tell me to try and knock it past him. Don Megson, Gary’s dad, was another big tough lad. I always enjoyed a battle against a full back.”
Then there were those who he never got to play with. “I cleaned Billy Wright’s boots and he still owes me 50p! I saw his daughter Vicky recently at a function and I told her that her dad still owes me 10 bob for my Christmas box. I played in Billy’s testimonial at Molineux and was only 17 at the time. What a great man he was! In later years when he worked at ITV he called me and asked me to help him judge a beauty contest at Walsall Town Hall. Of course, I was delighted to help. It was an easy job to be fair. You picked the ladies then got half a lager for your troubles and a bunch of flowers to take home to the missus and soften the blow!” Gentlemen will be gentlemen.
“Billy told me that when he was at Arsenal he tried to sign me. It wasn’t like it is now, it wouldn’t make the paper so the players or fans would never find out. Going to a London club back then may have got me an England Under-23 cap. I’ll never know.”
It was my turn to tell a story. Terry had mentioned a player, Cliff Durandt. I recalled a story to Terry of when I was young and I had been to Molineux to collect autographs in the late 1980’s. Standing in the Waterloo Road foyer whilst waiting for players to return from training, in walked through a portly gentleman. Me and my friends with autograph books in hand waved them in-front of him in jest. That man politely told us that he was Cliff Durandt and went on to tell us the story of when he played for Wolves in the late 1950’s and early 1960’s and that he was at Molineux to bring a player on trial. We didn’t know what to believe so got his autograph anyway… and we are glad we did.
I looked up at the photo hanging up on Terry’s wall of that great 1960’s side. Terry was sitting in between Joe Gardiner and Bobby Thompson. I naturally asked him if it brought back great memories. “It certainly does Jase. It brings back a lot of memories. If truth be told it all went very quick and passed me by. It’s only now that I appreciate playing at Old Trafford and the like when I see it on TV. It flies by, it really does. One week I played three times in front of 50,000 crowds. You just played the game and did your job.”
Seeing the picture on the wall that clearly held great memories I asked Terry if he had kept any memorabilia from his playing days that he looks back on nostalgically. “I could have saved my programmes and I didn’t. We would keep one shirt for all the season, not like they do now. Our training shirts were the old shirts that they had played against Spartak and Honved in. You used to run into training to grab one off the table as soon as you got there. Jack Dowen had a skip full of the old kit so you would need to get in early to get the best gear. I would get in at 9.45 and sign in, but if you wanted socks without holes you would have to get in at 9.15! If you had good socks, you felt good training.”
I couldn’t help thinking that things were so much simpler back then. Terry continued: “I would drive to Bolton after a game on Saturday to see my family. I would sometimes come back on the Sunday or the Monday morning. The Monday morning drive wasn’t great as the motorway only went so far then as it was all the A-roads. You would do well to get socks with no holes in on those days!”
Terry recalled the journey to becoming a professional. “As an apprentice our jobs were to sweep the stands in the morning then train in the afternoon. We would train at Aldersley on Tuesday and Thursday doing power running and never really did much ball work believe it or not under Mr Cullis. We would also train at Castlecroft and Milford Common.
“Mr Cullis would come out in his cream coloured tracksuit and play in the six-a-side games. You couldn’t get near him as you didn’t want to kick him. Our diet would be whatever the landlady in digs or your mam made for you. The pre-match meal was usually fillet steak on toast and the night before a game I would have steak and chips and three rounds of bread and butter! Before a game there would always be at least half a bottle of Scotch in the trainer’s room. You would have a sip or a tot as we would call it before you went out to warm yourself up.” That simply wouldn’t happen today. I am just glad it did once happen for those fortunate enough to have enjoyed that generation.
I asked Terry if March 16th, 1963, rang any bells with his exceptional memory. It certainly did. Terry had been dining out on this story for years. “We played West Brom at Molineux, won 7-0 and I scored a hat-trick. I was only 21. I still live on that memory now. If I walk into a pub and see a supporter from that era they will still buy me a pint. I think that I was the first Wolves player to score a hat-trick in a Black Country derby. I’ll take that. Everything went right for me that day and none of the goals were penalties. There were a couple of tap-ins though.” They all count Terry.
Terry remained humble about this story, until he was offered a pint. Whilst on the subject of penalties I reminded Terry of his incredible record that was a reported 43 scored out of 44 taken and that he was the third most successful in league history. “No that’s wrong,” he replied. “I didn’t score that many and I certainly never missed one, not in England anyway. I missed one against Aberdeen in the States.”
I asked Terry his secret. “Hit it hard and put it in the corner. I used to make my mind up straightaway and pick my corner. I always stuck to it and was never in two minds. They were heavy footballs back then too especially if they were soaked with rain. If I hit one of today’s footballs from the penalty spot at Molineux you would find it in Bushbury!”
A story was never too far away. “I remember Lofty’s (Phil Parkes) debut against Preston at Molineux. It was 2-2 and a penalty had come in the last minute. I had been the regular taker after taking the job off Ron Flowers. I remember stepping up that day, scoring and the ball ended up in the crowd and they held onto it. It must have been the 98th minute before it came back and I joked with Ron Flowers that he had bottled it by letting me take it!”
As the years went by, the names of the legends changed and more friends for life were made. “Along came Mike Bailey, Derek Dougan, Dave Wagstaffe, who was my golf partner, and Peter Knowles. Peter was in digs with me when he first came and I would room with him at away games and pre-season. I spent eight weeks with him in Los Angeles once and three weeks in the Caribbean. I knew Peter inside out. He was a class player and he knew it. I was at Bolton when he packed it in at 23. There’s a lot of things I can’t mention.”
I didn’t press Terry for any more on the subject. I did though remind him that following Peter’s tender retirement to become a Jehovah’s Witness that Wolves had reportedly kept his registration until 1982 in the hope he would change his mind and return to football. He didn’t.
Terry’s time at Wolves would soon come to an end too. Terry left Wolves in November 1967 for his hometown club Bolton Wanderers who paid £60,000 for his services and he went on to represent the Lilywhites over 100 times. The move for Terry was bittersweet. “I wished I hadn’t have gone. I asked to leave and in my last home game we beat Arsenal 3-2 and I had a cracking game. The crowd had started to get on my back and if I shot wide they booed me. If the Doog shot wide they clapped as he was theatrical with his expressions when he missed. I had been there a long time and in the end they weren’t an easy crowd to play in front of. I played my best football at Wolves and they say never go back to your hometown club. Well I did. I was injured after eight games and out for ten weeks and the local papers called me a crock.”
January 1971 saw a long awaited move to the smoke where he joined Crystal Palace. “That was a good move, I only scored one goal for them when I chipped Gordon Banks against Stoke at Selhurst Park. There were a few bad games though. One was against Manchester United and we lost 5-0. It was the only time I had been subbed off in my life and Kenneth Wolstenholme was commentating on the game on Match of the Day. The camera followed me around the ground as I left the field. George Best scored six that day but three were disallowed. They were the best side I played against. Bestie, Denis Law and Bobby Charlton, all great players. Then I went to Durban City in South Africa. Johnny Haynes asked me if I fancied going over. I asked the wife to guess where we would be going to next? She said Brighton, Charlton, Leyton Orient. I said ‘No, Durban’! I had a great time there but the wife got homesick. It wouldn’t have been so bad but she was born in Cape Town!”
It was then time to come back to England and make Wolverhampton his home, but it was tough at first. “I came back to nothing. The weather was freezing and I thought ‘what have I done’? I was at Walsall, then Kidderminster, and have made the Midlands my home ever since. After I finished playing I got a job at Coopers Road Services and became player manager at Darlaston as the same man owned them both. I then worked at Lucas Aerospace for 11 years and drove taxis for Central for 20 years. I have never lost my accent though and I don’t want to!”
Terry’s era has now gone and a lot has been left behind. He had taken me on an amazing journey of his life and the impressions were still clear in his mind. “The memories were great and they can never be taken away. I still get recognised and like to talk football and without people like you Jason, I wouldn’t get chance to go to these dinners and meet up with my old team-mates.” I reminded Terry that we were the lucky ones. His humility had shone through during the interview.
Terry had one final tale for me. He had to fit it in as I had clearly outstayed my welcome and he was due a crafty cigarette. Terry reached for the packet. “Waggy used to smoke Park Drive. At a quarter to three he would go to the toilet on a match day and wink at me. He would then come out at ten to three and wink again. That was my cue to smoke the other half of the cigarette that he had left for me… then I would go and score a hat-trick against the Albion!”