HE MAY have been gone very nearly twenty years now, but Wolves fans' affection for Billy Wright remains, undimmed by the passage of time.
Billy has had a very high profile in Bugle Sport over recent months, and this week Michael Sampson of Kingswinford pays tribute to him, recalling a meeting with him which was to stay with him for the rest of his life. Michael writes:
"I also have two of Billy's books. One is Billy Wright's Book of Soccer, which is an annual dated Christmas 1959, and the other is Billy's Football is my Passport, published in 1957. My copy was by way of a First Class Sunday School prize from Canal Street Methodist Sunday School in Tipton, presented in February 1958.
"I have been a lifelong Wolves fan, having seen my first match in 1952, and this will be my 62nd season – fifty years as a season ticket holder.
"I was privileged to have met Billy Wright on a number of occasions. My first memory was as an 11 year old. Back in the fifties you travelled to most away matches by train, and sometimes on the same train as the players. One of the rituals then was for the youngsters to line up outside Wolverhampton High Level Station and wait for the players to arrive to catch the train. The ritual was for you to hopefully be handed the player's boots in their brown case, walk with the players, and then hand them back once the player was on the train.
"On one occasion when travelling to a game at Bolton, I was lucky enough for Billy Wright to hand me his boots; we walked to the train and then I handed them back to him. For a very young lad that was a tremendous highlight, to actually get Billy's boots and walk alongside him to the train. I talked about that for months, and it remains a wonderful memory for me.
"On another occasion I met Billy at a sportsman's evening. He spoke about his career, players he had played with and against. He then said that he had played all those games for England, and he was best remembered for two. The World Cup game against USA in 1950, when England lost 1-0, and against Hungary in 1953, when England lost 6-3. This proved without doubt that Billy had a great sense of humour.
"To me Billy Wright was the complete professional footballer, and a first class ambassador throughout his whole career for his club and his country. Billy was, is, and always will be my all time footballing hero. He was a true sportsman in every sense of the word; he never ever refused to give someone his autograph, and he would occasionally sign two at the same time, because he was ambidextrous.
"Billy Wright played all of his club games at the highest level, with 541 post-war league and cup games, plus 113 war time games, giving over 650 club games in total. He played 109 internationals, with 105 full international caps for England, then a world record for a footballer, and he also captained England for a then-record of 90 internationals.
"In my opinion he was one of the greatest players to serve his club, and indeed ever to play for England. Throughout his illustrious career he was never sent off, or even cautioned. What an achievement when you consider he played against some of the best post-war centre forwards. John Charles, Trevor Ford, Bobby Smith and Tommy Taylor to name a few.
"The one significant achievement and accolade that eluded Billy, for some unexplainable reason, was the a knighthood for his outstanding contribution to post-war football in England, and throughout the world. He should have been the first knight of football. I always thought it to be an insult to such a great player and a wonderful man.
"Memories of Billy will never fade as long as there is a Wolverhampton Wanderers. Thanks Billy for such wonderful, never to be forgotten memories."
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