What’s your earliest childhood memory? I’m not sure if it’s because I’ve consumed far too much alcohol over the years, but I can’t remember a great deal, I’ve got to be honest. So, when the opportunity came up to write up about ‘my footballing genesis’, I was only too keen. As the story goes, my earliest childhood memory is also my first football game. Well, what I believe was my first football game, anyway. It will soon be the twentieth anniversary of that game. The two teams? Wolverhampton Wanderers & Stockport County. August 1998. Being a Wolves fan, you’ll find that I will be saying ‘we’ and ‘us’ rather than saying Wolves, sorry folks, it is what it is. What I remember about that game isn’t crystal clear, nonetheless, two players made that day what it was for me; Fernando Gomez & Robbie Keane.
If you look at the direction that both clubs have taken since that day, it’s rather incredible. Wolves are preparing for a season in the Premier League and Stockport are readying themselves for another season in the National League North. This isn’t the time or the place to look over the differing fortunes, it’s time to remember. I’d be lying if I was to tell you that I could remember every little detail about the day, that’s not what it’s all about though, is it?
People. People everywhere. Getting off the train with the old man and then moving to outside the station, there were so many people! I’d never seen anything like it. For those that haven’t been to Molineux, if you walk one way to the ground, you pass under a subway. It now brings you out next to nothing bar the South Bank and the Steve Bull stand, once upon a time though, it was different. Back in ‘98, there was a pub either side as you came out the subway. The Wanderer on your left, The Feathers on your right. Before them, you have people selling programmes and other memorabilia and then something that will never leave me. The smell.
Nowadays, you’ve got a variety of options if you want a pre-match snack, back then, you had three options pretty much in terms of food. Burger, hot dog or chips. Take your pick. To this day, I haven’t had a better hot dog than the one you get from Mr Sizzle. I may well have had one that day, I couldn’t tell you! It might explain my adoration for hot dogs on the whole, if I’m out having a bite to eat and they’ve got a hot dog on the menu, I’m picking that, no questions asked.
One thing that does gripe me ever so slightly is that I can’t recall what stand we were in. We were definitely in the upper tier on the side, whether it was the John Ireland (now the Steve Bull) or Billy Wright stand, I’m not certain. My gut tells me it was the John Ireland. Yes, I could ask my Dad – where’s the fun in that? I like trying to play things off what I can remember rather than anyone else. Be prepared for a few errors, no doubt. We were sat in line with the centre circle and the roar when the teams came out the tunnel will always stick with me. Raucous is the best word I can use to describe it.
The late, great Dean Richards gave us an early lead which is news to me. I knew the game finished 2-2, could I tell you who scored our first? Not a chance. Could I tell you how it went in? Get outta town! Not a chance. Thanks to an Independent article, I’ve established that it was a relatively straightforward goal for Richards. It’s weird how the mind works, isn’t it? In complete contrast to the opening goal, I remember our second goal like it was yesterday.
Fernando Gomez took the ball on his chest before unleashing a wicked volley which left Carlo Nash no chance whatsoever. In Nash’s defence, he did dive for it, there was no stopping it, though. It flew into the top corner and the whole stadium erupted for the second time that afternoon. My memory of the goal is that vivid, I was adamant that I must’ve watched it back on Youtube or something like that, but there’s no copy of it, so my memory must be that good. In the interest of transparency, I must stress that I didn’t know it was Carlo Nash in goal, once again, the Independent article told me so. Fernando Gomez is a name I’ll never forget, mind. If I ever forget the goal, I’ll know that I’m on the way out of life.
Anyway, in typical Wolves fashion, we conceded a goal either side of halftime. If you think I’ve got some blasting memories of Stockport scoring either of their goals, you’re mistaken. Undoubtedly, poor marking from a set piece would have probably had something to do with. You can guarantee it. Looking back on the actual result now, it was an awful game to drop points in and ultimately, it cost us at the end of the season as we finished one place outside the playoffs. I’m not entirely sure how many times we’ve finished outside the playoffs by one position, it’s got to be some sort of record, though.
While it may sound strange saying it today, Wolves fans weren’t overjoyed with the draw against Stockport, however, there wasn’t any anger in the air, either. If that happened in the FA Cup this year, I’d expect full-blown riots. Putting the potential riots to one side for one minute, let me tell you what happened after the game. Or what I think happened. Or dreamt. The more I think about it, the more I think it’s probably a figment of my imagination. Robbie Keane put his thumb up to me after the game. I’m not joking. One can only imagine that my Dad kept shouting “Robbie, Robbie, Robbie” at the top of his voice until he got a reaction. Who knows? I certainly don’t.
Bizarre is the word I’m after – I can picture the thumbs up as clear as day. The events leading up to it? Nothing. After it? Not a thing.
It was a momentous occasion in my life, Robbie Keane putting his thumb up to me. Seeing Wolves play. Fernando Gomez scoring that goal. Hopefully, it will be a day that remains with me forever and a day. If I forget it, I’ll just look this article up. Job’s a goodun.
My plan is to bring you one of these each Sunday. They won’t all be personal experiences, but they will all be Wolves related. Don’t like it. Tough luck!
Until the next time.