|I am a Villa fan, and
have no great love for Wolves. But Billy Wright
transcended club loyalties. He was a different class,
both as a footballer and as a man. I once met him at a
charity function just after he had been named England
captain. I told him that the only thing wrong with him
was that he was wearing the wrong colour shirt. I would
loved to have seen him in a claret and blue shirt, but
his heart was always with Wolves and, for that, all
Molineux fans should be eternally grateful. What amazed
me when I met him is how short he was. When watching him
play for England I thought he was at least six foot tall.
He continued to give me his time even after I had
confessed that I was a Villa man, and we had a pleasant
chat during which I discovered that he did not have a
shred of arrogance. What a lovely man. Good luck with the
book. It will be the only Wolves tome allowed on my
JOHN ALDER Birmingham
I first saw Billy Wright play when I was nine years old in the 1950s. I used to stand on the South Bank at Molineux before later paying two guineas (£2 2s) for a season ticket in the North Bank stand. He was always a credit to football and to Wolves, and made such an impression on me that I decided to play centre-half at school in Willenhall. In my imagination I was Billy Wright, but I could never approach his ability. They don't breed them like Billy any more. I never once saw him retaliate, and this was in the days when the game had a lot more physical contact than now. I will always remember his performance for Wolves against Honved. He was just magnificent. I consider it a privilege to have seen him play.
BRIAN BANKS Walsall
Billy never, in my opinion, got sufficient credit for what he achieved as manager at my club, Arsenal. They sacked him just as he had laid the foundations to what grew into the Double side of 1970-71. I once asked Frank McLintock how he rated Billy as a manager, and he said: "I owe him a lot because he brought me to Highbury, but to be honest he was too nice to be a manager. You have to have a ruthless streak, but Billy would blame himself rather than the players when things were going wrong." Too nice? That can't be bad to have that being said behind your back. I doubt if England has ever had a more loyal player. To paraphrase Churchill, Billy gave blood, sweat and tears for his country.
ARNOLD STOCK Hendon London NW
As an Albion supporter as a youngster it was expected and ingrained that you should hate Wolves. After all they had stopped Albion winning the double in 1954, and as far as William Ambose was concerned, well he'd stopped Joe Kennedy from winning England caps hadn't he? In the late sixties I became secretary of the Walsall Junior Youth League, in the days when all sporting organisations held an annual Dinner and Dance, a selling point of which would be the attendance of a well-known after-dinner speaker. One year I wrote to Billy, who was then Head of Sport at ATV, and asked him if he would do us the honours. He wrote back and said yes, and to ring him a few days before the event to confirm arrangements.
When I telephoned, probably three months or so since the exchange of letters, I was put straight through to him. "I'm at the television studios until 6-30," he said. "Do you think you could pick me up, then you can tell me a bit about your organisation on the way, and tell me if there is anything specifically you would like me to talk about." Well, I was there at the studios, he wasn't ready and I started panicking (250 tickets sold with his name on), but he came through at about 6-50 and I cut a dash for Walsall for the "7-30 for 8-00" start of our function. When we arrived there wasn't any time to do much more than introduce him to my committee, put a drink in his hand and sit him down. But already you could sense the "buzz" occasioned by his presence.
He gave a good address after the meal, and then came the traditional autograph session. Everybody wanted his signature, some several on different documents. I was shepherding people into an orderly queue as he signed time and time again, sweat pouring from his brow, to such an extent that after about 20 minutes I said to everyone that that would have to be it, Billy had signed enough. "Its OK Roger" he said, "I'll only start complaining the day that people don't want me to sign!"
I left the function around 11-30 to return Billy to his midweek flat in Edgbaston. He stayed there Monday to Friday, returning to London and Joy at week-ends. I had always asked our guests what I owed them for their "expenses" in attending our events, always with just a little trepidation as we did not have the sort of funds to pay anything remotely representing a commercial fee. When I broached the tender subject with him, he got very annoyed. "Don't get me wrong" he said,"if you were making a commercial advantage through my presence, I would want my cut. But you have picked me up, provided me with a nice meal, I have learnt a lot about your organisation which to be frank I really hardly knew existed before, and I have met some wonderful people. I do not want anything from you. And if you want me to do something similiar for you in the future, pick up the telephone and if I can oblige, I will".
About three years later, I had taken on the role of secretary of the Walsall Referees Association. Again, an annual Dinner and Dance was a feature of the social calendar. Our guest speaker would generally be a top flight referee, and we had had the likes of Jack Taylor etc.. With literally 48 hours to go before the event, my guest cried off, and I spent the whole of the day at work on the telephone trying everywhere to get a similiar replacement, without success. At my wits end, I remembered Billy's offer to help me. I telephoned the television studios in Birmingham, spoke to his secretary, and was put through to him straight away. "I don't know if you remember me ..." I started to say, and he interrupted by saying, "Of course I remember you Roger, a great night in Walsall, what can I do for you?"
"To be totally honest, Bill," I said, "I've been let down and desperately need an after-dinner speaker for tomorrow night. "Fair enough," came the response, "you know the score. Pick me up at the studios and run me back afterwards, and I'll do it for you. I said I would come again if you wanted me to."
It wasn't until after I had put the phone down that I realised that I hadn't told him that it wasn't the same organisation as previously, so I decided to leave that little gem until I picked him up. He didn't mind that it was referees rather then youth football people that he would be addressing, but he had "had a bad day at the office" because there was a dispute at the time between the television company and cameramen over the number of crew that should go out for interviews during the week. As Head of Sport he was in the middle of it.
Fuelled, I think, by his frustration over his dispute problems, he chose to have a go at my referees audience for booking players for timewasting, which was quite prevalent at the time. "Why keep booking them ?" he said, "Just stop your watch and add the time on. A few games of being there until quarter past five and they'll soon stop it!"
Needless to say, because it was Billy, he got away with it. On the way back to Birmingham, he said, "I hope I didn't upset any of your colleagues with my theme tonight. Actually I believe in what I said, although some of them probably thought I was joking. Anyway, thanks for the night out, and by the way, before you ask, no, you don't owe me any expenses."
Sorry to be so long-winded, but I think these two little stories sum up William Ambrose Wright, a gentleman of the first order.
ROGER CRUTCHLEY Walsall born, dual Walsall - WBA fan
I am sixteen and have learned so much about Billy Wright from your brilliant site. I shall tell all my mates. Bully was my great hero, but I don't think he was anything quite like Billy. He must have been very very special.