Writing a tribute about Sir Jack Hayward OBE should be the easiest task in the world for a Wolves fan like me.
Doing justice to Sir Jack Hayward at the same time is an entirely different proposition altogether.
For all the eulogies over the past fortnight about our most lovable owner of all, none seem to have hit the spot in quite the way he touched my heart.
While daily news snippets about his selfless, humble and generous nature are welcome, they say nothing that I didn’t already know.
Then there’s those endless reflections upon 2003, and a condensing of his entire legacy into one hazy Bank Holiday in Cardiff and a solitary season in the Premier League thereafter.
Maybe this will be Sir Jack’s enduring legacy. And if an epitaph has already been written, then maybe it will allude to that sunny day in May when his thumbs were in the air.
That’s not how I’ll remember him. No thanks all the same.
I’d been a Wolves fan for three years when Sir Jack Hayward stood on the South Bank terrace with us Lost Souls and embarked upon a journey to define my adolescent years.
Looking back, one year in the top flight for all he invested was absolutely criminal, so while a vision of his beaming smile in the Millennium Stadium will be conjured in the minds of many, it won’t mine.
When 17th placed PL finishes are celebrated like an FA Cup final win; when Phil Brown grabs a microphone to sing about such failure from the rooftops, Sir Jack Hayward always gave us something way more wholesome – however ill-fated so much of it became.
Sir Jack Hayward gave me aspiration.
During the time he presided over our once kamikaze club, impossible meant absolutely nothing as he instilled a genuine belief that we could eventually conquer the world. Isn’t that, above a trip to Cardiff or a season in the Premier League, what being a football fan is all about?
He appointed an ex-England manager, brought a colossus cult hero called de Wolf and even induced some (initially embarrassing) fist pumping between me and Dad at the school gates, when Dad ran through my throng of nonplussed friends to tell me we’d signed Don Goodman.
‘The Shit will be stewing over this one!’ Dad squealed.
When I think of Sir Jack, I think of these times and I smile with such blissful happiness that my eyes begin to water.
Dad and I would attend each and every Anglo Italian Cup game because they genuinely meant something back then. For a glimpse of David Kelly. For a look at our ‘Molineux Wear’ kit under lights.
We’d drive to Molineux to watch midweek league games on our ‘seamless’ video walls on some fangled technology called beam-back, from a vantage point so obscured in the freezing John Ireland Stand that we genuinely couldn’t see a thing!
Me and Dad even revelled in an Andy Ritchie-inspired thrashing at Oldham on Boxing Day (1-4) with 5,000 others, because we knew it was a hiccup. It would still get the nationals talking and we had a great day out!
Back then, every game, every detail and every movement that Sir Jack ever made mattered, because of his great intentions. We aspired. We dreamed. That it was an impossible dream made me love him even more.
Failure, as it emerged, would define my very character as much as a play-off final victory over Sheffield United ever did.
In my personal age of innocence, Sir Jack Hayward was my king.
He was selfless, humble, generous and displayed the very dispositions that Dad ordered me to reach for.
He wasn’t David Sullivan or Karen Brady or even Jeremy Peace…
Whether or not those three were ultimately more successful matters little to me.
As young person in his delinquency – never mind a football fan – Sir Jack Hayward enriched my life in more ways than a football club owner ever really had the right.
To say I’m grateful will never do justice.
God bless you Sir Jack.