Saturday’s vital win over Blackpool was accomplished against a backdrop of great sadness following the death of our former defender Dean Richards.
It goes without saying that any loss of life is a tragedy but as Mark Lawrenson pointed out on Match of the Day, ’36 is no age’.Anyone who followed Wolves in the mid 90s will remember Deano fondly and the great excitement that greeted his arrival from Bradford City, on loan initially, at the end of the 94-95 season. Rumours that Graham Taylor had seen off interest from Manchester United to secure his signature only served to ratchet up expectation levels further.
We weren’t disappointed.
Not only could this tall, rangy young lad dominate in the air, but he had the pace and footballing brain to effortlessly steal possession and glide forward from defence. His ability was staggering, particularly when compared to the more ‘agricultural’ personnel he had playing alongside him at the time.
I still have the glossy poster, given away free with the matchday edition of the Express & Star, emblazoned with the simple headline of ‘DEANO’ and commemorating his debut in a 1-0 away win at Southend.
Sadly, despite his imperious presence in our back four, that season ended in disappointment with defeat against Bolton in the semi-final of the play-offs. And despite a £1.8 million permanent deal being agreed in the summer that followed, his involvement in a serious car accident restricted his appearances in a gold shirt over the next two years.
However, just prior to those lengthy injury problems, Deano produced the performance that I will always remember him for.
The match was Birmingham City at home and Wolves were 2-1 down heading into the final five minutes. Cue a trademark Deano surge into the box and an obvious trip. No penalty said the ref. Ridiculous. But wait. Still lying on the floor, Deano flicks the ball up and with the most audacious of overhead kicks, cannons the ball against the arm of the bemused defender. Penalty! Genius. Deano you beauty.
Thommo did the rest.
And we know what happened next.
A pinpoint Osborn ball over the top. Bully racing through. He can’t score from there. He has scored from there. Elation. A glorious derby win.
But prior to Bully’s magic, prior to Osborn’s sublime pass, who was it that rose highest to keep Wolves on the front foot? Deano of course.
See for yourselves:
We all know about the injury problems, the famous comeback, the goal against the Albion, the torrid afternoon against Dele Adebola, the bosman transfer and the big money move to Spurs, but more than all of those things, whenever I think of Dean Richards, I’ll remember that wonderful day.
Thank you Deano. Thank you for the memory.
Rest in peace.
* I just stumbled across this tribute video and had to tag it to the bottom. There’s some excellent footage of Deano in action for Wolves, scoring some memorable goals against Derby, Barnsley and of course the Albion.