Two teams, 192 points between them and enough happy, golden memories to brighten the darkest of days.
But which players from our 1988/89 Barclays Division 3 exploits would edge out today’s promotion heroes in a third tier fantasy eleven?
When I said I was nostalgic for all-things Manders Paint and Ink, I wasn’t messing about, which is why I have deliberated over a combined Wolves XI from the happiest two seasons I can remember (bar Mick McCarthy’s 2008/09 vintage)!
So here goes…
Goalkeeper: Carl Ikeme
Sorry to my boyhood hero Mark Kendall, but Ikeme has to play. In 1988/9 we had a Welsh jester between the sticks who freely admitted to a Dracula-like aversion to crosses. In Ikeme, we have a near-impenetrable presence who would neither laugh or cry if you tweaked his big manly nipples with a brillo pad.
Season highlight: Bradford (a) hat-trick of tremendous late saves to deny Nakhi Wells in a defining away victory. Leyton Orient TV masterclass a close second.
Left back: Andy Thompson
Although Mark Venus was a regular left back in 1988/89, Thommo played all 46 games in a number of positions (six league goals), including an occasional midfield berth. Scott Golbourne runs him close and can count himself unlucky for a season of reassuring competence. Call it sentimental but for infectious enthusiasm, boundless energy levels and an unerring record from the penalty spot, Thommo has to play.
Season highlight: 30 yard shot which bounced on a strategically placed Billy Pilbeam divot (our wonderful old groundsman) and bounced over Mansfield keepers’ head in a 6-2 rout!
Centre back: Danny Batth
When you’ve got Floyd Streete, Ally Robertson and Gary Bellamy as competition, this choice is relatively easy (no offence). Factor in an endless number of clean sheets and a local-lad presence of symbolic proportions and it’s even easier. ‘Bruno’ would have pushed Batth closest, but the man from Brierley Hill makes it.
Season highlight: When you’ve kept 23 clean sheets, it sounds absurd to refer to one of his goals, but that opener against Peterborough at the South Bank end was a belter.
Centre back: Richard Stearman
What I am about to say isn’t for effect and forgive me if you don’t agree, but Richard Stearman is my player of the 2013/14 season. Not only is he the only genuinely mobile centre half we have, but he has cut out those errors that were always so bloody disastrous. It wasn’t that he ever made many; just that they always ended up in the back of our net! Danny without Dickie is like salt without vinegar. And let’s not forget a quite phenomenal beard growth on a par with a converted teacher at a Birmingham primary school.
Season highlight: A signature pirouette away at Walsall while 3-0 up on halfway line, taking two strikers out the game in one sultry shimmy. A giddy away following lapped it up!
Right back: Sam Ricketts (c)
One of the first names on this team-sheet. If we want a man to encompass the very ethos and fibre of both squads, this is he. In Ricketts, Jackett had an on-field lieutenant to subtly affirm his ethos. Something of an unsung hero, but a steadying influence that we missed when he wasn’t there. Plus, he was an absolute gentleman to my little boy when he was mascot in a pre-season friendly at Chesterfield.
Season highlight: Being an absolute gentleman to my little boy when he was mascot at Chesterfield! Seriously though, ‘that’ goal in ‘that’ game against Rotherham was his defining moment of the season.
Centre midfield: Kevin McDonald
Who else?! Barring ½ yard of pace, Kevin McDonald has all the attributes to be a fantastic Premier League footballer. He’s a colossus. Calm on the ball, careful in possession and the overall conductor of our tuneful orchestra. The toughest player of the lot to replace.
Season highlight: For me, it was the first time I saw him play 90mins, away at Port Vale in a 3-1 win. He looked like an under-16 player in an under-12 game and completely ran the show. He seems to have grown ever since.
Centre midfield: Keith Downing
Sorry to Jack Price, but Psycho is my holding midfielder alongside Big Mac. So fearless, combative and downright scary that the legend of Keith Downing lived until about 2002 when we finally bought a ball-winning midfielder on a par with him.
For all the inferior strikers we’ve had down the years that were ‘not fit to lace Bully’s boots,’ we’ve also had all manner of midfield men who were ‘no Keith Downing.’ Psycho was no-nonsense and would put the fear of God into opponents before they’d left the tunnel.
Season highlight: A poster in a matchday programme funnily enough, which captured Psycho in full flow – flying through the air like a mingled Bananaman and Chuckie. ‘Keith Downing is a Punk Rocker’ music cassette soon followed in ALOB.
Left midfield: Robbie Dennison
For those who never saw Robbie Dennison in his pomp, then think of a white John Barnes, with less pace. Ok, so I’m stretching it a bit, but whenever we gave the ball to Robbie, something happened.
He was so languid, chilled-out and comfortable on the ball that he should have worn a pair of slippers. James Henry misses out which is tough luck on today’s 10 goal version of the Northern Irishman, but for free-kicks alone, Robbie gets in.
Season highlight: Curling an absolute belter in the top-bin against Bolton at Burnden Park, which left a ‘Ding-Dong-Do’ home commentator literally speechless (as per Mark Kendall’s ‘View from the Back’ season review)
Right midfield: Michael Jacobs
I love this guy. I believe he is most effective in a ‘no 10’ role behind Dicko, but in this 4-4-2 formation he plays on the right. He is deceptively quick and has mounted countless attacks at the blink of an eye through his pace and vision. Without him, the remnants of last season’s stodgy, one-paced side might well have remained.
Phil Robinson, Mick Gooding and Nigel Vaughan run Jacobs the closest, but in the ‘X-Factor’ stakes, he offers more.
Season review: His two goals at Brentford in that season-defining win offers the most succinct summary of Michael Jacobs. His first, a rapid late run to break in behind a static defence; His second a 25 yard pearler in the top corner.
Forward: Steve Bull
I first fell in love with Steve Bull in 1988/89 and I’ve never stopped loving him since. Fifty goals, and barely one of them a tap-in. Bully carried that team of Turner’s to the title and as an eight year-old, what struck me about him was his pace. He was SO sharp and even more ruthless. He never seemed to miss the target in those heady days of old.
Season highlight: So, so many to choose from, but a 30 yard left-foot screamer at home to Bolton Wanderers on March 4 is probably the best Bully goal I’ve ever seen (North Bank end).
Forward: Andy Mutch
Twenty-one goals, all manner of assists and a telepathic understanding with Bully. Was never the quickest, but certainly one of the most intelligent players I’ve seen and had a knack of affecting the big games when it mattered most.
Season highlight: A run and cross to Bully to break deadlock in the promotion decider against Sheffield United was typical Mutchy, but I’ll plump for a double in a 2-1 win at home to Blackpool in the middle of an eight-game winning streak.
So there you have it folks. This my 89/14 Champions XI:
Six of the best players from the current squad and five from my nostalgic childhood memories. What’s your team?