Remembering Rachael Heyhoe Flint

As a youngster with just one parent to navigate me through those choppy waters of adolescence, my dear old man decided that the pen was mightier than the sword.

Rather than dictate the right and wrong way to behave to his lad, he simply gave me a book.

Ironically enough, that Life’s Little Instruction Book by H. Jackson Brown was the only paperback I studied religiously as a teenager (as I opted to dick about with my mates instead of study like my sister).

I still flick through those 500-odd tips on a regular basis. And as Rachael Heyhoe Flint was laid to rest in Wolverhampton today, I can’t help but think it could have been written by her.

‘Treat everyone you meet like you want to be treated’ was one pearl of wisdom. Number 33 in fact.

I only met Rachael once, and it was safe to say that she did precisely that. My good mate Paul Robinson, just a kid back in 2006, was returning from his first tour of duty in Basra, Iraq.

I really, really missed him while he was away. More than that, I really, really feared for him every day he’d gone. More than he will probably appreciate.

So when he returned home I wanted to do something for him. As a lifelong Wolves fan himself, I wondered if the club might do something for him to welcome him back. I wrote an email to the club.

And within 5 minutes, Rachael Heyhoe Flint was calling my mobile, no less!

She rolled out the red carpet for Paul for a Friday night league game against Sunderland and left no stone unturned.

Paul and his family arrived with me at the main reception where Rachael was already waiting.

16. Be the first to say hello

6. Have a firm handshake

7. Look people in the eye

128. Remember people’s names

107. Smile a lot. It costs nothing and is beyond price

That was Rachael, causing me to well up with pride for being a Wolves fan at that very moment, whilst simultaneously regressing me back to my youth, when Dad handed me that book.

“Sir Jack has so much time for anyone serving in the Armed Forces, particularly a Wolves fan like Paul, so it would be the least we could do,” she’d say.

Rachael then led us pitchside where Bully was waiting – with a replica shirt she had evidently got the players to sign.

94. Make it a habit to do nice things for people

Again, that was Rachael. As Jenny Wilkes so beautiful paid tribute on Radio WM the other day, she’d have a very persuasive way of getting people to do things, whether they wanted to or not!

So there Bully stood, chatting about his favourite ever Wolves goals (I monopolised the conversation here, with a left footer against Bolton at the North Bank end featuring highly in Div 3.) Rachael, meanwhile, asked about Paul’s life, family, and six month experience in a 40 degree shithole known as Iraq.

133. When someone is relating an important event that’s happened to them, don’t try to stop them with a story of your own. Let them have the stage.

145. Be enthusiastic about the success of others

After meeting the two legends, Paul met another one, as Thommo was thrust in our direction, while injured players were also instructed to meet the main man of the evening – my mate Paul.

287. Promise big. Deliver big.

We adjourned to our seats and watched the game in our bubble of unbridled, fuzzy joy. It was a largely forgettable 1-1 draw featuring an utterly memorable Jemal Johnson 30 yard screamer. But that evening will live with me forever, as one special lady went the extra-mile for a family she’d never met – nor ever meet again.

As was the case with just about everything she put her mind to, Rachael Heyhoe Flint brought so much happiness to people’s lives through her own selfless actions.

274. Leave everything a little better than you found it

God bless xx

Burton Albion 2 Wolves 1

I never thought I’d begin any piece of writing by paraphrasing the mildly annoying American rock band Paramore but the lyric ‘that’s what you get when you let your heart win’ seems appropriate for this particular report.

After the jubilation that followed last week’s heroics at Anfield and the impressive midweek victory over Barnsley, anyone would be forgiven for thinking that the good times would continue to roll at the Pirelli Stadium.

But, in true Wolves fashion, that was not to be and we all should have known better.

This club has a famed habit for kicking you in the nether regions when you’re feeling most hopeful and, true to form, the away contingent were made to endure our poorest showing under Paul Lambert.

It’s hard to recall a more unimaginative performance than the one that was churned in yesterday, our only tactic being to hit long balls to a striker that was at least half a foot shorter than the two centre backs marking him.

Burton’s torrid pitch no doubt played a part in this, with the players looking uncomfortable on it from the onset, but that excuse can only take you so far when Bristol City, Preston and Wigan have all claimed victory on it at various stages of the season.

The narrowness of the field stymied the counter attacking play that has become synonymous with Lambert’s Wolves and subsequently Weimann, Dicko and Helder Costa – the latest subject of a variation on the Dave Clark Five’s ‘Glad All Over’ – were left isolated for much of the game.

The home side on the other hand looked empowered by the conditions and dictated most of the play in a largely uneventful first half, with their recent influx of loan signings appearing to have added quality to the side that claimed a point at Molineux last September.

Keeper Jon McLaughlin conceded the initiative when he bundled Dave Edwards over just before the break and allowed Costa to claim his tenth goal of the season from the penalty spot.

It was a lead that flattered us and none of those crammed into the glamorous Russell Roof Tiles Stand were under the illusion that a major improvement was not required in the second half.

That was not forthcoming and the Brewers claimed a deserved equaliser on the hour mark through loanee Michael Kightly, becoming the latest beneficiaries of our notorious ex-players curse whilst doing so.

Wolves never looked capable of responding and Lambert was frustratingly rigid in his tactics, preferring to send Bright on ahead of Bodvarsson and deadline day recruit Ben Marshall.

By the time the latter pair had come on, the game was drawing to a close and we were hanging on for a point.

Torrid defending, otherwise known as the theme of our afternoon, prevented us from doing that and Cauley Woodrow tucked in a late winner that well and truly erases the feel good factor of last week and leaves us just seven points clear of the trapdoor.

Four successive league fixtures at home offer ample opportunity to rectify this but there can surely be seldom repeats of today’s showing if we’re to end the season comfortably.

Burton Albion Vs Wolves Preview

Momentum is huge in football and right now we’re hurtling along.

Paul Lambert deserves enormous credit for the turnaround because his influence is clear.

Organising the troops, separating the wheat from the chaff, blooding the youngsters and being good to his word about playing on the front foot.

It all builds good will among supporters and everyone is bouncing off each other, which is creating this wave of optimism.

February looks like being as exciting as January so it’s just a case of riding that wave for as long as humanly possible.

Burton

Fair play to Nigel Clough for sticking it out at the Pirelli Stadium when the Forest mother ship came calling last week.

Even though things aren’t great at his former club, there was a strong argument to suggest it still would have been a wise career choice.

But if he can keep Burton in the Championship that will look pretty good on his CV and who knows, the opportunity to make the move might still be there in the summer.

If the Brewers do stay up it will likely be down to their home form. Five of their seven victories have been at the Pirelli and earlier in the season it was a real fortress.

They’ve lost eight of their last ten league matches including the 2-0 home defeat to Fulham on Wednesday.

An interesting sub-plot to this game is their recruitment of Michael Kightly. Despite his best years being well and truly behind him, he could still prove a thorn in our side.

Wolves

It was satisfying to see off Barnsley without having to call upon many of the players who did the business at Anfield.

In particular Helder Costa who had previously been instrumental in all our successes under Paul Lambert.

All three academy graduates made significant contributions in the win at Oakwell too, which made the victory all the more pleasing.

I actually feel the manager could put out any combination tomorrow and feel confident that they wouldn’t let him down. The above is just one possible lineup.

With Carl Ikeme returning from his two game suspension, there’s a big call to be made there after Harry Burgoyne impressed in his second bite at the first team cherry.

Ben Marshall is a wildcard and it’s anyone’s guess about how or where he slots in. I’d have thought he might be introduced from the bench either tomorrow or next weekend. Looking forward to seeing to what he can add.

Predictions

There can only be one prediction and that’s another Wolves win. I simply have no reason to believe they won’t get the job done.

Burton came to Molineux earlier in the season and bossed large amounts of that game, but we were a different beast back then and they were still feeding off their promotion.

I think the atmosphere will be much different tomorrow with the away end making a right old din and they’re now facing a battle-hardened Championship team.

Expecting a tough game but a satisfactory outcome.

3-1.

Up The Wolves!

Save

Save

Barnsley 1 Wolves 3

Typical of Wolves to go to Barnsley on a miserable Tuesday evening and lose…

…After an FA Cup win at Anfield, a £13 million record signing and a genuinely fresh-thinking season ticket offer, these last four days have never felt less typical.

The times they are a-changin’, with this 3-1 win offering more evidence of such, not least when we look lethal from set-pieces, score early in another game and prevent that inevitable goal from a former player (Hammill).

Playing Barnsley minus top scorer Sam Winnall and talisman Conor Hourihane meant we were facing them at the perfect time but again, when does fate befall us in such a favourable way?

Hopefully this league win will alleviate any lingering looks over our shoulders towards the bottom three, just a week or so since our Norwich defeat raised one or two alarm bells.

Clearly, Paul Lambert is engendering a special bond amongst his players – and those fans who made the hike up to south Yorkshire – and his words to the Fans’ Parliament a month or two ago ring true:

‘You have a brilliant club, but you’ve just come off the rails a bit and need to get back on track. But forget it (the past), it’s gone.’

Beating Liverpool, signing Costa and now David Edwards scoring a brace away from home suggests we’re getting back on track and embracing what the future might hold, rather than moither over yesterday’s misdemeanours.

This game sounded as good as over when Alex Mowatt clattered Jack Price to see red within minutes of Dave Edwards nodding home Connor Ronan’s free kick to put us two-up. It could conceivably have been three at half time too, had the referee not reversed an initial penalty decision which looked a cast iron spot kick.

Earlier, Kortney Hause did his best Richard Stearman impression to score from a dead ball while the fans were still taking to their seats.

Being hypercritical, we sounded a bit ragged against 10 men near the end when the game was already sealed from Edwards’s second.

But when we’re building more momentum (as typified by Connor Ronan tonight) it’s best to just enjoy this heady ride while it lasts – without looking back!

Barnsley Vs Wolves Preview?

Is there really a match tonight?

After Saturday’s legal high and the mouthwatering prospect of Chelsea’s visit to Molineux in the next round, can there be a more stark contrast?

But regroup we must as there’s still a considerable amount of work to be done in the league.

I find it very difficult, given how Wolves are playing and the feel good factor, to envisage us slipping down into relegation strife.

But even so, everyone will feel better when there’s a bit more distance and a few more places between ourselves and the bottom three.

This is a really tough fixture against a team who continue to succeed against the odds.

Barnsley

It must be so frustrating for Paul Heckingbottom to see his best players continually getting picked off.

Defender James Bree and captain Conor Hourihane were the latest to leave with Aston Villa recognising the talent both possess.

They follow Wolves academy graduate Sam Winnall out the Oakwell exit door after he departed for Sheffield Wednesday earlier in the month.

Reinforcements have arrived in the shape of Leicester midfielder Matty James and Leeds’ highly rated youngster Alex Mowatt.

But it’s a big ask for a team with so much upheaval to continually regroup and consistently win matches as the Tykes have been doing this season.

They’ve won 7 out of their last 10 matches in fact and come into the game just a point outside the play-offs. The 23 goals they’ve conceded at home is the highest of any team in the league.

Wolves

Signing a genuine superstar like Helder Costa for £13 million seems unfathomable when you consider we’ve dined out on budget recruitment, free transfers and loans for so long.

If we can fend off summer interest, he’ll be a key addition next season, particularly if the goal is still promotion from the Championship.

In the here and now I can’t see the Portuguese man getting a rest tonight. I’d have Bodvarsson and Mason down as definite starters and probably Price too.

But it will be fascinating to see if Paul Lambert rewards any of Saturday’s heroes who haven’t been in the team a chance to stake a more regular claim. I’m thinking about Hause, Evans and Saville in particular.

The injury to Ivan Cavaleiro is a blow because despite inconsistent performances, he’s still a threat down that left flank. Andi Weimann’s performance at Anfield proves he’s a more than able deputy though.

Paul Lambert

Predictions

We’re in a great place right now. The performances are improving, the manager has stacks of options and the whole club is bouncing.

I thought yesterday’s announcement about season tickets was also fantastic. Not only is it great value, it also shows an intent to get Molineux full again.

Despite the fact Barnsley are seventh and we’re down at the bottom, I’ll back us to get the win and hopefully avenge the 4-0 tonking they handed out at Molineux.

2-1.

Up The Wolves!

Save

Save

Liverpool 1 Wolves 2

The last great FA Cup away day for me was back in 1998 when Don Goodman scored the only goal at Elland Road in an unforgettable quarter final victory.

You can probably imagine how poignant it felt then bumping into the man himself after soaking up this monumental success.

Accompanied by a certain Mr. Bull, Don was only happy to pose for selfies and offer a few thoughts on the game in the Cabbage Hall Pub just a five minute stroll from Anfield.

His general assessment that Klopp’s team selection left Liverpool exposed for what was to come is more or less how I saw it too.

Once it transpired that only a few of the first team regulars would start, alongside reserves and academy graduates, I felt confident of a tightly contested game.

Paul Lambert’s team selection was more predictable with our big game players all selected along with a few of the heroes from the previous round.

The big call was giving Harry Burgoyne the shirt but I sense the young goalkeeper has the temperament to handle such occasions and so it proved.

Astonishingly, it took the home side an hour to force him into any sort of save by which time Wolves were in the driving seat.

Much of that owes to a tremendous midfield effort from Edwards, Saville and Evans who never once allowed Liverpool’s creative talents the space to pick their way through.

I’ve long felt that all of those players get the rough end of stick as they’re judged exclusively on their proficiency with the ball at their feet.

But in a properly balanced team with better technicians further up the pitch, their ability to close down space, regain possession and set counter attacks in motion was the key difference yesterday.

If Richard Stearman’s opener was just a great ball and a well timed header, Andreas Weimann’s strike was a textbook example of punishing the opposition on the break.

There probably aren’t many better ball carriers than Helder Costa and seeing him glide across the Anfield pitch was breathtaking.

Had it not been for well timed toe end tackle from a recovering defender he would have scored the goal of the season with his box to box run.

But he’ll have to be content with two assists after delivering the peach of a ball for Stearman’s goal and then slicing through Liverpool again with a run and pass to Weimann.

If the rumours circulating about his loan becoming permanent prove accurate that’s welcome news, but I’ll be astonished if he’s still around next season.

On the evidence of this performance you’d think Derby might be loathe to dispense of Weimann at the end of the season.

His running (in and out of possession) was exceptional and on several occasions he displayed a turn of pace I wasn’t aware he possessed.

I felt Nouha Dicko struggled to make the sort of impact he’s capable of but still put in a big effort to occasionally win the ball in advanced areas and get his team on the front foot.

But as soon as Liverpool pushed Lucas into defence I was crying out for Jon Dadi Bodvarsson and he certainly didn’t disappoint.

The big Icelander is the football dictionary definition of ‘a handful’ and the ideal lone striker.

Not only did he twice come close to scoring (the second chance made for himself with an unfathomable twisting run), he continually held the ball up and eased the building pressure, particularly after Liverpool had reduced the deficit.

Our back four really had to earn their crust in those final minutes when it seemed for all the world that the Kop would suck the ball into the net for a late heartbreaker.

That would have been so harsh on all of them after flawless individual and collective performances.

Stearman was incredible, with his goal the icing on the cake. You’d never question his commitment to the cause but he found another level yesterday and his reading of the game, particularly in cutting out dangerous threaded passes was top drawer.

Hause was more low profile, simply heading and kicking everything that came his way. He never got flustered and was wise enough to make the foul on the one occasion he was beaten for pace.

Matt Doherty couldn’t get forward but still played a crucial creative role in setting Helder Costa free in the build up to Weimann’s strike. He defended superbly and was always well positioned to cut off crosses.

The result probably meant more to Conor Coady than anyone else and he can feel very pleased about his efforts, never putting a foot wrong and staying strong in the tackle throughout.

Paul Lambert was keen to ensure it was the players who received the adulation as he acknowledged the fans at full time but it’s he whose masterminded the turnaround we’ve seen in recent months, culminating in this once in a lifetime victory.

The journey may end in the next round and we’re still far from being safe in the league, but nothing can ever tarnish this wonderful memory.

As I’ve said so many times before, it’s moments that make football worthwhile and this feels like one of the best.

Highlights

Analysis

Paul Lambert

Richard Stearman