John Richards believes Wolves might never get a better chance of FA Cup glory as they prepare to face Manchester United.
The legendary Molineux goal king is also urging Wolves to give the fans the Wembley dream they want – and help heal some hurt he still feels.
Wolves look to have the best opportunity to get to Wembley in a cup in decades, with United in the sixth round on Saturday night standing between them and a first semi-final in the competition since 1998.
Richards played in four FA Cup quarter-finals for the club, winning three, all after replays, in 1973, 1979 and 1981.
The only one he lost was in 1976 against United, which also went to a replay, 3-2 at Molineux, after they had drawn 2-2 at Old Trafford.
Richards, now 68, won two League Cups with Wolves but it’s the three losing semi-finals that still ‘irk’ him after all these years.
The 194-goal former club record top scorer wants Nuno Espirito Santo’s side to seize their opportunity, and senses the whole city is backing them to end the club’s 39-year wait for a major trophy.
“It disappoints me still that we lost those three semi-finals; it irks me a bit that we didn’t get to a final,” said Richards.
“We won the League Cup twice, which was great, but as a player, and a former player, you look back and think ‘I wished I’d have played at Wembley in an FA Cup final.’
“They might not ever get a better chance. These lads have got that opportunity, and I don’t want them thinking when they have stopped playing ‘We missed out on what was our best chance to get to an FA Cup final and to win a trophy for the club.’
“Because the fans want it. They would love a trip to Wembley, they’re crying out for it.
“They haven’t won a major trophy since 1980 so you’re looking at nearly 40 years.
“So I hope Wolves take this with all the seriousness that they can, because this year they’ve got a great opportunity to if not win the FA Cup, then get to the final.
“That’s why I want them to do well in this match against Manchester United because the fans want it so much.
“They’re safe in the Premier League, they’re going to finish seventh or eighth or whatever, so they will get some good financial rewards for that, but the FA Cup would be the cherry on top of the cake.”
Nuno has already said he will keep John Ruddy, who is his deputy to Rui Patricio in the Premier League but has played all the cup games, in goal.
But Richards feels Wolves must field their strongest side to topple a resurgent United.
“I would hope so. They got out of jail against Shrewsbury when he made a few changes and you could understand it because of the draw of the Premier League,” he said.
“But they got away with it then after being 2-0 down (against Shrewsbury), and I hope they will think the response they got for the replay, when they had a full house, that they can see the fans really want them to go for it.”
Having scored in four FA Cup quarter-finals himself, Richards joked Nuno could hand him a shock recall to the squad as a lucky charm, nearly 36 years after his last game for Wolves.
“Perhaps they should pick me! That’s a thought – get me back, just for this match! Stick me on the bench!” he cracked.
John Richards was speaking at the annual fundraising dinner for @SmileForJoel, which was held at the Copthorne Hotel, Brierley Hill and raised over £10,000 for victims of homicide. Richards was one of 17 former Wolves players spanning five decades among over 30 former West Midlands footballers who attended the event.
Richards said: “It’s lovely. You look around and say ‘I know, him, I know him’ so it’s nice to introduce yourself and catch up.
“It’s lovely to reminisce about the memories we all have because the Midlands in those days was a strong powerhouse of football in this country.
“At the moment, there’s only Wolves and Leicester in the Premier League but it would be nice to see that back again.
“I told Ally Robertson I think I’ve still got one of his studs in my calf from when he went down the back of my leg!
“But they’re great lads and it’s a great cause, and that’s what brings us together.”