John Richards believes he knows what could hold the key to Wolves’ Wembley destiny tomorrow – the Grand National!
The one-time Molineux idol and king goalscorer reckons it’s too much of a coincidence that the last time the same horse has won back-to-back Grand Nationals, Wolves played Manchester City in a Wembley final.
Tiger Roll, the 4-1 favourite, won a thrilling National today to become the first horse since Red Rum 45 years ago to win the Aintree race back-to-back.
Manchester City face the winners of Wolves and Watford in the FA Cup final after beating Brighton 1-0 at Wembley today. And for Richards, it brings back memories of 1974, when he scored the winner to beat City 2-1 for Wolves to lift the League Cup – after Red Rum had made it successive National wins.
“Tiger winning is too much of a coincidence,” said Richards. “Wolves against Manchester City has a ring to it!
“We always had teams that we did well against and Manchester City were always one of those teams.
“The thing that might count against us tomorrow is we’re favourites and that’s a difficult situation for us because the pressure is on us but you have to give a lot of credit to Watford for how they’ve done.”
Richards admits tomorrow’s semi-final is a tight one to decide.
“It’s a close call. Wolves have had a fantastic season and been really exceptional, and they have surprised a lot of people, but Watford have gone quietly about their business and been impressive as well,” said JR, who is still Wolves’ record scorer in the FA Cup with 24 goals.
“It’s a tight call – there’s not much between the teams and I think it might go to extra-time and then penalties. Then it’s a lottery.
“If you look for one thing, Wolves have turned it on against the top teams more than Watford, so Wolves have that bit extra, if they perform.
“We’ve got to fancy our chances and it’s going to be a fantastic occasion for the players and for the fans and everyone involved.”
Richards won two League Cups with Wolves but his biggest footballing regret was losing three FA Cup semi-finals – in 1973, 1979 and 1981.
Now 68, JR admits there’s not much advice he could pass on to Nuno Espirito Santo’s side, because it’s down to luck on the day.
“Sometimes it works, sometimes it doesn’t and sometimes there’s not an explanation,” said Richards, who was managing director for Wolves’ fourth straight losing FA Cup semi-final, against Arsenal in 1998.
“There’s no real advice. As a player, all you want to do is to be able to come off the pitch and know you have given everything you can and you can’t give any more.
“Sometimes that’s not enough, like 1973 when it was just not our day.
“The semi-final is all or nothing. A lot of it can be down to luck – something could happen to a key player, someone could get sent off and that could change the way the game goes.
“We were lucky in that we had three opportunities but we didn’t take any of them.
“I lost three semi-finals and when you look back, it’s with a lot of disappointment. Of the three the first one, against Leeds in 1973 was where we really could have got through.
“For the Arsenal one we were outplayed on the day and against Tottenham, we should have won in extra-time at Hillsborough but were poor in the replay.”