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Billy Wright 25th anniversary tribute: A giant for club and country

The Billy Wright Story, a live presentation on the life of the Wolves and England captain, was lovingly told at his beloved Molineux by his daughter Vicky on the 25th anniversary of his death. Here, renowned sports writer and Wolves fanatic Dave Harrison reports on an emotional night.

Our Billy…held aloft at Wembley as England captain.

By Dave Harrison

To many thousands of Wolves fans he was Our Billy – only 5ft 8ins tall but a football giant for club and country, a flaxon-haired defender mined from Ironbridge in Shropshire in pure old gold and whose legendary status is permanently on view with a larger-than-life statue outside the Molineux stand which carries his name.

To Vicky Wright, Billy was not just a beloved father but an inspiration and a guiding light whose memory she will always carry in her heart. She opened up her heart to share those memories during an emotional tribute evening in the Hayward Suite in front of a packed and enraptured audience.

Vicky not only described the career highlights which most of us knew by heart anyway – initially rejected by Major Buckley because he was too small, 105 England caps, 90 of them as captain, a one-club man who was never sent off or even booked, skipper of the club when they lifted one FA Cup and three League titles and a magnificent ambassador for the English game.

But the personal anecdotes from his daughter, who was born on the day he was named in the England squad for his 100th cap, revealed all we needed to know about Billy, the human being with a heart of gold.

Her mother, Joy, of Beverley Sisters fame, was introduced to Billy after her son Vince from her first marriage said he was interested in meeting the Wolves and England captain. “They looked into each other’s eyes and it was a zing moment,” said Vicky. “They were deeply in love from that moment and it lasted both of their life-times.”

But this was not a celebrity marriage in the high-profile style of Posh and Becks, though their wedding was gatecrashed by thousands of well-wishers after the vicar leaked the news – much to the embarrassment of Billy who always preferred to remain below the media radar.

The birth of Vicky’s own daughter Kelly, brought additional joy into Billy’s life, and as he cradled the new-born in his arms, the infant produced her first smile. She obviously realised she was in the presence of someone special, though sadly he died before his grand-daughter developed into the beautiful lady she has become.

Vicky did not try to hide the one dark episode in her dad’s life, the slide into alcoholism after he moved to a life on his own in Birmingham after he became Central TV’s head of sport.

His recovery was completed and he was embraced back into the Wolves fold when he was made a club director by Sir Jack Hayward and the stand was named after him. Now he was back at his spiritual and football home where he belonged.

Archived film footage and unique stills illustrated Vicky’s tribute and the tears flowed from presenter and audience alike as the story unfolded.

There were cameo appearances from Ted Farmer and Steve Bull, who recounted the story about he and Andy Thompson indulged in an all-night drinking spree during a pre-season trip.

A knock came on their door in the early hours. It was Billy who politely asked them to keep the noise down. Of course, the request was unanswered.

Next day we thought we would be in big trouble with the manager,” said Bully. ”In the training session we passed by Billy and we thought he would be laying into us. He came over to us and said: ‘I’m sorry for knocking on your door and disturbing you last night.’

That was typical Billy. He was a true gentleman and I never heard anyone say a bad word about him. I am proud to be able to call him a friend.”

Vicky’s partner, Bobby Davro, entertained the gathering with his comedy act and conducted an auction of memorabilia, including some personal family items, which raised thousands of pounds for the Billy Wright Foundation.