Kenny Hibbitt has revealed there could have been a Hibbitt at Wolves five years before he signed – his late brother Terry.
The 68-year-old Molineux legend says a Wolves scout came calling at their house in Bradford in 1963, leaving them ‘gobsmacked’ when he offered the youngster a pair of boots to entice him to Wolverhampton.
But it clearly wasn’t enough to persuade the teenager to move to the Midlands and sign for Stan Cullis’s side, as Terry joined Leeds shortly afterwards and went on to have a fine career, becoming a hero in two spells at Newcastle – where Wolves play on Sunday – bookending three years with Birmingham City.
“I think I was 12 and Terry was 15, still a schoolboy. There were a lot of scouts around looking at him and I remember him meeting a Wolves scout,” said Hibbitt. “I wouldn’t have a clue what his name was, but it wasn’t Joe Gardiner, who scouted me.
“Whoever it was gave him a box, and inside the box was a pair of football boots.
“They had big toecaps and leather over the ankles. I remember him being offered them, so he could have become a Wolves player.
“It would have been 1963. I was there with him when he opened the boots with the scout in our house. I was excited – probably more than Terry – because it was a brand new pair of boots, shining, and we’d never had them before.
“I don’t know what happened and in the end he went to Leeds, which was only 20 miles from where we lived.”
Hibbitt wasn’t surprised to see Terry scouted by Wolves because they were known for having such a strong recruiting network in Yorkshire.
Wolves had a nursery team, Wath Wanderers, based in Wath-on-Dearne, near Barnsley, and future stars were attracted to Molineux from the area, such as Roy Swinbourne, Ron Flowers, Barry Stobart, Peter Knowles, Alan Sunderland, Steve Daley and Martin Patching.
“Wolves always scouted quite prominently in Yorkshire because they had Wath Wanderers based near Barnsley, so it was probably somebody from that area who approached Terry,” said Hibbitt.
“Terry played for Bradford Boys – you represented your town or city, and then if you were good enough, you went on to play for Yorkshire, then England Schools.
“I guess Wolves had scouts all over the country and they went and watched select XIs from different towns and cities – Sheffield, Doncaster, Rotherham – they all had teams who we as Bradford Boys used to play against, and the scouts used to have a word with parents or whoever about anyone they liked the look of. But it didn’t materialise and he went to Leeds.”
Hibbitt believes Terry might have wanted to stay closer to home. But it was a different scenario five years later when it came to Wolves showing an interest in Terry’s younger sibling.
By then their father Gilbert had passed away suddenly, from a heart attack at the tragic early age of just 40, and it was felt Kenny would do better moving away.
“Don Revie (Leeds manager) told my brother to tell me to go, when Wolves came in for me at 17,” said Hibbitt. “That’s what happened with me, but he could have been a Wolves player! Bless him.”
With their father sadly passed away, Terry was the guiding hand Kenny was seeking. The younger sibling admits Terry had a major influence on him.
“There’s no question about that. When he was 15 and I was only 12, I was in awe, gobsmacked at someone offering Terry a pair of boots,” he said.
“He was like a father figure to me, because I knew him longer than I knew our father.
“He used to come home from Leeds when he was an apprentice there and tell me all these stories, and I remember when he scored for them against Valencia in the Inter-Cities Fairs Cup and he was in all the newspapers. I was so proud of him.
“It was quite remarkable how we both went on and had half decent careers, from nowhere.
“Our mum and dad didn’t have a lot, they just made the best of things. My grandmother had a shop next door to us and I remember us making balls out of the aluminium packaging that the food came in – anything that we could make into a ball to kick.
“We used to play in the house with balloons and tennis balls and all sorts of things just to play football.
“A lot of kids did that but they probably didn’t get the breaks that we did. So you had to have a bit of luck as well, but we both worked for it.
“But I loved him so much and he had a big influence on my career. My dad wasn’t around because I lost him when I was 16 and he was only 40, so Terry was like a father figure to me with the support he gave me.”
The Hibbitt brothers’ paths crossed regularly in the 1970s, when Kenny was at Wolves and Terry at Newcastle.
Kenny invariably got the better of his older brother, and none more so than in August 1974, when the younger sibling netted all four in a 4-2 win for Wolves at Molineux.
One of their proudest moments came in January 1979, when the brothers captained their respective teams at St James’s Park in an FA Cup fourth round tie.
Kenny equalised late on with a volley after Willie Carr chipped the Magpies’ defence to cancel out a header from former Wolves striker Peter Withe against old boss Bill McGarry. Norman Bell scored the only goal in the replay as Wolves went through.
Despite their closeness, the Hibbitts were fiercely competitive and always determined to beat each other, one never shirking a tackle against the other.
“He gave me a bollocking once, when I scored all four goals against Newcastle at Molineux!” recalled Kenny.
“As we walked off the pitch, he said ‘if we were going to get beat, I’m glad you scored the goals.’
“But because I always played on the right side and he played on the left, we always came together on the pitch. When the ball was there to be won, we both went for it.
“If either of us got hurt, we were very concerned for each other. I remember tackles between us – once I had to go off for treatment in a game against Newcastle, and he carried the medical bag while I was helped off to be treated.
“But it was always a source of pride that we were playing against each other in the First Division, which was a dream for both of us.
“It was something we never expected to see or experience. There was Jimmy and Brian Greenhoff and the Charlton brothers, so there were a few sets of brothers playing against each other twice a season.”
Kenny of course enjoyed huge popularity at Molineux, but he revealed Terry was held in similar esteem on Tyneside.
“Terry was revered in Newcastle, for setting up a lot of goals for Malcolm Macdonald,” he said.
“Every time Terry got the ball, Malcolm was on his bike going for his pass, and he knew where Terry was going to put the ball. It was a telepathy between them and it worked so well for them.
“Macdonald has said Terry had the best left foot he had ever seen. He wasn’t the strongest tackler or the bravest, but if you gave him the ball at his feet, his vision and his passing ability were brilliant.
“He had a very good career and we both achieved something that we always dreamt of, which was to play in a cup final at Wembley.
“It happened in 1974, when I got to the League Cup final and he got to the FA Cup final, against Liverpool and they got beat 3-0. I wish I’d got to an FA Cup final.”
Telepathic on the pitch, Hibbitt and Macdonald were known almost as much for their off-field antics as well, which included a crafty cigarette in the dressing room – courtesy of manager Joe Harvey bending the rules to accommodate two of his best players.
“They used to have the big baths and everyone would pile in and Joe Harvey would bring in cigarettes for those who smoked – he’d give them a fag in the bath,” said Hibbitt.
“If you look at the old pictures of the 1930s, 40s and 50s, most of them were having a fag.
“And the South Americans had a reputation for probably smoking more than any others. But no one does it any more – they can’t afford to and they wouldn’t get away with it.”
Rivals on the pitch, the Hibbitt brothers also had their share of banter off the park too.
“When we met up, we’d have an argument over a beer and we’d disagree, but it never got out of hand – fisticuffs or anything like that,” said Hibbitt.
“I’m known as a bit of a moaner, but he was about 10 times worse than me!”
Tragically, Terry died in August 1994 of cancer, at the terribly young age of just 46. Kenny was manager of Walsall at the time and was devastated to hear of his brother’s passing.
“I think about him all of the time,” he said. “I miss him every day. There’s always a moment during a day where I’m sitting by myself and I look back.
“I’ll never forget his funeral – there were thousands lining the streets of Newcastle.
“I only ever played in the same team as him once, in an Under-11s cup final when I was eight and he was 11, and he scored the winning goal.
“I can still see it now: The goalkeeper took a goal kick and before he got back on his line, Terry had smashed it back in from about 22, 23 yards with his left foot. It went like a rocket.
“You look back at those things such as when we played in front of the house, 25, 30 yards apart, just belting balls to each other, striking the ball left foot then right foot.
“That’s where we both honed our skills. I’ve always said if you can’t control a ball and pass it, you shouldn’t be playing football. Those were things we could both do – control it, and pass it.
“We had it in us – it didn’t just happen – but we worked for hours and hours on end practising it every day.
“My mother once threw all my clothes in the dustbin because they were that muddy. I had to go and get them out and she said ‘I’m not washing them!’
“But that’s what we used to do all day long. We did nothing else, apart from playing cricket in the summer.
“So I do think about him quite a lot, more so as you get older. I’ve been the fortunate one and the lucky one to live a lot longer than he did.
“I’d love us both to be here talking about it, but it wasn’t to be. He’s still moaning up there, don’t worry about that! Wherever he is, he’ll still be moaning!”