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Mel Eves exclusive: ‘Wolves turned down Villa bid for me’

Wolves favourite Mel Eves has revealed how he could have joined Aston Villa at the peak of their powers.

The former striker, who won the League Cup with Wolves in 1980, says he was told of a bid from Villa Park in the months after Ron Saunders’s side won the League in 1981.

By then, Eves had played against Villa regularly, and scored against them in a 3-1 home win in May 1978, and in a 2-1 away defeat in September 1980.

But news of the offer came to Eves via an unusual source – not initially via the manager or even speculation in the press, as was the norm in those days – but from one of the staff at Molineux!

I was at the ground one day when one of the staff told me they’d heard that Villa had bid for me,” Eves told Eves will be summarising the Villa v Wolves Carabao Cup fourth round tie for BBC Radio WM on Wednesday night.

I think the offer was around £400,000 or £500,000 and it was around the time they won the League in 1981.

So I went to see our manager John Barnwell to ask him if it was true, and he said it was. He asked me how I knew about it, and of course I couldn’t tell him.

Clearly I wasn’t supposed to know about it, because the manager thought it might unsettle me, and he told me he’d turned it down.

These days of course, a player’s agent would tell them about any offer and a player would have more say on his own future.”

Eves, a lifelong Wolves fan, insists he never wanted to leave Molineux and would never have sought a move.

I would never have looked around for a move because I always wanted to play for Wolves,” he added.

I never heard anything more about it, but it was interesting to see how both clubs’ fortunes went subsequently.”

Wolves went on to be relegated that season, 1981-82, and also went bust that summer with debts of £2m.

By contrast, Villa finished the campaign in unforgettable fashion with their finest hour as they won the European Cup, beating Bayern Munich 1-0 in Rotterdam.

Villa had Peter Withe and Gary Shaw in their pomp as their regular pairing up front and David Geddis waiting in the wings, while Tony Morley was playing on the left wing, which was another position the versatile Eves had made his mark in.

So it’s not difficult to see why the Darlaston-born forward was an attractive proposition to Saunders and Villa at the time.

Then aged 25, he was Wolves’ top scorer two seasons running in 1981-82 (seven goals in a relegated team) and 1982-83 (18 League goals in a promoted side) when he outscored club record signing Andy Gray and then record goalscorer John Richards, as well as an up-and-coming Wayne Clarke.

As for Wednesday night’s tie, Eves feels the balance of the tie could well be determined by the rotation policies of the respective managers Dean Smith and Nuno Espirito Santo.

Both teams are expected to show several changes from the weekend’s Premier League action, where Wolves drew 1-1 at Newcastle on Sunday and Villa went down 3-0 at Manchester City a day earlier. Villa are set to be without playmaker Jack Grealish for the tie because of a calf knock picked up at the Etihad.

Wolves are the most likely to make more changes because of the extra games their small squad has already had. This will be their 21st game of the season, while it’s only Villa’s 13th.

Eves said: “Wolves have played more than half as many games again as most teams not in Europe so it’s stretching the squad a bit.

It depends on what teams both managers want to put out, but I would imagine as the winners go through to a quarter-final, both teams want to go through and so will want to be as strong as they feel they can be.

Wolves are still relatively fresh from reaching the FA Cup semi-final at Wembley last season and the fans love a cup run. I’m sure both managers will take it seriously.

It’s a bit like the Europa League for Wolves in that it’s probably a opportunity for other players to come in, but Nuno will only put players in who he trusts.

I am sure there will be changes from both teams’ last league fixtures.”

Pushed for a verdict, Eves said: “I would like to see Wolves get the better of it but either way, another Midlands team will go through to the quarter-finals and be one step closer to Wembley.”