Wolves fans came to salute their idol, but fittingly, Steve Bull was honoured with a tribute from his own hero.
More than 20 years after hanging up his boots, supporters still sing his name, and on Friday night, it was Bully’s turn to take the plaudits from someone he looked up to – Liverpool legend Ian Rush.
A video tribute from the Anfield goal machine was the fitting endpiece and pinnacle of an emotional night in the third of the outstanding They Wore The Shirt series superbly organised by the tireless Steve Plant, after similar annual events honouring Derek Parkin and Kenny Hibbitt.
Some 270 supporters packed out the Hayward Suite to hear Rush toast Bully, saying: “Congratulations on your reward. When people talk about Wolverhampton Wanderers, one name springs to mind: Steve Bull.
“Not only were you a great goalscorer but incredibly loyal, which is very rare in football.
“I am saying ‘cheers’ from one great goalscorer to another – see you when Wolves play Liverpool. Have a great night.”
Bully, at 54 years old now as comfortable in front of an audience as he was in front of goal two and three decades ago, almost choked as he addressed his crowd.
There were familiar names from a golden, one-club past – the name who signed him, Graham Turner, the man who was signed with him, Andy Thompson, his strike partner Andy Mutch, plus Robbie Dennison, Paul Cook, Micky Holmes and Jackie Gallagher, and from his England days, Steve Hodge.
“We were a unit, a good team and we still are a good team,” said Bully, his voice cracking with emotion as he spoke.
“This is not about me, it’s about us. We did things we shouldn’t have together, we had good and bad times, but we did it together, and I would not have had this without you all.
“I would just like to say a big thank you to you all.”
There were video tributes from former Wolves players Geoff Thomas, Don Goodman, Steve Froggatt and Carl Ikeme, current players Conor Coady and Ruben Neves, plus Peter Shilton, and Sky pundits Matt Le Tissier, Paul Merson, Phil Thompson and Dion Dublin.
‘A goalscoring phenomenon’ was Le Tissier’s take on him, while Merson called him a ‘proper goalscorer and a good man’ and Phil Thompson dubbed him a ‘proper legend’.
To get us into the mood, we were treated to a montage of around 30 of the club record 306 goals Bully scored for Wolves, set to ELO’s Mr Blue Sky, one of his favourite songs.
But it was left to his longest standing team-mates and manager Turner to provide the most amusing anecdotes.
Turner revealed the chairman of Albion was so upset at the exit of Bull and Thompson after the pair’s departure was sealed to Wolves that he was in tears.
Not so the man who sold them. Thompson said the manager Ron Saunders told him he had accepted an offer from Wolves for him as he carried on walking the opposite way down a corridor at The Hawthorns, and didn’t stop to elaborate.
Bully and Thommo went on to give Wolves outstanding service as two of the best value-for-money signings the club has ever made.
But the loyalty they showed might never got off the ground if the two players had had their way early on.
Turner, who was given a rapturous reception, said the two had knocked on his office door after the infamous Chorley defeat asking to be let out of their contracts.
Mutch recalled a game against Bristol City where within 30 seconds of the game starting, Bully had called out to him in his broad Black Country tones ‘the foive – give him it!’ (Mutch indicating the elbow).
On watching the montage, Dennison revealed the chat at the dinner table centred around listing Bully’s attibutes, such as strength, an attitude to score and his ability to strike the ball.
Bully, who was joined by wife Kirsty and daughter Grace, was presented with a painting of himself celebrating his hat-trick at Grimsby in August 1996, created by renowned artist Louise Cobbold.
An auction for Birmingham Children’s Hospital raised £3,950 on the night, including £1,550 alone for on a white, framed Raul Jimenez shirt.