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Wolves super fan Tony Cowley recalls Euro trips of yesteryear

As Wolves prepare for their latest Europa League clash away to Besiktas, super fan TONY COWLEY recalls European journeys of the past. Despite living in the Isle Of Man, the 73-year-old still attends every Wolves game home and away after seeing his first match in the early 1950s. He has twice been the subject of features on the BBC through his incredible loyalty and dedication to the gold and black cause and was voted the Wolves fan of the year by the Express & Star in 2016.

In September 1974 I was on a supporters’ trip to Porto for their UEFA Cup tie that Wolves had organised through a travel company called Courtline.

Before the trip, the firm went bust but Dot Wooldridge (who was secretary to many Wolves managers down the years) made contact to ask if I still wanted to go.

There were seven of us supporters on the trip and Malcolm Finalyson (legendary Wolves goalkeeper) was invited as a guest.

We actually travelled on the team coach with the players, and on arrival at Birmingham airport we were told by the manager Bill McGarry ‘our players do not drink (alcohol), so don’t embarrass them by offering them one’!

We were staying in a fantastic beach resort hotel at Ofir with the press and directors. The hotel had a ten-pin bowling alley, tennis courts and pitch and putt, which was in stark contrast to the accommodation for the players, who were holed up in the middle of a forest not far away with nothing like the facilities we had!

At 9pm Sammy Chung came to our hotel and told the players, who had come to our more luxury surroundings, to get back to their rooms!

After the game, which was horrific – we lost 4-1 – the players again came back to our hotel and I remember sitting having a few drinks with Phil Parkes and Barry Powell, who were the last two still up, until the early hours of the morning.

It was an early morning start the next day to fly back so I left the bar to go back to my room and fell asleep.

I was awoken by loud banging at my door and wondered what all the fuss was about. Strangely, a dog had followed me back to my room and wandered in, unbeknown to me! I hadn’t a clue where it had come from!

One of the Wolves directors, Gerry Devine, invited all seven of us fans to the next home game as a goodwill gesture and we were invited into the directors’ room for drinks before the game and at half-time.

We were introduced to people by Gerry, and when it was my turn, he said ‘And this is Tony Cowley, who has a ‘thing’ about dogs!’

I don’t remember much more about the trip, apart from I recall Derek Dougan seemed to spend a lot of time with Malcolm Finlayson.

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In 1980, a mate from the Isle Of Man and I saw a 10-day trip advertised which took in three England games in Italy against Belgium, Italy and Spain.

It was a coach tour, departing from Liverpool, to East Midlands airport, to fly to Sanremo and then a coach to Turin, which was where the Belgium and Italy games were being played.

Joining us on the trip were Bob Paisley, the Liverpool manager, Maurice Setters (who at the time was assistant manager to Jack Charlton at Sheffield Wednesday) and Mike Ellis, a football writer on The Sun.

We were based in Sanremo for the first two games before travelling to Sorrento for the last match against Spain, which was to be played in Naples.

There was a lot of trouble at the first game and we ended up getting tear-gassed, even though we hadn’t done anything wrong.

Neither Bob, Maurice or Mike went to the game because they were so disgusted by the trouble and even Mike stayed in the hotel to file his report, having watched the game on TV.

When we got back to the hotel, Maurice laid into us, calling us idiots and saying we should be ashamed of ourselves.

I defended us, saying we had done nothing wrong, that we had only gone to watch the match and that he was putting us in the same bracket as the troublemakers.

When I went down to breakfast the next morning, I was applauded by the other guests!

For the last game against Spain, we had a long coach journey to Sorrento, where we were staying.

A lot of the England fans were staying at a campsite, and the Italians came along and started kicking them while in their tents.

The England fans came out to retaliate, but it had been a pre-orchestrated move by the Italians as there were about 100 of them waiting!

We were sat in a bar with some Dutch people and it all kicked off.

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For Wolves’ last European trip before this season, I went on a three-night trip for the PSV Eindhoven game.

It was billed as a ‘deluxe’ journey from Wolverhampton. One of the guys on the trip named Reg was something to do with the staff at Molineux and he brought with him a massive team photo.

Once in Amsterdam, we went to a bar across a little bridge in the city and Reg put this picture on the wall.

Before doing so, he asked us all to sign it as if we were the players, though I have no idea why!

Thinking quickly, I signed my name as ‘Peter Daniel’ (the Wolves midfielder who didn’t play in that game but featured in the home leg).

Five years later, I went back to the same bar in Amsterdam – and the photo was still there on the wall!

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Father-of-four Tony is such a Wolves fanatic that two of his children share their names with gold and black favourites!

Oldest son Stephen, 32, is named after Steve Bull, because he was born just before Bully scored twice in a 4-1 win against Scunthorpe on Bank Holiday Monday, August 31, 1987 and Tony and wife of 33 years Karen said he would be named after Wolves’ first scorer that day.

Next oldest Robbie, 30, entered the world in July 1989 but took the name of Robbie Dennison after the Northern Ireland winger was Wolves’ last home scorer the previous season, netting in the 2-2 draw against Sheffield United on May 9, 1989.

Karen is not a football fan and their other children Daniel, 25, and Kirsten, 23, aren’t named after Wolves players.

So, living in the Isle Of Man, why support Wolves with so many big, successful clubs in the north west, much closer to home?

A couple of things,” says Tony. “I’ve always liked the colours, gold and black – they stand out and look great together.

Also, my dad used to play football for a team called Wanderers on the Isle Of Man.

When I was very young I collected pictures of my favourite players of the time in a scrapbook and they were Bert Williams, Billy Wright, Johnny Hancocks, Jimmy Mullen and Peter Broadbent, and I just stuck with it.”

He doesn’t recall his first game but insists it was an away match at one of Blackpool, Preston or Blackburn in the early 50s, which involved a boat from the Isle Of Man to Fleetwood, then a bus to Blackpool, or train to Preston or Blackburn. Impressive support!