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How Wolves legend Bully could have joined Manchester United

By Dave Harrison

Ever thought what might have happened if Steve Bull had not joined Wolves and scored those club record 306 goals?

It is quite conceivable that the club would have drifted into oblivion if Bully had not arrived to spearhead the climb from rock bottom to something approaching respectability.

Well that nearly didn’t happen and wouldn’t have happened if Ron Atkinson had heeded the advice of his personal accountant back in the early 1980s.

Big Ron retold the tale of what might have been when we were together at a sporting lunch in Birmingham when Bully was also in attendance. We were together chatting over pre-lunch drinks.

I happened to ask whether Ron ever regretted not having managed the Wolves legend. “It could have happened, you know,” he said.

It turned out that the United manager was visited one day at Old Trafford by Roger Dickens, at the time a senior partner in the leading accountancy firm of Peat, Marwick and Mitchell.

Now Roger, like Bully and myself, were Tipton lads, in fact Dickens was in my year at Tipton Grammar School. He was also an avid West Bromwich Albion fan.

Big Ron takes up the story: “Roger was in my office one day at United when he said: ‘Hey, there’s a young lad who is playing for Albion reserves who is going to be top striker. You should go and sign him.’

I said to Roger: “You do know I am manager of Manchester United. Why would I go and sign a player from West Bromwich Albion reserve team? Forget it!”

Bully laughed at the story but I rather sensed he was left wondering how his life might have changed if Big Ron had taken up his accountant’s advice.

United’s loss was, of course, Wolves’ gain and the striker went on to rewrite the Molineux record books with his scoring feats.

Big Ron must have realised his mistake some years later when he tried to sign Bully when he was manager of Coventry City but by then, the centre forward was firmly and unmistakably committed to the gold and black cause, even though he missed out on testing his talent at the top level at Wolves.

Steve later admitted to me: “I could never have imagined me playing for United at that time.

Who is to say I would ever have got a regular place in the team? Anyway I am more than happy with the way things turned out for me at Wolves.”