Have you heard about the Wolves defender who played in goal in Greece?

Colin Brazier Wolves League Cup John Richards Interview

Colin Brazier played for a number of different clubs, including a spell in the United States. In this interview with the former Wolves man, we are not going to look at his time with Jacksonville Tea Men, but rather his time at Molineux. We speak about the highs of winning the League Cup in 1980, but also the lows of missing out on the first 11 on that very day. Alongside that, there are also several wonderful snippets from Colin about all things Wolves. Strap in, it’s a belter.

Just to try and keep this straightforward, the questions that Sylvie asks will be in bold, Brazier’s responses will be in bold and italic and my ramblings will be just normal. Make sense? Let’s get a move on.

A nice, simple question to begin with…

Wolves were the first senior club you played for, how did your career start for the club?

“Originally I was a 16-year-old and I was with the Wolves but my Dad at the time wouldn’t let me sign professional until I had got a skill under my belt. So, while I was doing training and whatever with the Wolves, I was an apprentice plumber for two years.

Then, well funnily enough, at the end of that two years they said ‘we are going to give you a trial.’ So I had two weeks off work, went for a trial and they said to me ‘we’ll let you know tonight.’ In the meantime, Derby County phoned me up to say we want to sign you and I thought about it.

They had Colin Todd and McFarland there, two England centre-halves, and I thought oh God, that’s going to be a bit of a struggle. Half an hour later, the Wolves phoned me up and said ‘we’re going to sign you.’ So I went for the Wolves from there.”

That’s incredible. So what was your senior team debut like? Can you tell me a bit more about that?

“People remember me for controlling the ball in the six-yard box and doing a back heel”

“Yes, it was against Ipswich, I think it was a cup game and the England centre forward was playing, and his name’s just gone out of my head, can’t think of his name now.

That was my debut, yeah. It went quite well as a debut. People remember me for controlling the ball in the six-yard box and doing a back heel back to Phil Parkes. Everybody comes up with that when they say they remember the game. It was quite a good debut, it went well, it wasn’t too bad.”

Brazier’s debut was indeed against Ipswich, a FA Cup fourth-round replay against Ipswich on 2 February 1977. Wolves would go on to reach the sixth round that year before falling to Leeds 1-0. Next up, a question about happier times, when Wolves did win the cup, the League Cup, to be precise.

Excellent, so another memorable moment I was going to ask about is the 1980 cup final because you were the only sub weren’t you?  

“Yeah, yeah it’s one of those things where it was very very disappointing not getting on, but then it would have been more disappointing being say Norman Bell who was number 13, it was one of those things. If I’d have got on for two seconds and well, I’d have been a part of it, but just being a sub and being the 12th man, you didn’t really feel that you’d won the cup, you know what I mean?

“Not getting on for two or three seconds was quite a disappointment”

I know that’s just for me, Norman Bell would have been delighted to be number 12 and I would have been disappointed to be number 13. Just for not getting on for two or three seconds was quite a disappointment because I always remember walking out the tunnel, walking onto the pitch and thinking oh my God I could do anything today. Like you know that was a disappointment, but it was a great day for Wolves and the fans, that was the main thing – winning it.”

Breath of fresh air to hear that. Even though you’ll be reading this, I’m sure you can grasp the emotion in Brazier’s voice at not making it on, even for a few seconds. To be fair, Brazier’s honesty shines throughout this interview which makes it all the more fun for everyone. The editor, the interviewer and you, the reader. Switching it up from the League Cup…

So, most players only stick to one position but you were able to play in quite a few…

“I did more or less play in every position from centre forward to goalkeeper. Which was really, when you look back on your career, was my downfall.

I should have just said to the club, ‘I’m a centre half’. Once you’ve been tagged as a utility player you’re in and out like a yo-yo, you know? I spent lots of time on the bench when I should have been playing.

I remember the one day I played against Nottingham Forest, against Birtles and Woodcock who were the England centre-forwards at the time, and I got man of the match. It was a night game, I think.

“I don’t want to play anymore”

Then, two weeks later I think it was against Man City, my name wasn’t on the team list. So I went home and that Saturday I went shopping with my girlfriend and then when I came back my Dad said, ‘where have you been?’ and I said ‘I went shopping with my girlfriend’ and he said well the Wolves have been on to you all day, you were sub today. I said to him, ‘Dad, if they can’t be bothered to play me how I’m playing now, I don’t want to play anymore’ you know. So when I got back on the Monday, they told me off and said they were doing it for my own good, which to me it wasn’t, and I got a massive fine of £220 two weeks later, which was two weeks’ wages.”

Sums up how far the game has come now, £220 was two weeks’ wages back then. I don’t want to look because I know it’ll just infuriate me, but I’m sure some players probably earn that in a blink of an eye nowadays. Anyway, you’ll see that Brazier mentioned that he played in goal. Fortunately, we already knew that, so we had a follow-up question lined up…

So when you say goalkeeper, can you tell us the story behind that? It was against AEK Athens, wasn’t it?

“Well, AEK, we travelled there and our keeper at the time got a stomach bug. Always in training, I’d go in goal and so you know me, being the all-rounder, I said I’ll go and play. It was quite a good game, we drew 2-2.

“I should have just said I was a centre half”

It wasn’t too bad out there, it was quite a good experience. That was it, I just wanted to play football. I’d have played in every position but, like I said before, I should have just said I was a centre half, waited for the centre-halves to be injured or not good enough any more, and step in there. I think I would have had a longer, better career at the Wolves if I had done that.”

Do you have regrets that taint the time you had at Wolves or do you still look back at it as a good time?

“No I loved it at Wolves and the fans, a lot of the fans are my friends today because as I said, we played the game, we’d go out drinking with the fans and they’d go round you if you played well, or say fantastic if you’d done well you know, and the fans today are superb.

I would have said to people, I had my mom’s mouth, I would have said what I thought, which was my downfall. All I wanted to do was play football. I was shot down a lot of times for controlling the ball, playing the ball, with different managers and whatever. I was always at lock heads with the management, that was my downfall. Looking back I should have shut up, listened, kept my mouth quiet, got my position and made it mine.”

Honesty, is there anything better? There’s still plenty more where that came from! We go with some ‘standard’ interview questions for the next few.

Who was the best manager that you played under at Wolves?

“Sammy Chung, I think, he knew the lads quite well because he’d been there for such a long time, you know. My problem was that I always thought that every manager that came, they always put everybody under the same banner.

“We were all different people”

If you could run a 100 yards in 10 seconds, everybody’s supposed to run a 100 yards in 10 seconds. If you could do a marathon in two hours, everybody else is supposed to do a marathon in two hours. Yet we were all different people. I hated cross country running. If you gave me a ball, I’d run 24/7. If you let me play, I’d play all day. That was the difference with a lot of managers.”

Who was the best player you played with at Wolves?

“I think everybody at the time, I loved them all. The John Richards’, the Kenny Hibbitt’s the Steve Daley’s, the Willie Carr’s – I was Frank Munro’s understudy. I have always had a great spot for Frank. I think everybody then, it was such a good side and such good people.

“There were no airs and graces”

There were no airs and graces about anybody and everybody was just a lovely clique, you know what I mean? That’s how it is until now, and that’s why you still get 10-15 of the guys from the 70s going out and having a drink with each other on these nights.”

Perhaps a slight dig in there about modern day footballers? He’s not wrong, mind.

So you still meet up, I’m guessing it’s the former players association or is that another thing?

“They are doing that a lot better now because originally you would have had to have played 200 games within that 30 years that I left otherwise they never, ever gave you a call.

I’ve been playing for the old Wolves boys for over 10-15 years and you never got a call to come and watch a game or do something but now they’ve opened it up where we are meeting up and having a meal. They’ve asked us to go and do a few talks which is nice for the fans and that you know but they are involving us more now which is really nice.”

What’s your fondest memory of the club?

“The high point was Wembley”

“The high point was Wembley. Being on the coach the next day and there with all the fans in the street. It was fantastic but I think overall the lads. The lads were always there helping you out with your ups and downs and whatever.

Just generally I think when we went on tours together they were such a good bunch of lads; stuck together. It was like a breed. What the Man City manager and the Wolves manager are on about today, getting that clique with the players where they are all together, all the while do you know what I mean? Which goes a long way. That was the main thing I think for me.”

Interesting. This is probably the most together a Wolves squad has been since perhaps the 70s. No surprise that Wolves are flying high! Generic interview question incoming. In Sylvie’s defence, we did research Brazier’s previous interviews and found out that he hadn’t really been asked these types of questions, so you can put your pitchforks down, please.

Who was the best player you played against?

“That’s easy! Dalglish for Liverpool. He was such a brilliant player and he just worked so hard he went from one corner to the other he just had to be on the ball all the while, and he was a tremendous player.”

I bet it’s great to be able to say you’ve played against him!

“Well you know, you look back and my career wasn’t great like, but when you think back, millions of kids want to be a footballer and you’re one of those that make it, it’s nice and it’s nice to do these things and be asked. It’s nice now people want to know a little bit about your story and what happened so that’s quite pleasant.”

I think it’s one of those things where if you don’t know the former players’ stories, you’re never going to have that connection with the club, especially seeing as for so long, as you say, it wasn’t available.

“They’ll be in the South of France swanning about”

“Well the last time we went out I think it was Derek Parkin said in 10 years you won’t have any of this meeting the Steve Daley’s, the Willie Carr’s, the John Richards’, the Kenny Hibbitt’s, because in 10 years they’ll be gone. Or you know what I am saying, they’ll be too old and you don’t see any players of the late 80s, 90s, and the 2000s. They’ll be in the south of France swanning about.

Whereas these lads have lived with the fans, lived next door to the fans and are part of the community which is what I think football is all about and I enjoy. I am a football fan and enjoy talking about the game, and if people want to know my ups and downs and whatever then you know I’ll talk all day to the fans about that type of thing.”

Anyone else wishing this interview wouldn’t end? Sadly, there’s not much left… One of the beauties of what Sylvie has managed to do here is she’s got Colin in such a place where there’s no need for even a question to be asked. He’s just talking. See below.

I think as well with, not saying in any way that the current players aren’t in love with the club, but they may go on to bigger teams and you may not get the same kind of community feeling like you said that you do from the other players.

“We were part of their community”

“No way, like I said we all lived in Wolverhampton. We all walked through the fans and talked to the fans, as we went to the game we had drinks with fans after the game, we went into the pubs with the fans, we were part of their community.

Where these guys now are ushered down the back, I’ve noticed, into the car park and away they go. They don’t sign autographs like we used to do, you know I never failed to sign an autograph then and I never fail to sign an autograph now. People say the game’s so much faster and they are so much fitter, but for me, that’s a load of rubbish. They are playing on a quality pitch which allows the game to be faster, you know?

We come across a good pitch at the start of the season and then we had the ice and snow, we were in the fog and you know I think you can only be so fit, you’re a human being at the end of the day. The big sportsmen can take two seconds off, three seconds off the marathons and the 100 yards, but at the end of the day you’re as fit as you can be, and when you’re playing on a quality pitch, that’s not zapping the energy off your game day in and day out.

Plus we’d play Saturday and be running around Cannock Chase Monday, and then we’d be up and down the Southbank Tuesday running with weights, then in the gym. Ours was a non-stop period of time, a different thing, you know what I mean? Totally different. When you got injured you’d have a cortisone to get you back out and playing. All you wanted was to play and I know cortisone has knackered a lot of the guys up, but all you wanted to do was play.”

Considering how slim Wolves’ squad is, Brazier could be talking his way into the Premier League squad at this rate. I jest, of course. Slightly. Brazier finishes the interview with a comment about modern-day Wolves and the side of his era.

“They are a good group of players and like everybody else, I said they are going to have to put in a lot of work to beat the likes of the 1974 up to the 1980s squad, but I think they have come a long way in a short space of time. It’s such a learning curve, especially now with the quality of players that they’re playing against. It’s a massive experience and curve to become a good side which I think they will be able to do.”

And that, my dear readers, is a wrap. Special thank you to Colin Brazier for affording Sylvie the time of day. Also, thanks to those of you that have made it to the end. From an editorial perspective, it probably needed to be cut down but there wasn’t anything that really decided to be taken out. A wonderful interview.

Until the next time.