Black Country Bugle

Fifty years since King John stunned Stoke with a hat-trick

- By CLIVE CORBETT Bugle correspond­ent

Richards’ partnershi­p with veteran Dougan would flourish and become the stuff of legend

THE 30th of this month marks fifty years since John Richards really burst on to the footballin­g scene with the first of his six hat-tricks for Wolves.

He had made his debut against West Bromwich Albion on February 28 1970 and establishe­d himself in the team during the 1971-72 season, but it was in the 1972-73 campaign that he scored 33 times in all competitio­ns, a feat that earned Richards his solitary full England cap. ‘King John’ of course went on score 194 goals in 14 years at the club.

The last Saturday of September 1972 saw Molineux lit up by an eight-goal encounter with lowly Stoke City. Eliminated from the UEFA Cup by Kaiserslau­tern in midweek, injury robbed the Potters of the services of Gordon Banks, and although a Geoff Hurst penalty put them ahead after only two minutes, Wolves eventually ran out 5-3 winners.

Ignored by Sir Alf Ramsey for the forthcomin­g match against Yugoslavia, John Richards notched a hat-trick to make himself the division’s top scorer and send Wolves up to fifth.

With 16 goals in all competitio­ns in 1971-2, John Richards had establishe­d himself in the Wolves side and for two more seasons his partnershi­p with veteran Dougan would flourish and become the stuff of legend.

This was his first hat-trick for Wolves. Although they had stopped an eight-game winless run with a 5-1 home win over Manchester City, Stoke came to Molineux struggling in 20th place. They were given a gift start when Geoff Hurst scored from the penalty spot after only three minutes. Bernard Shaw had tried to pass back to goalkeeper Phil Parkes – you could pass to the keeper in those days – and had miscued allowing Hurst to intercept. Trying to rectify his error, Shaw brought the World Cup hero down and Hurst made no mistake from the spot.

On 13 minutes Wolves were level when Richards opened his account. Danny Hegan found Kenny Hibbitt on the right, raced on to the return pass and squared the ball with telling accuracy for Richards to ram it past John Farmer, the England under-23 internatio­nal in the Stoke goal. When Farmer punched out a David Wagstaffe shot, Richards appeared to be brought down in the scramble for the rebound, but penalty appeals were in vain. A second Wolves goal just had to come and on 23 minutes Frank Munro made it with a run to the by line to the right of goal before getting in a cross that Derek Dougan flicked into the net. Within a minute Stoke had levelled. John Mahoney and Terry Conroy made it, the latter seeing his cross punched clear by Parkes only for Jimmy Robertson to play in Jimmy Greenhoff to score with ease. Before half-time Dougan saw a header cleared off the line by Alan Bloor and Hurst beat Parkes, only for his lob to rattle the bar. There was no let-up after the break as Hegan flashed a drive just wide and Farmer saved a Dougan header from a Wagstaffe cross. The winger was having a big influence on the game as was Frank Munro, and they fashioned Richards’s second goal on 66 minutes. Munro sprayed the ball from the centre circle out to Waggy on the wing and he beat John Marsh then cut inside to feed Richards, who sent a low shot past Farmer.

Stoke were nothing if not resilient and on 75 minutes it was 3-3 when Bloor got on the end of Greenhoff’s free-kick into the penalty area. Bloor had only scored nine times in 226 league names but this made it two at Molineux – he had netted the winner in a 4-3 away win in November 1967.

The game was reaching a rousing climax and Hegan struck next as he won the chase for a Wagstaffe through ball and got there before Farmer to make it 4-3 with eight minutes to go. In the final minute Richards crowned his day when he intercepte­d an intended back pass by Mike Pejic and slid the ball under Farmer.

John Dee reported in the Express and Star: “No words of praise can be high enough to describe the three goals which came from the lethal boot of Richards to give King John his first hattrick. Had Sir Alf Ramsey been watching he must surely have blushed for leaving him out of his England squad, particular­ly when he scored his third with as fine a piece of opportunis­m Molineux has seen for many a day.”

In the following week’s Sporting Star Richards was hailed by fifties great Roy Swinbourne as the new idol of Molineux: “He is quick and has a great positional sense”.

He also received admiring comments from managers Mercer, Waddington and O’farrell.

John modestly recalls 197273 as, “just one of those seasons. I was young, a lot of people were not aware of me and I benefited from the surprise element. I just played naturally. I believe that scoring goals is not something that can be taught, you either can or you can’t. You can practice technique, but cannot practice instinct. It’s anticipati­on, it’s gut, knowing where that ball’s going to land and getting in front or behind somebody.”

It was Richards’ first treble in Division 1, although he had got five in a Central League game at Blackburn in November 1969, when the final score was also 5-3 in Wolves’ favour. It came almost exactly twelve months after the last top-flight Wolves treble, when Dougan scored three at home against Nottingham Forest on September 25th.

It was the first time that eight goals had been scored in a league game at Molineux since September 21st 1966 when Cardiff City were dispatched 7-1 in a Wednesday evening Division 2 game. Only on two other occasions since World War II had a game at Molineux ended 5-3. The first was on 22nd September 1951 against Chelsea, the other November 5th 1960 against Nottingham Forest.

 ?? ?? John Richards with the match ball from hat-trick v Stoke
John Richards in March 1972, at Crystal Palace ©Mirrorpix
John Richards with the match ball from hat-trick v Stoke John Richards in March 1972, at Crystal Palace ©Mirrorpix
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 ?? ?? Richards completes a hat-trick against Everton at Molineux in 1972
Richards completes a hat-trick against Everton at Molineux in 1972

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