Obituary: Johnny Hancocks

John Hancocks, footballer: born Oakengates, Shropshire 30 April 1919; played for Walsall 1938-46, Wolverhampton Wanderers 1946-56; capped three times for England 1948-50; died 18 February 1994.

THERE wasn't much of the footballer Johnny Hancocks but what there was tended to make an explosive impact. Standing 5ft 4in and wearing size two boots, Hancocks was a right-winger whose dashing style and savage shot typified the all-action Wolverhampton Wanderers side assembled by their manager, Stan Cullis, after the Second World War.

Hancocks was a leading light of the old-gold-and-black combination that finished the 1940s as a major power, then vied for supremacy with Manchester United's Busby Babes during the next decade.

Having impressed mightily in local amateur circles, the tiny teenager turned professional with Walsall in 1938 and showed high promise with the Saddlers, who were then struggling in the nether regions of the Third Division South. Hancocks's burgeoning career was placed on hold by the outbreak of war, though he put his athleticism to effective use, serving as a PT instructor in the Army and excelling in services football. Come 1946 his potential was recognised by Wolves, who signed him for pounds 4,000, and pitched him straight into their senior ranks.

He was an instant hit, his strength and determination compensating amply for lack of inches, but it was his ability to strike the ball crisply that took the eye. Thunderous shots, especially from free- kicks, were his speciality - his final tally of 158 goals in 343 League games was remarkable for a flank man - and his expertise in delivering long, raking crosses was another telling factor in the team's success.

Sometimes the home crowd at Molineux might grow impatient if he appeared to hold on to the ball too long but, in general, they took him warmly to their hearts. Indeed, it was not hard to see why as he took a key role in the FA Cup Final triumph over Leicester City in 1949, performed rousingly as Wolves finished runners-up in the League the following season and helped them blaze the British trail into Europe in a series of stirring friendlies. But best of all was his contribution as the club lifted the League championship for the first time in 1954.

That season the 34-year-old Hancocks finished joint top scorer with 25 goals, as well as laying on many more for the likes of Dennis Wilshaw and Roy Swinbourne. Thereafter he continued as buoyantly prolific as ever, topping the Wolves strike chart in two more campaigns before, in 1956, Cullis decided younger blood was needed.

Hancocks's path to international stardom was barred by such luminaries as Stanley Matthews and Tom Finney, and he played only three times for England but acquitted himself with spirit, especially on his debut when he netted twice against Switzerland at Highbury in 1948. He wound down his playing days with non-League clubs, later working in an iron foundry in his home town of Oakengates, in Shropshire, before retiring in 1979.

Despite suffering a long illness which left him partially paralysed he endeavoured to keep in touch with the football scene he had bestrode so excitingly and for so long. He will go down as one of the Wolves' very finest; Johnny Hancocks would not ask for more than that.

Start your day with The Independent, sign up for daily news emails
  • Get to the point
Latest stories from i100
Have you tried new the Independent Digital Edition apps?
Independent Dating

By clicking 'Search' you
are agreeing to our
Terms of Use.

iJobs Job Widget
iJobs People

Recruitment Genius: HR and Payroll Manager

£35000 - £38000 per annum: Recruitment Genius: This dynamic outsourced contact...

Recruitment Genius: Production & Quality Control Assistant

£19000 - £21000 per annum: Recruitment Genius: An excellent opportunity for a ...

Ashdown Group: Group HR Advisor - Kettering - £32,000

£28000 - £32000 per annum: Ashdown Group: Group HR Advisor with an established...

Guru Careers: HR Manager / HR Generalist

£40 - 50k (DOE) + Bonus: Guru Careers: We are seeking a HR Manager / HR Genera...

Day In a Page

No postcode? No vote

Floating voters

How living on a houseboat meant I didn't officially 'exist'
Louis Theroux's affable Englishman routine begins to wear thin

By Reason of Insanity

Louis Theroux's affable Englishman routine begins to wear thin
Power dressing is back – but no shoulderpads!

Power dressing is back

But banish all thoughts of Eighties shoulderpads
Spanish stone-age cave paintings 'under threat' after being re-opened to the public

Spanish stone-age cave paintings in Altamira 'under threat'

Caves were re-opened to the public
'I was the bookies’ favourite to be first to leave the Cabinet'

Vince Cable interview

'I was the bookies’ favourite to be first to leave the Cabinet'
Election 2015: How many of the Government's coalition agreement promises have been kept?

Promises, promises

But how many coalition agreement pledges have been kept?
The Gaza fisherman who built his own reef - and was shot dead there by an Israeli gunboat

The death of a Gaza fisherman

He built his own reef, and was fatally shot there by an Israeli gunboat
Saudi Arabia's airstrikes in Yemen are fuelling the Gulf's fire

Saudi airstrikes are fuelling the Gulf's fire

Arab intervention in Yemen risks entrenching Sunni-Shia divide and handing a victory to Isis, says Patrick Cockburn
Zayn Malik's departure from One Direction shows the perils of fame in the age of social media

The only direction Zayn could go

We wince at the anguish of One Direction's fans, but Malik's departure shows the perils of fame in the age of social media
Young Magician of the Year 2015: Meet the schoolgirl from Newcastle who has her heart set on being the competition's first female winner

Spells like teen spirit

A 16-year-old from Newcastle has set her heart on being the first female to win Young Magician of the Year. Jonathan Owen meets her
Jonathan Anderson: If fashion is a cycle, this young man knows just how to ride it

If fashion is a cycle, this young man knows just how to ride it

British designer Jonathan Anderson is putting his stamp on venerable house Loewe
Number plates scheme could provide a licence to offend in the land of the free

Licence to offend in the land of the free

Cash-strapped states have hit on a way of making money out of drivers that may be in collision with the First Amendment, says Rupert Cornwell
From farm to fork: Meet the Cornish fishermen, vegetable-growers and butchers causing a stir in London's top restaurants

From farm to fork in Cornwall

One man is bringing together Cornwall's most accomplished growers, fishermen and butchers with London's best chefs to put the finest, freshest produce on the plates of some of the country’s best restaurants
Robert Parker interview: The world's top wine critic on tasting 10,000 bottles a year, absurd drinking notes and New World wannabes

Robert Parker interview

The world's top wine critic on tasting 10,000 bottles a year, absurd drinking notes and New World wannabes
Don't believe the stereotype - or should you?

Don't believe the stereotype - or should you?

We exaggerate regional traits and turn them into jokes - and those on the receiving end are in on it too, says DJ Taylor