Obituary: Johnny Hancocks
Monday 21 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.
- 1 The truth about 'girl things': Three cheers for Heather Watson's honesty
- 2 Man who held up 'hire me' sign at Waterloo station returns a year later with 'I'm hiring' sign
- 4 Tennis fan suing Australian Open organisers for 'failing to shade spectators' during Murray match
- 5 Syrian refugee child beaten by Istanbul Burger King manager for eating customer’s leftover food
Man who held up 'hire me' sign at Waterloo station returns a year later with 'I'm hiring' sign
Saudi preacher who 'raped and tortured' his five -year-old daughter to death is released after paying 'blood money'
Rob Lowe hits out at White House decision not to meet Israeli leader
Iraq invasion 2003: The bloody warnings six wise men gave to Tony Blair as he prepared to launch poorly planned campaign
Winston Churchill: From accusations of anti-Semitism to the blunt refusal that led to the deaths of millions
British Muslim leaders outraged after Eric Pickles says followers of Islam should 'prove their identity'
UK terror fears: My jihadist son returned from Syria mentally scarred – now he is being ignored
Nigel Farage: NHS might have to be replaced by private health insurance
Billy Crystal: 'Stop shoving gay sex scenes in my face'
'We would evict Queen from Buckingham Palace and allocate her council house,' say Greens
French court convicts three over homophobic tweets, in case hailed as a 'significant victory' by LGBT rights campaigners
£6240 per annum: Recruitment Genius: Apprentices are required to join a privat...
£40000 per annum: Sauce Recruitment: This is an exciting opportunity for a HR...
£35000 - £40000 per annum: Ashdown Group: A well-established organisation oper...
£25000 - £30000 per annum: Recruitment Genius: Our Client has been the leader ...