Football: The giant shadow of a golden past: Stephen Brenkley sees Wolves draw 1-1 at Sunderland on a day for memories

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The Independent Online
EVERY move at Roker Park made you think of the great Billy Wright, but almost nothing that Wolves did in the match was worthy by way of tribute. Throughout most of the Fifties, when Wright played, they were a formidable, often alluring side. Now, partly because of injuries but despite the influx of millions, they are a perfectly ordinary one.

A minute's silence was observed before the start and it is probably worth recording as a sign of his stature that nobody even in these less respectful times dared to break it. It would have been wonderful if the men wearing the glorious old gold shirts could have turned on the style for him, or at least look like a side which might take some beating.

In Sunderland it was not as though they were confronting one of the First Division's most likely candidates for elevation. They are well organised but little more and desperately need an injection of cash - apparently at their disposal if former chairman, garage magnate Tom Cowie, takes over again.

In the meantime, Sunderland must live fretfully under the shadow of their great rivals Newcastle United, not to mention in the other direction, a revitalised Middlesbrough. It must have come as something of a refreshing change to their fans to see them force back Wolves as they did. Wolves have three key players out with long-term injuries but the strength of their squad still seems a shade dubious.

Manager Graham Taylor was understandably happy with the point: 'You can't take away Tony Daley, Steve Froggatt and Steve Bull and expect to be the same. That's your forward line gone. You expect the home side to dominate particularly at a place like this but I'm pleased with what we did. We hung on in there.'

Taylor was correct in saying that they will need great resolve to sustain any sort of genuine challenge. Wolves are one of those clubs who have a chance because they have been given an open cheque book. That in itself, however, is an invitation to the have-nots to prove a point.

Taylor did not single out for special mention his goalkeeper Mike Stowell, though he might have done. Stowell made three crucial saves, two from Phil Gray, one from his namesake Michael Gray. If the Wolves forward line was absent the defence was hardly imposing its presence. Gray gave

Peter Shirtliff an especially hard time, which was not relieved much from other directions. But the application of the finishing touch was quite a different matter.

Before Sunderland eventually scored, Wolves might have done so in the 19th minute when David Kelly, sent clear by Darren Ferguson, fired against the goalkeeper. Three minutes later Sunderland were in front. From wide on the left Craig Russell found Don Goodman's accurate head which in turn set loose Phil Gray. He out-strode the defence and, for once, Stowell. But the goalkeeper was equal to everything else, and before half-time Wolves had equalised.

A corner seemed to have been cleared, but Mark Venus on the area's edge was there to intervene and he sent home a delightful volley. Wolves hung on, and a sea mist descended to match that in our eyes. They deserved to hold out, for Billy Wright if nothing else.