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Football: Colourful life and times of Wolves hero Dougan; DEREK DOUGAN APPRECIATION.

Byline: By Ged Scott

It is said that we now live in an age when the only thing truly colourful about most modern-day footballers is their money.

The so-called colourful characters of the past really are now a dying breed.

And that was illustrated all too painfully yesterday when the death was announced, at the age of 69, of Wolverhampton Wanderers legend Derek Dougan.

They did not come any more colourful than 'The Doog', who made many a headline in his seven and a bit seasons as a player at Molineux in the late 1960s and early 70s, and carried on making them both before and and after he returned to Wolves to help run the club as chairman and managing director for several seasons in the early 1980s.

His involvement as the front man to the notorious Bhatti brothers earned Dougan in 1983 the second of the two promotions to the top flight he directly enjoyed in his time at Wolves. But it was as a player that he will best be remembered, right from first signing from Leicester City for pounds 50,000 in March 1967 to his final game in 1974.

Within two months of joining, Dougan's nine goals in 11 games, including a hat-trick against Hull City on his home debut, had helped Ronnie Allen's Wolves seal promotion from Division Two as runners-up to Coventry City. And his final season also ended memorably with a medal, as part of the 1974 side that beat Manchester City to win the League Cup.

But it was the fun and games in between that made him such a legend. Dougan was already well established as one of the game's great extrovert characters before he came to Molineux.

Having been brought over to England from Belfast side Distillery by Portsmouth initially as a defender in 1957, he had been switched up front by the time he moved to Blackburn Rovers, from whom he he finished on the losing side against Wolves in the 1960 FA Cup final. And, when he moved on for two seasons with Aston Villa, although he kept up his career average of scoring not far short of a goal every two games, his time there was best remembered for shaving his head, long before that look became fashionable among 21st Century footballers.

Then, via spells in the East Midlands with Peterborough United and Leicester came his final move, back to the West Midlands with Wolves, for whom he was acclaimed as a hero almost from his first kick and with whom he earned the lion's share of his 43 international caps.

His first goal was greeted with a salute for which he became accustomed in almost all the 123 goals he scored for Wolves in 323 games, with both arms stretched high above his head.

He scored some pretty famous ones too in a dream partnership up front with John Richards, perhaps most notably the winning goal against Leeds United to deny them the league title at Molineux in 1972, as well as ending up the club's record scorer of European goals, during Wolves' foreign travels in the early 1970s.

But it was not just for his considerable football skills that this lanky son of Belfast with the deceptively pacy long stride and even longer tache will be remembered.

As a particularly loquacious Irishman, his ability to talk earned him the chairmanship of the PFA, as well as earning him a place as an ITV World Cup panelist, with a penchant for views on the game as loud as his ties. And he also helped talk his way out of trouble when his name was briefly sullied with a court case, on an assault charge.

His verbal output might not always have been appreciated by the managers he played for. But The Doog's skills as a leader were most memorably in evidence when he returned to the club as the frontman for a takeover in 1982.

After standing shoulder to shoulder with the fans for the first game, that sort of ability to unite a cause helped inspire Wolves to a totally unexpected promotion under Graham Hawkins in 1983 - even if the whole thing went pear-shaped a year later when they came straight back down again.

But lively though those years were, and aside from all the colourful views and colourful ways, the only thing Wolves fans will remember The Doog for will be his goals.

He might be just behind the names of the three real Wolves greats, Stan Cullis, Billy Wright and Steve Bull, in the hearts of fans. But, alongside the likes of Richards, Johnny Hancocks, Ron Flowers, Bert Slater, Peter Broadbent, Robbie Keane and Dave Wagstaffe he belongs to the next batch just behind. And, in that company, having now succumbed to the heart problem that first almost claimed him a decade ago, although sadly no longer living, he now truly remains worthy of the sometimes overused accolade of 'legend'.

Do you have any memories of Derek Dougan? Log on to birminghampost.net and send us your thoughts

CAPTION(S):

Derek Dougan in action for Wolverhampton Wanderers in 1970. He scored a hat-trick on his debut and helped the club to promotion to the top flight in his first season Picture, GETTY IMAGES; Derek Dougan (right) and West Bromwich Albion's John Wile (centre) look on as Wolves score at The Hawthorns in 1971
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Title Annotation:Sport
Publication:The Birmingham Post (England)
Geographic Code:4EUUK
Date:Jun 25, 2007
Words:901
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