One in a series of articles checking out the careers of Warrington's sporting legends, who take a much deserved place in our Hall of Heroes

JOHN Richards was showing his star quality on Warrington football fields long before his appearances in UEFA and League Cup finals.

The prolific Wolverhampton Wanderers striker, who also represented England, played for his school team two years younger than most pupils would do.

Despite the potential he continued to show, Richards was set for a teaching career but Wolves scouts spotted him playing in a tournament and his life took a completely different steer.

As a leading front man in 1970s professional football, Richards became Wolves’ all-time leading goal scorer, fired the winning goal in one of two League Cup successes and featured in the inaugural UEFA Cup final against Tottenham Hotspur.

But, for a man who went on to become managing director of the Molineux club he served as a player for 14 years, it all began in his home town, where he was born on November 9, 1950.

Bob Smith, former chairman of Warrington Town FC, highlighted in his book ‘A Century of Football in Warrington’ that Richards started out as a goalkeeper, aged eight.

Ken Magill, chairman of Greenalls Padgate St Oswalds Football Club, remembers being captain of the 1959/60 Orford Junior C of E School team in which Richards’ talents shone as a defender.

“I was 11 and although John was two years younger he made the team at right back such was his potential,” said Magill, who provided the school team picture above.

“I have no doubt that this is the first of many football team photos that John had taken.”

Richards also gave rugby league a try as a youngster but football was his forte, going on to be captain of the Boteler Grammar School team and eventually St Benedicts and Rylands.

His achievements in ‘O’ and ‘A’ levels earned him a place at Chester College but while playing for Lancashire Schools FA in a tournament held in Bognor Regis in 1967 he impressed talent spotters from Wolves.

That manifested in Richards signing professional forms in 1969 and, apart from a loan spell with Derby County in the latter stages, he was a key playing figure until his departure in 1983 for a two-year swansong with Madeira side CS Maritimo.

He did not have to wait long for Bill McGarry to hand him his Wolves debut.

It came in a 3-3 derby with West Bromwich Albion at the Hawthornes in February, 1970.

First goals are a key milestone of any hitman.

His opener came three months later away to Fiorentia in the Anglo-Italian Tournament – good practice for what was around the corner in the UEFA Cup.

And his first league goal, also his first at Molineux, was against Huddersfield Town in September 1970 when he came off the bench in a Division One match.

They were the first two of 194 he scored in 485 appearances, a club record until it was beaten by Steve Bull in 1992 although Richards still holds the highest number of FA Cup goals for the club with 24.

Richards formed a brilliant partnership early on with Northern Ireland international Derek Dougan and became hailed as ‘King John’ by the Wolves supporters.

He made history by playing in the first UEFA Cup (now the Europa League Cup) final, Wolves losing 3-2 on aggregate over two legs against Tottenham Hotspur.

It was a run that included a quarter-final success against Juventus, while in Budapest he scored the opening goal of the two-legged 4-3 semi-final success against Hungarian side Ferencváros.

The following season he was the country's leading scorer with 33 league and cup goals and another three in the Texaco Cup, a competition involving clubs from England, Northern Ireland, the Republic of Ireland and Scotland that had not qualified for European competitions.

It was at the end of that season Richards won his only England cap in a 2-1 win against Northern Ireland at Everton’s Goodison Park on May 12, 1973.

He was not fielded in his recognised club position by Alf Ramsey and many thought him unlucky never to get another chance, though he did face fierce opposition in the shape of Kevin Keegan, Mick Channon and Allan Clarke before Trevor Francis, Paul Mariner and Tony Woodcock came on the scene.

Richards, who also represented his country in under 21s internationals twice and at under 23s level six times, continued banging in the goals for his club and none were more important than the winner in the League Cup final against Manchester City at Wembley on March 2, 1974.

He was also a member of the team that defeated European champions Nottingham Forest in the 1979-80 League Cup final, and the one that he helped return to the top flight as champions of the Second Division Championship in 1976-77.

A loan spell with Derby in November 1982 preceded his exit in 1983 but during his three seasons with Portuguese side Maritimo he helped them to gain promotion.

Upon his return to England, after hanging up his boots, he put his good education to work with Wolverhampton Leisure Services Department.

His time in the football industry was not over though.

He was managing director at Wolves from 1994 to 2000 and Richards, who was inducted into the Wolves Hall of Fame in 2010, currently works as operations director of Pitchcare, a Telford-based online service for groundsmen.

If you have any pictures, information or stories about Warrington sporting legends we have already covered or those you feel should make the Hall of Heroes, then please send them to