We’ve Got Willie, Willie, Willie, Willie Morgan on…Manny Road

It was never the easiest of chants.  Too fast and words became unintelligible. If you’d over indulged on pre-match refreshment, it was probably best to leave well alone.

“We’ve got Willie, Willie, Willie, Willie Morgan, on the wing, on the wing…”

Willie Morgan in full flight

Willie Morgan in full flight

Willie Morgan signed for Bolton  in late 1976, although initially he was reluctant to do so.  The winger had played over two hundred league games for both Burnley and then Manchester United, spending only one season outside the top flight of English football. He wasn’t keen to step down a division.

Morgan returned to Burnley after leaving Old Trafford, because of the regard he had for then manager Jimmy Adamson, but he didn’t get on with chairman Bob Lord.  Then Adamson was sacked and Joe Brown took over. It was time to go.   Enter Bolton boss Ian Greaves who offered a way out, and some reassurance on league status.

“We’re going to get promotion,” he advised.

It wasn’t an idle boast.  His team had narrowly missed going up the season before and would do so once more before finally making the step up.

“I liked him very much,” says Morgan, “I liked what he had to say.  And obviously didn’t regret it.  Had four wonderful years there.

“Ian was brilliant.  In fact, Ian and George Mulhall.  They were a great combination.  They could have been successful at any club.  Ian was a brilliant judge of a footballer.  Managers in those days were.  He wasn’t a coach.  He put a great team together, great blend.   It was a very enjoyable part of my life.”

“Most of them,” states Morgan, when asked who he most enjoyed playing with at Bolton.  He is keen to stress how good the team was as a whole, although a few individuals get a mention.

The late Ian Greaves

The late Ian Greaves

“When I arrived Peter Thompson was still there on the left wing.  Great player, great guy.  The whole team, they were all good in their own positions.  People like Neil Whatmore, Steve Taylor, a couple of great goal scorers and of course we had Tony Dunne one of the great full backs.  Then Frank joined us – Worthy.

“We had lots of laughs.  It was a very happy club. And we played great football. And that was down to Ian Greaves.”

Greaves made good his promise, as Bolton clinched promotion, in April 1978 at near neighbours Blackburn Rovers, with visiting fans taking over the stadium for the evening. Morgan has unconventional memories of the occasion.

These days no doubt, Chubby Chandler can get tickets for any event he wishes.  He is head of ISM, a sports management agency with a multitude of big names from various sports on its books.  Lee Westwood, Darren Clarke, Michael Vaughan, Freddie Flintoff, to name just a few.  Back then, he was still a golfer.

“I remember Chubby phoning me before the match from somewhere up in Scotland,” says Morgan.  He was playing at the time, this was before he took over the management and he said, ‘can you get me a ticket?’

I said, ‘you’ve got to be kidding, it’s sold out.’  I remember meeting Chubby at the players’ entrance and bringing him in and sitting him out the front to watch the match. He was a big Bolton supporter.”

The other recollection is more painful.  “The match before I’d broken my ribs and we didn’t know.  I’d got treatment, because it was a midweek game, if I remember, and on the Saturday we played away from home. A guy hit me in the ribs and I was getting treatment all the way up to the Wednesday night.

“The pain was unbelievable.  They said ‘you’ll be alright’ and strapped me up, sent me out.  I tried to make the first run, I collapsed.  I was only on the pitch for five minutes!”

Once back in Division One, Morgan came up against his former employers. What was it like to play against Manchester United?

“Well it was enjoyable because we beat them! We beat them at Bolton and we beat them at Old Trafford.”

But there were divided loyalties, and it’s here that one begins to appreciate why three decades after he retired, Willie Morgan is still warmly regarded by supporters of those clubs he played for.

“Obviously, It was great to do the double.  But from Manchester United fans point of view it was a little bit sad for me.  It’s always with mixed feelings. You want to play well, you want to win. On the other hand you can understand why people don’t want to celebrate because it’s the supporters you feel for.

“The Man United supporters were fantastic. In fact all the clubs I played for the supporters were fantastic.”

Bolton's Championship winning side of  1978.  Morgan is front row second from the right

Bolton’s Championship winning side of 1978. Morgan is front row second from the right

Willie Morgan On the Wing is published by Random House on 1st August 2013.  For more details click here.

– Richard McCormick

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