Thumbs up! Wolves honour Sir Jack Hayward with statue unveiled outside Molineux - PICTURES and VIDEO
Legendary former Wolves owner Sir Jack Hayward returned home as a 10ft statue was unveiled outside his beloved Molineux.
Family, friends, former Wolves players and staff attended a ceremony outside the stadium, where the £250,000 bronze statue was revealed today on what would have been Sir Jack’s 95th birthday.
It depicts Sir Jack – who died in 2015 aged 91 – in his iconic ‘thumbs up’ pose.
There was warm applause from VIPs and hundreds of fans as the statue was revealed following speeches from his son Jonathan and Wolves managing director Laurie Dalrymple.
The statue is positioned next to the stand that bears Sir Jack’s name and thousands of supporters will now walk past it every matchday as they exit the subway at the top of Molineux Street.
Long-time companion Patti Bloom said Sir Jack was ‘back where he’s meant to be’, outside his beloved Molineux or, as Wolves fans have called it, the house Sir Jack built.
“It’s been emotional,” she said. “He’s back where he’s meant to be. He never really left – all his life he never really left, he was always a home-town boy.
"He would have absolutely loved having it – he wasn’t all that humble!
"He enjoyed the fans and the people and he’d have eaten it up. He’d also love it that Wolves are back in the Premier League.”
Sir Jack OBE joins two of his heroes Billy Wright and Stan Cullis, who also have statues outside the stadium.
Like the Sir Jack statue, they were produced by world renowned sculptor James Butler who attended the big reveal.
Goalscoring legends Steve Bull and John Richards, club captain Danny Batth, former chief executive Jez Moxey and members of the 2003 play-off final winning team Paul Butler and Lee Naylor were also there, as well as hundreds of fans.
Jonathan Hayward, who was also chairman at Wolves in the 1990s, addressed the crowd and thanked fans for the ‘love and support’ they had shown his father.
“Perhaps in the future when you walk past the statue you can give him the thumbs up,” he added.
He later told the Express & Star: “I am so appreciative to the club for asking me and my family here for the wonderful tribute to my dad, it’s fantastic.
"He’s in the company of his two heroes Billy Wright and Stan Cullis – and now Sir Jack Hayward is the third amigo."
WATCH Wolves fans give their thoughts on Sir Jack statue
“They have done a fantastic job. The likeness of dad in the statue is wonderful. To come through the underpass and to see dad with his thumbs up is just great.
“It is very fitting to be here on his 95th birthday. I think he would very amazed – he would be over the moon. He’s in the company of his all-time, lifetime heroes which would make him immensely proud.
“Wolverhampton the city was always his home, he was always keen to promote the city. Such as when he was hosting the Queen in the Bahamas he said ‘Your Majesty can we not get Wolverhampton city status’ and the Queen said she wasn’t sure how they could go about that. He said ‘I am sure we can find a way’ and they did find a way.
“He was very fun to be around and I do miss him every day. He is sometimes a hard figure to live up to. He was a wonderful dad and I am very proud. It is very special that he should be here as long as the club is here. It’s perfect.”
WATCH the ceremony in full
Wolves managing director Laurie Dalrymple said that if current Wolves boss Nuno Espirito Santo had a dream to build a football team – as Wolves fans sing – then Sir Jack had a dream to rebuild a club.
“He built and laid all of these foundations,” Dalrymple said.
He added: “You look at some of the greats in the club’s history, they maybe resonate because of a tangible link to performances and results.
"For me, Sir Jack’s legacy stands because of his commitment and dedication to the football club. There’s not many like Sir Jack.
“As an owner there aren’t many like him, so impassioned and wearing their heart on their sleeve with such determination.”
Wolves legend Steve Bull said: “The statue is unbelievable – it is a great likeness. It is a great testament to Sir Jack.
“The thumbs up stance, it is facing the city, he loved the city of Wolverhampton, he did lots for charities in the area. Everyone coming out the the subway now can give him the thumbs up back. People will start to meet under the Sir Jack statue.
“He would be looking down on us here and giving us the thumbs up – he would be very pleased with this honour.
“He was a very good friend of mine, he was an absolute legend and he wouldn’t say boo to a goose. He is sorely missed to this day.”
Captain Danny Batth came through the Wolves academy, which Sir Jack, who ploughed £70 million into the club, had a keen eye on.
PICTURES of guests and fans at the launch
Batth said: “I thought it was a great tribute. I met him briefly as a young academy player, he was always very enthusiastic about the academy and I was fortunate to be part of it.
“As we see with the stadium and the infrastructure of the place now, he was such a big part of it and set the foundations.
“As Laurie Dalrymple (Wolves managing director) said, he built the club. We didn’t even own the stadium when Sir Jack took over. The training ground, the stadium, it all started with him. It’s a great turnout from fans as well.”
Former Wolves players Lee Naylor and Paul Butler were in the team that won promotion to the Premier League in 2003 by beating Sheffield United 3-0 in the play-off final at Cardiff.
Butler, who skippered that team, said: “In Cardiff it was us on the pitch; me, Paul Ince and Dave Jones, we tried to get him out the stand and he wasn’t having it. Jez Moxey went over to try and get him out the stand and we finally got him down.
“Of all the thousands of pictures to put in bronze, they’ve picked the play-off final. That was the most important part of his life.
“He meant a lot to us the four years I was here. To deliver the play-off final for him was the least we could do. The first thing in Sir Jack’s mind all the time was ‘what can I do for the players?’”
Bloxwich-born former left-back Naylor added: “It was a brilliant ceremony. He did all sorts for the young players when I was at the club. He always loved the youth coming through. He was a guy who actually cared.”
Mayor of Wolverhampton, Councillor Phil Page, said: “Sir Jack Hayward was much-loved by the people of Wolverhampton and he was instrumental for saving Wolves. His legacy lives on in the club.
“He will always be remembered – very fondly by the people of Wolverhampton.”
MORE pictures marking the ceremony
Hundreds of fans lined up to catch a glimpse of the statue. Lyndon Hawkes, aged 47, from Wombourne, said: “I think it is a great honour – Sir Jack Hayward is a legend.”
Bilston couple Jean and Charles Cotterill, both 70, said: “Next year we will have been supporting the club for 60 years. It means the world to have a statue to Sir Jack here now, he really deserves it. We woke up in the morning and said ‘Happy Birthday Sir Jack’.”
Wayne and Anita Millard, 53 and 63, from Wednesfield, said: “It is a pretty special day, he was a legend. As a club we were about to go under and out of existence – and he came and put money in and redeveloped the club. We need to thank him for where we are today.
“He is always remembered at every match – whether its home or away – we do the thumbs up for him.”
Sixty-nine-year-old Lyn Lockley, from Codsall, said: “It is a great honour for Wolverhampton, to have Sir Jack here permanently.
“He is a wonderful ambassador for the city of Wolverhampton, let alone for football and the club. Sir Jack’s legacy will go on forever.”
Robert Hulme, 68, from Perton, said: “It is great for Wolverhampton to have a statue of Sir Jack in respect for all he has done over the years. I met him once in Los Angeles airport and he invited me to the director’s lounge.”