Wirral Wolves

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Wirral Wolves
Established 1984
Folded 1988
Based in Birkenhead
Home stadium Various
Head coach George Aguado

The Wirral Wolves were an American football team based in Birkenhead, Wirral, England. They formed in 1984 playing their first game, a friendly against Leigh Razorbacks as part of an America Day in Arrowe Park in the spring of 1985. They played a series of friendly games in 1985, joined the Amateur American Football Conference for 1986 reaching the 'Steel Bowl' Final and the British American Football League in 1987. They played in Black and Silver and based their uniform on the LA Raiders.The Wolves disbanded in early 1988 but former Wolves player Gary Lee went on to form the Birkenhead Nighthawks around this time.

1985 season[edit]

Training at the former Ellerman Lines Cricket Ground, in Hoylake West Wirral , the Wolves used a playing field in Arrowe Park as their matchday base. They amassed a 6-3 record in friendly fixtures, defeating prominent clubs such as the Steel City Giants (38-31), Stoke Spitfires and Sherwood Outlaws.

1986 season[edit]

The Wirral Wolves joined the AAFC West Division alongside teams from St Helens, Macclesfield and Runcorn. They played their home games at Birkenhead Park RUFC's Upper Park ground, having first faced Leigh Razorbacks and Coventry Bears there during the winter. They won the Western Division with an 8-2 record, losing only to Steel City (home interconference fixture) and St Helens (away), beating eventual champions Scunthorpe Steelers away in an early season matchup.[1] They reached the AAFC Steel Bowl championship game, played on September 28, 1986 but lost 50-32 to the Steelers in the final, despite five passing touchdowns by their well renowned passing offense, spearheaded by quarterback Danny Aguado, Wide Receiver Manny Owolabi and Running Back Wayne Freeman.

1987 season[edit]

In the close season the Wolves management negotiated the use of Tranmere Rovers' Prenton Park Stadium with new Tranmere owner Peter Johnson who had taken over earlier that year.[2] The preseason was marked by a fixture against an Oregon High School All-Stars team at New Brighton RUFC in which San Diego Chargers' Quarterback Dan Fouts attended as the guest of honour. They regularly attracted paying attendances of 500-1000 for home games at Prenton Park. Having lost at home to Lancashire, they faced the Washington Presidents knowing that only a win would put them back into playoff contention. This, the most exhilarating game of the 1987 season, was played in front of around 1000 enthusiastic fans at the home of Tranmere Rovers.

Washington had an experienced Quarterback, Tynesider Jeff Rutter, who led the league in TD passes with 39 and averaged over 400 yards a game. Washington were leading 19-0 at the end of the first quarter, but the Wolves chipped away at the lead and eventually brought the scores level at 54-54 in the fourth quarter. The Wolves then forged ahead 62-60 with a go-ahead touchdown and almost intercepted Rutter to secure the game. Alas the Presidents were able to engineer one final touchdown and ran out 66-62 winners in a game of 19 touchdowns.[3] The Wolves missed the playoffs as a consequence of the loss but have the consolation that the game is recognised in British American Football as one of the best of all time.[4]

1988 season[edit]

Although tipped for success in 1988 deteriorating relations between coach George Aguado and some Wolves players led to irreconcilable disagreements such that the club was forced to disband. As stated above, several players joined up with former Wolf Gary Lee who had founded the Birkenhead Nighthawks who themselves merged with Wirral's other club, the Cheshire Cats around this time and went on to have great success at the national level in subsequent years. Some remnants of the Wolves organisation were later involved in running the Prestatyn Panthers but this team was no match for the Wolves' long time rivals the Mersey Centurions when they finally met in a league game at Toxteth Sports Centre. As the Wolves and Centurions never played each other the question of which of these two rivals from the opposite sides of the Mersey was the stronger in their heyday in the early days of the sport on Merseyside was never resolved.

Despite the loss of the senior team, a Wirral Wolves junior team run by Derek Chapman continued to play throughout the 1988 season and provided players to several local clubs thereafter.

Impact of the Wolves[edit]

The Wolves are remembered as the first American Football club on the Wirral to take the field (for historical accuracy Gridiron UK magazine listed an earlier club in Wallasey known as the 'Redskin Razorbacks' but this outfit did not attract sufficient members to constitute a viable team). The short life of the club coincided with the first surge in popularity of American Football in the United Kingdom after Channel 4 began screening the game in 1982 and their matches at Tranmere Rovers' Prenton Park attracted relatively large crowds for amateur sport. The Birkenhead Nighthawks/Merseyside Nighthawks were able to keep the flame burning for the sport on the Wirral and in Merseyside and achieved substantial success in later years.

The Wolves first and only head coach, George Aguado, a Chicago native who coached numerous teams in Northern England and Wales, died in 2004. His passing was marked with a minute's silence at the opening game of the 2005 Challenge Cup between Cardiff Demons and Walney Central at Taff's Well, Wales.[5]

References[edit]

  1. ^ Davies S. Review of Wirral Wolves' season in 'Steel Bowl '86 Match Programme'. 28th September 1986.
  2. ^ "Wirral Wolves". Britballnow.co.uk. Retrieved 2014-01-06. 
  3. ^ Davies S. 'Air Powered Dynamoes from Merseyside'. Receiver Magazine 1988.
  4. ^ "Top 200 British American Football games of alltime". Britballnow.co.uk. Retrieved 2014-01-06. 
  5. ^ Davies S. 'Tribute to Coach George Aguado' in Cardiff Demons Match Programme (Demons v Walney Central). 16th January 2005.