Friday 28 September 2012

God's Footballer

Expert Witness

The story of Peter Knowles is unique in football. At the age of just 22, Knowles, one of the finest inside forwards ever to grace a pitch, walked away from the game he loved and never came back.

Born on 30 September 1945 in North Yorkshire, his father was a card carrying egg chaser on the books at Wakefield Trinity. But as with a lot of kids, not least his older brother, future Spurs legend Cyril, Knowles played football in the Winter, cricket in the Summer.  He was spotted by amateur side Wath Wanderers who were something of a feeder club for Wolves.

In 1963, at the tender age of 17, Knowles made his debut for the Black Country side. Wolves won 1-0 away at Leicester City and in his next game, a 2-2 draw with Bolton Wanderers, he scored his first senior goal for the club. By the end of the 1966-67 season Knowles was scoring for fun, including two hat tricks against Carlisle and Derby County. Wolves were Second Division runners up and were duly promoted to the First Division. Despite being injured in that first season he still managed 21 appearances, bagging eight goals. It was at this time he got called up for England Under 23 duty: despite rubbing shoulders with Peter Osgood, Martin Chivers, Joe Royle and Brian Kidd he wasn't phased by these players from high profile clubs.

In the close season Knowles was part of the British invasion to break soccer in America. Plying his trade in Los Angeles in a FIFA recognised mini league, Knowles once agian featured heavily on the score sheet. On his return to the UK, Wolves strengthened their forward line for the 1967-68 season with the legendary Derek 'The Doog' Dougan. But despite scoring 12 times they only narrowly avoided relegation; Knowles, with one eye on the upcoming Mexico World Cup, put in a transfer request. It was rejected.

Once again Knowles spent the Summer in America, this time playing for Kansas City - where inevitably he scored a clutch of goals. But this time when he landed back in Britain things were different. Very different. While he'd been in Kansas, Knowles had joined the Jehovah's Witnesses. 'I shall continue playing football for the time being' he announced, 'but I have lost my ambition. Though I will still do my best on the field, I need more time to learn about the Bible and may gave up football.'

Notwithstanding this bombshell Wolves got off to a flying start, winning seven of their first eight games; but the eighth match in that 1969-70 season, a 3-3 draw against Nottingham Forest, was the last game Peter Knowles ever played. All dreams of ever winning medals, silverware and playing for England were extinguished there and then.

Incredibly, Wolves kept him on their books for twelve more seasons: a succession of managers still secretly hoped that Knowles would go up into the attic and fish out his boots one last time. He never did.

Billy Bragg wrote a song about him: 


  1. Where is he now - is that in part 2?

  2. Still living in Wolverhampton; still trying to convert the likes of you and me. I'm hoping to do a Q&A with him. Stay tuned.

  3. incredible story and one I was never aware of - although I must have heard of him at that time I dreamt of being Peter Osgood and playing for Chelsea, after a couple of seasons with Gillingham of course...

    However a couple of years later I realised I was no good and anyway when I started at the Grammar School they threw a ball someone had sat on and told me to run with it. From then on I was sold of Rugby Union and briefly made an appearance for Kent in my school boy days before realising that at the higher levels of club rugby it was truly a man's game and I was spending too much time injured to be a regular first team pick. I walked to the stands and have watched from there since - with of course my round ball interest only focused on Gillingham these days... btw we are still some how top of the league!

  4. Thanks for this reminder of a fine lost talent. I recall all this happening. It was quite a story and probably even got a mention in my weekly copy of Shoot! I seem to recall that Bobby Tambling of Chelsea dabbled with the JH's, too. Anyone else remember this?