"But not forgotten - thank you Alf, you were my hero when I was young."
Alf Wood 1945-2020
Millwall fans of an early 1970s vintage will be saddened to learn of the passing of Alf Wood, announced by the club on April 13th 2020.
Alf signed for the Lions in June 1972 for £45,000 from Shrewsbury Town. A club where he had made some 258 appearances and scored 65 goals, having begun his career with Manchester City in 1963.
Alf joined Millwall in the traumatic aftermath of the near-miss promotion season of 1971-72.
As the tough failure to achieve promotion was absorbed by all at the club, Wood signed as a replacement for Barry Bridges and to team up with then club record goalscorer Derek Possee for another tilt at the big time.
But, as so often at The Den, it was not to be; and that goalscoring partnership never took hold.
Indeed the duo only appeared as scorers together in a 3-0 home win over Bristol City in December 1972 - just before the unsettled Possee left in January 1973 for Crystal Palace.
Alf Wood however soldiered on in the centre-forward role and for this 12 year-old Millwall fan at least, he seemed every inch the immensely strong, brave and charismatic bearer of a trademark Mexican moustache.
The 1972-73 season started disappointingly, before ending in mid table respectability thanks in no small part to Wood’s 19 goals across all competitions.
The following term, the Lions again struggled to pull away from the bottom three league positions.
Once more however Woods’ 23 goals steadied the increasingly unsteady Millwall ship, finishing mid-table in 1973-74, as the team that took as so close to the big time, began to break up.
The 1974-75 season was to prove be not only Alf Wood’s final season in New Cross, he signed for Hull City in November 1975, but also the end of Benny Fenton’s nine year reign.
The departure of the iconic Wood, meant that Millwall fell through the relegation trap door by the 1974-75 season’s end into the Third Division.
Alf’s later career took him from Hull, to Middlesbrough and Walsall, but it’s fair to say that his most prolific figures were to be found at Cold Blow Lane for the three years he spent with us.
In those far off days, there was little in the way of recorded action to be had beyond the occasional visit by ITV’s Big Match cameras. But if you look carefully there are a few examples on You Tube of Alf Wood’s selfless leadership from the front.
A personal favorite and as good a memorial as I can think of to his talent, is a 1974 win over Crystal Palace.
Search it out if you can: it’s a beautiful sunny April day in ‘74. Alf’s first goal is a brave close range bundle over the line at the Ilderton Road end. And his second, a brilliant header in from a Doug Allder left-sided cross to seal a 3-2 win.
Glory days, they’ll pass you by. Gone in the blink of a young girl’s eye.
But not forgotten - thank you Alf, you were my hero when I was young.
Alf Wood 1945-2020
114 apps (1 sub)
45 goals 1972-74