It was with great sadness that on Tuesday afternoon we learned of the passing of a true Wolverhampton Great. A man that meant so much to this city and of course his beloved Wolverhampton Wanderers.
Today Molineux will rise to celebrate the life of this truly remarkable man and ensure that his legacy will never be forgotten.
So who was ‘Union Jack’, and how did engrave himself in to legend status.
Born on June 14, 1923, less than half a mile from Molineux Stadium, Jack was only five years old when he first crawled under the turnstiles to watch his team.
His final match was Jody Craddock’s testimonial in May, two days after Wolves beat Carlisle to gain promotion to the Championship with a record points haul.
He was the man who rescued his beloved Wolverhampton Wanderers from ruin, spent £60million on securing their return to the top flight, then sold the club for £10 to secure more investment.
He was the man who donated so much to charity that Wolves staff will need to sift through pages and pages to calculate the final total. He was the man who demanded staff wear a tie on match days.
Sir Jack Hayward died on Tuesday, aged 91. There may never be another football-club owner quite like him.
Sir Jack bought Wolves for £2m in 1990 and spent far more trying to reach the Premier League, a dream realised for a single season in 2003.
Four years later he sold up to Steve Morgan for just a tenner, on the proviso that the new custodian would pump in £30million.
It was a decision that caused deep divisions within Sir Jack’s family but ensured a prosperous future for the club. Their fabulous stadium, which fell impeccably silent for a minute of respect before Tuesday’s FA Cup third-round replay against Fulham, is testimony to that. As is the pristine training ground bearing Sir Jack’s name.
Based predominantly in the Bahamas, the islands where he made his £160m fortune through developing the city of Freeport, he was nevertheless unfailingly patriotic, earning the nickname Union Jack through sustained philanthropy over many years.
After battling illness for several months, Sir Jack passed away in Fort Lauderdale, Florida. Jez Moxey, Wolves chief executive since 2000, paid tribute to his friend.
‘He was an all-round good guy and we are heartbroken at his loss,’ said Moxey. ‘He was the most generous-hearted, kind man you could ever want to meet. But he also had a ruthless streak that was as tough as anyone.
‘He was very principled. Certain things other people didn’t think were important were very important to him. I remember Derek Harrington, the vice-chairman, said to me: “Jez, on match day make sure you wear a tie. Sir Jack demands it”.
‘The club could have gone out of business at the time he stepped in. It certainly would not have been nurtured and loved the way it has to create what we have now.
‘Unfortunately, a lot of people measure football simply by league position, how many points you have got. But he had a philanthropic approach to it, as an asset for the city, to be saved for the fans, and managed in a way befitting of him as a patriot of the club.
‘We’ve tried to do that. Sir Jack’s influence remains as strong today as it was when he was the chairman.’
At times during his tenure, Sir Jack, whose generosity extended to buying Lundy Island for the National Truest, regretted the way he had let his heart rule his head on how money was invested — famously labelling himself the ‘Golden Tit’ in 1999.
But, spurred on by the glory years he witnessed in the 1950s, he continued to invest and was at the Millennium Stadium in 2003 to see Wolves beat Sheffield United in the play-off final to reach the Premier League.
‘He lived in Whitmore Reans, a stone’s throw from Molineux, and used to climb under the turnstiles to watch his heroes,’ recalled Moxey. ‘He went on to fulfil a lifelong dream of owning the club.’
From all at Penn Cricket Club, we extend our condolences to the family and friends of Sir Jack… Farewell Sir Jack…Rest In Peace