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Saturday, August 1, 1998 Published at 10:31 GMT 11:31 UK


Wolves salute classic fan

Wolves are to unveil a commemorative plaque

Wolverhampton Wanderers are to unveil a plaque commemorating one of their most classic fans: Sir Edward Elgar, who is credited with writing the first football chant.

One hundred years ago the English composer was a Wolves supporter. Now the club plans to play Elgar as the team emerges onto the pitch before matches.

Andrew Bomford on how Elgar was Wolves' number one fan
Wolves fans reportedly sing Elgar's Enigma Variations from the terraces every weekend. To show its appreciation for the musical contribution from its most illustrious fan, the club is erecting a plaque to him at Molineux on Saturday.

Legend has it that Elgar, whose Enigma Variations ranks as one of Britain's favourite classics, was such a devoted fan he regularly cycled all the way from Worcester to watch games during the 1890s.

In 1898, he was so taken with a phrase in a newspaper report which said his hero Billy Malpass had ''banged the leather for goal'' that he set it to music - thus creating what is claimed to be the first football chant.

[ image: Edward Elgar: Thought to have given football its first chant]
Edward Elgar: Thought to have given football its first chant
The chant will be heard again when Wolves president Sir Jack Hayward unveils the plaque.

Wolves were formed around 1877 and were founder members of the English Football League in 1888. They won the FA Cup in 1893 and were runners-up in 1889 and 1896.

Elgar is believed to have gone to his first Wolves match in 1895 with Dora Penny, the teenage daughter of the rector of Wolverhampton.

Writing about her first meeting with the composer, Dora said: "I quickly found out that music was the last thing he wanted to talk about. I think we talked about football.

''He wanted to know if I ever saw the Wolverhampton Wanderers play and when he heard that our house was a stone's throw from their ground he was quite excited.''

Dora, who sent Elgar the Billy Malpass newspaper cutting, said the composer loved the crowds, the gasps from the terraces at mishaps and the roar that greeted a goal.

However, an editorial in Britain's Times newspaper doubted the composer's chant would catch on. ''The melody may be complex for the grandstand,'' it warned.

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