Wednesday, October 4 1989, and under the Molineux lights an increasingly frantic Wolves are losing a League Cup tie to neighbours Aston Villa 3-1 on aggregate.
It is the second half of the second leg and time is running out for the home side — champions of the third tier last season, their second promotion in a row — and their quest to stun their First Division, big city rivals.
On the left, midfielder Nigel Vaughan sends over a looping cross in hope more than expectation. Villa keeper Nigel Spink races off his line to clear but the lethal Steve Bull, as he so often does, gets there a fraction of a second earlier.
Wolves legend Steve Bull recalls being knocked out in a game and continuing to play on
The former striker says that the health of players should be more important than the game
The hero of the South Bank nods it over the outstretched glove. In the parts of the rickety old ground deemed safe to congregate, 20,000 Black Country voices roar as the ball finds the net and Bull hits the turf, motionless.
What many of those celebrating have not seen is that Spink’s fist, searching for the ball, has instead smashed into the side of the striker’s face, knocking him out. Martin Tyler, however, has. ‘Brilliant,’ he shouts. ‘Brave and brilliant.’
More than 30 years later, Bull tells Sportsmail what happens next. ‘The doc must have run on and put the smelling salts under my nose,’ he explains.
‘Because I’ve come round and he’s holding his fingers in front of my face and asking me how many there are. He’s asked me if I’m OK, of course I said yes, and I’m back on. What else was I going to say?’
Current Wolves No 9, Raul Jimenez, suffered a fractured skull against Arsenal on Sunday
Jimenez went to hospital and David Luiz was astonishingly allowed to continue playing
When we speak, less than 24 hours have passed since Raul Jimenez, Wolves’ current No 9, clashed heads with Arsenal’s David Luiz and was rushed to hospital with a fractured skull.
Luiz, like Bull, remained on the field. ‘He should have been off,’ Bull says. ‘As simple as that. We’ve got to get to a place where the players’ health is more important than the minutes they spend on the field.’
Bull is now 55. He has noted Sportsmail’s interview with Gary Pallister, also 55, who spoke bravely and chillingly about the migraines he suffered throughout his career and his concerns that he may be at increased risk of being diagnosed with dementia.
Bull is also aware of the situation facing Villa legend Gordon Cowans, who last weekend told Sportsmail about his approach to facing Alzheimer’s following his diagnosis at the age of 61 earlier this year. Last Friday, the family of former Wolves captain Mike Bailey — in a bid to help highlight the issue and support further investigation — confirmed that the 78-year-old club legend had been diagnosed with dementia.
Bull says his generation of players are ‘looking over their shoulder’, worried about dementia
Bull is firmly behind our campaign calling on football to finally tackle its dementia scandal. ‘I support it all day long,’ he says. ‘A lot of it is simple stuff — the temporary concussion subs should happen but I think they are concentrating too much on VAR.’ He laughs.
‘It is alarming. Sid Cowans is a very clever man. He plays golf. But you can still be fit and healthy and get it.’
Bull believes that more money should be spent on research and helping those caring for ex-players with illnesses. ‘Footballers should be looked after,’ he says. ‘The PFA should look into it and support the families more.’
Bull is aware that his own generation is the next at-risk group. ‘We’re all looking over our shoulders, thinking ‘is it affecting me?’. It’s a matter of time before it comes to our era. You wonder what you would do if it did come to you.’
Bull, who scored an incredible 306 goals for the club and was capped for England while playing in the third tier, believes he is among the lucky ones. ‘I’m fortunate that I played as a striker,’ he explains.
‘You’d have to put your head in where it hurts but we’d just do finishing practice and there’d be the odd header. But the defenders, every other time they cleared it was a header.
‘You don’t know if dementia’s going to come to you,’ Bull adds. ‘But you can’t worry about that until it does. You just have to get on with life.’
The 55-year-old is determined to keep his brain active and is still heavily involved with the club