By 90Min
July 27, 2018

191 appearances isn't usually enough to cement yourself as a club legend. But some players are special in the sense that what they mean to a club can't be measured solely by what they do on the pitch, but what they achieve off it as well.

Last July Carl Ikeme announced that he wouldn't be taking part in the 2017/18 season, as routine pre-season check ups had uncovered that the Nigerian had leukaemia, and the goalkeeper would face a battle far harder than anything he'd experienced on the pitch. The reaction from Wolves fans was what you'd expect if you'd received news of a family member suffering from the same illness, an outpouring of emotion - grief, anger and all the rest.

Robbie Jay Barratt - AMA/GettyImages

Then came something else - unity. Wolves fans, who had been so divided for so long, were united behind Carl.

Numerous events were organised to raise money for the charity Cure Leukaemia. #Pens4Kemes was an overwhelming success, the idea was simple - a 24 hour penalty shoot out at Molineux, organised by a group of fans who just wanted to show support for one of their own, they raised over £10,000. A charity walk was organised for before the opening game of last season against Middlesbrough which raised over £2,500.

Whilst the figures were no doubt extraordinary, it was the lengths that people were going to that was the real story.

Sam Bagnall - AMA/GettyImages

Here's the thing about Carl Ikeme, even before he was dealt the worst of hands, he was one of our own. A talented goalkeeper who came through the ranks at the club, Ikeme had to sit and wait before he was given his shot in the first team.

Not once did he complain as he watched goalkeepers come into the club and take the number one jersey, he waited, he worked hard, he took what was basically a tour of English football in loan deals. He stuck by us when we were at our lowest ebbs (and there have been a lot of them) and when he finally got his chance after nine years of waiting, he grabbed it.

He cemented himself as number one in 2012, and proved to be a reliable figure in a team that was so very dysfunctional. He was pivotal in Wolves' promotion from League One and on a personal note I'll never forget him almost jumping into the away end after saving a penalty away at Colchester. 

Malcolm Couzens/GettyImages

It's those kinds of moments that endeared him to the Molineux faithful, he never gave up on his chance to be Wolves' number one, and since his diagnosis last summer, we've never given up on him. Flags brought to every game bear his face, shirts with his name on the back are still worn, all in a show of support for a guy who wouldn't be out of place singing in the Southbank with the rest of us.

Ikeme's cancer is now in remission, and the announcement of his retirement is a waste of significant footballing talent. But Carl should know that for the last few years, he was the face of everything good about this club, and regardless of him not being able to pull a Wolves shirt on again, he's always going to mean something special to Wolves fans. A true club legend.

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