At half time at the Millwall match we were treated to highlights of the famous match against Honved on December 13th 1954. 0-2 down at half time, an amazing recovery led to a 3-2 win and nationwide excitement. WWLSC members can view this video on the Honved page in the members’ pages section.You can read about these fabulous Glory Years for Wolves in a great book by Dave Instone - details here.
From that famous Wolves team of the 50’s Bill Shorthouse, Bert Williams,Peter Broadbent, Eddie Stuart, and (the great player who was still captain of Wolves 12 years later at my first match) Ron Flowers came on at half time to celebrate that memorable event 50 years ago
Read this great story about the event from the Times On-line at
Luminous Wolves spark electric nights
FOR HOUR AFTER WINDSWEPT HOUR, the rain slanted down from a battleship-grey sky, falling in torrents on the grimy industrial town as it hurried about its daily business. Chimneys belched smoke, thickening the dense curtain of cloud, and from soot-stained factories came the clank of heavy machinery as thousands of men toiled to manufacture the products that had made the area famous — bicycles, beer, tyres, paint, locks, nails and keys.
As darkness fell — not that it had ever been anything other than gloomy on this miserable December day — the skyline was pierced by four towering beacons of shimmering light. These were the floodlight pylons that stood like enormous iron sentries at the four corners of Molineux, home of Wolverhampton Wanderers – the champions of England and, on this night, bearers of the hopes and expectations of a bruised sporting nation.
The European Cup was not first conceptualised in some cool Madrid restaurant over a dressed lobster and a perfectly chilled El Coto Blanco, nor in a sunlit Milan piazza by expensively shod fashionistas wearing their sunglasses pushed back on their heads. It did not even have its genesis in London, a capital city that had shown its organisational flair by staging the grand spectacle of the Coronation a year earlier.
The glossiest, most glamorous tournament in club football was conceived on Monday, December 13, 1954 — a foul, wintry night in the Black Country when Wolves defeated Honved, the dazzling club side that included many of the greatest players of the Hungary team that had comprehensively thrashed England twice in the previous year.
Under the inspirational management of Stan Cullis — a visionary despite the way that history tends to portray him — Wolves staged a stirring fightback amid scenes bordering on the hysterical to win the match 3-2, a triumph that produced a blizzard of tub-thumping headlines from a British press desperate for some good news after the humblings at the hands of the Magyars. And it was in response to this post-match euphoria that Gabriel Hanot, editor of the French sports paper L ’Equipe, set about organising the first European Cup tournament.
These are the bald facts — but they do not begin to tell the story of that extraordinary night at Molineux or of the cast of characters whose heroic deeds made it possible.
It is hard to imagine now, but in 1954 the Black Country — an ill-defined, highly industrialised region to the west of Birmingham — was at the centre of English football. In the 1953-54 season, Wolves had won the championship while West Bromwich Albion, their neighbours, lifted the FA Cup. This was an entirely satisfactory state of affairs for the area, but Cullis’s horizons were broader.
In September 1953 he supervised the installation of floodlights at Molineux and arranged a series of high-profile friendly matches against continental opponents, who brought with them extravagant ball skills and a whiff of the exotic. Fired with enthusiasm for these occasions, Cullis even ordered a set of Wolves’ famous old-gold shirts to be worn for floodlit matches. Manufactured in a fluorescent material, they made the players glow in the dark. No wonder that he later said: “
Those lights were something special. It was as if an electric fuse reached all the way round the ground.”
Interest in the European game had reached new heights in England during the previous year even if it was chiefly a result of two humiliations suffered by the national team — 6-3 at Wembley in November 1953 and 7-1 in Budapest in the spring of 1954. Those results — and the manner in which they were achieved — had shattered once and for all the idea that the nation that gave the game to the world was still the dominant force. Nor did it help England’s bruised pride that Hungary did not even win the 1954 World Cup, shockingly they were defeated by West Germany in the final in Berne.
Against this backdrop, the matches organised by Cullis provoked enormous interest, mostly centred on the games scheduled for the end of the year against Spartak Moscow and Honved. Spartak arrived in November and were level at 0-0 after 80 evenly matched minutes before being steamrollered by the supremely fit Wolves forwards, who scored four times in the final ten minutes. That was impressive, but everyone knew that Honved represented the ultimate test. Their team contained six of the players who had won at Wembley, including Ferenc Puskas, the fabulously talented little general.
But Cullis had several aces up his sleeve, not least the appalling winter weather that had left the Molineux pitch sodden. Nevertheless, one of his first actions on the day of the match was to summon three apprentices to his office and order them to water the pitch, then to use the groundsman’s heaviest roller to press the moisture into the surface. One of the teenage hopefuls who carried out his instructions was Ron Atkinson, who then did not have the prefix “Big” automatically attached to his name. “We thought he was out of his mind,” Atkinson said. “It had been raining incessantly for four days.”
Cullis’s plan was certainly not immediately obvious when the game began at a heaving, expectant Molineux. Passing the ball silkily over the glistening surface, the Hungarians left Wolves looking bewildered and it was little surprise when Puskas aimed a free kick towards the head of Sandor Kocsis and the man described by Geoffrey Green in The Times as “the greatest header in the world” converted the chance. It was 2-0 after 14 minutes when Kocsis sent Mathos clear to beat Bert Williams.
Chances came at both ends, but Wolves still trailed at the break and Cullis was left to give one of the most important team talks he would ever deliver. Strangely for a man whose rages inspired genuine fear in many of his players, he was calmness personified. He urged them to believe that the game was salvageable and ordered a couple of key tactical changes. Bill Slater and Ron Flowers, the wing halves, were told to concentrate on cutting off the supply to Puskas and Kocsis, not wait until the twin orchestrators of the Honved raids were in possession, and the whole team were urged to strike longer passes down the flanks to exploit the pace and direct running of Johnny Hancocks and Les Smith, the wingers.
Wolves got the early goal that they needed four minutes into the second half when Reg Leafe, the referee, rather harshly punished Kovaks for a foul on Hancocks and the same player converted the penalty. Now the baying crowd — joined by thousands more watching the live television coverage — began to scent blood. As Wolves swept forward, Honved’s passing game was rendered impotent by the churning morass under their feet. Cullis’s early-morning briefing began to make sense to Atkinson. “Honved gradually got bogged down,” he said. “The mud just wore the Hungarians out.”
The equaliser that had begun to look inevitable came in the 76th minute when Roy Swinbourne, the centre forward, headed home a cross from Dennis Wilshaw. Two minutes later the pair combined again and Swinbourne provoked scenes of near hysteria with a thumping shot that put Wolves ahead. Exhausted and chastened they may have been, but Honved mounted one defiant late rally and Zoltan Czibor was denied by the plunging Williams as he threatened with a late equaliser.
Once Leafe’s final whistle had confirmed an epic victory, newspapermen descended on the home dressing-room where they found an unusually emotional Cullis groping in search of the right words to convey his feelings. “There they are,” he said, gesturing at his mud-streaked, worn-out players, “the champions of the world.”
The majority of journalists were in no mood to disagree. In the News Chronicle, Charles Buchan wrote: “Wolves struck another decisive blow for English football with as wonderful a second-half rally as I have seen in 40 years.” The Daily Mirror had sent its star columnist, Peter Wilson — “the man they can’t gag” — to the match and his account, which began on the front page, said: “I have never seen a greater thriller than this. And if I see many more as thrilling I may not live much longer anyway.”
Cullis’s words and the reaction of the British press reverberated around Europe — with consequences that are still being felt today.