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The Mighty Wolves

 

Nothing in the early history of Wolverhampton Wanderers early history would have hinted at the success the club would enjoy in the 1950s.  They had finished third in the first League championship and won the FA Cup in 1893 and 1908, but the club spent 1906-32 out of the First Division even dropping into the Third Division (North) for the 1923-24 season.

Major Frank Buckley restored the clubs fortunes in the late 1930s, but it was Stan Cullis, who took over as manager in 1948, who made the club the most powerful in the country.

When Cullis took over as manager he continued the regime introduced by Major Frank Buckley, hard work in training, strict discipline at the club and all-out attack on the field.Under Cullis Wolves won the FA Cup in 1949 and 1960 and clinched three League Championships in 1954, 1958 and 1959.

With such star players as Billy Wright, Peter Broadbent and Ron Flowers, Wolves showed themselves capable of beating the very best of both domestic and foreign opponents and after sensational victories against Moscow Spartak and Honved in 1954, Cullis boasted that his team were champions of the world.

Wolves's critics argued that their reliance on long passes was no more than a glorified form of kick and rush.  But Cullis argued that he was using basically the same approach as the mighty Hungarians, and the quicker and more often the ball was in the opponents' penalty area the more likely his team was to score. Wolves specialised in crosses - either delicate chips, a Hancocks specialty, or fast low ones, often converted at the far post by the timely arrival of whoever could get there first from midfield.

Wolves were extremely fit, moved the ball quickly and ran brilliantly to support players in possession.  Cullis liked the ball moved quickly out of defence.  Upfield players such as Swinbourne, the centre-forward, or wingers Hancocks and Mullen were good enough to hold the ball until help arrived from behind, often in the shape of Broadbent, a great reader of the game.

The teams strength lay in their half-backs, Wright, Flowers, Slater and Clamp and, although they were essentially an attacking side, they were also solid at the back:  in Bert Williams they had an outstanding goalkeeper.  Williams felt Cullis' approach to the game was a basic yet effective one.  'His philosophy on football was simple - you had to score more goals than your opponents', he recalled. 'He did not complicate us with set pieces or different formations, you just went out there and played your own game.  He would always say: 'Let our opponents worry about us'.