Archive for the ‘Ferenc Puskás’ Tag

‘Out of Darkness Cometh Light’: Wolves celebrate 125 Years at Molineux.   1 comment

Mercian Origins

A century and a quarter ago, on Monday 2nd September 1889 at 5.30 p.m. a crowd of around 3,900 spectators gathered at ‘Molineux’ (pronounced ‘MOL-i-new’)the new home ground of Wolverhampton Wanderers to watch a friendly game against their Midland rivals Aston Villa. The previous year, ‘Wolves’ had joined the Football League for the 1888/89 season, playing their first ever league fixture on their sloping pitch at Dudley Road on 8 September 1889, a 1-1 draw, also with the Villa.

 The club had come into being in 1877 when St Luke’s school in Blakenhall formed a football team, which became Wolverhampton Wanderers a couple of years later when it merged with Blakenhall Wanderers cricket club. They soon became known popularly as ‘The Wolves’, since the town’s name comes from the Mercian royal Saxon name of Wulfrun or Wulfhere, derived from the totemic Wolf symbol, the townspeople are known as Wulfrinians, and the town’s nickname is ‘Wolftown’ (the suffixes ‘ham’ and ‘ton’ referred to a fortified farmstead, or manor in Saxon times).

 The Molineux Family

In simple terms, Molineux takes its name from the family that owned and lived on the site in the eighteenth century. The ancestors of the Molineux family brought their name to England in the wave of migration after the Norman Conquest of 1066 and, like many Norman-French noble names, is a reference to the family’s place of residence prior to the Norman Conquest of England in 1066, Moulineaux-Sur-Seine, near Rouen, in Normandy, which is the site of Castle Molineux. The Norman-English family settled on the manors they were given and developed into two branches, one in Lancashire, around Merseyside especially, and the other throughout Nottinghamshire. A third branch settled around Calais and settled in Staffordshire as merchants and makers of woollen cloth in the time of Isabella of France’s reign over England, during the first half of the fourteenth century, first as wife of Edward II and then as Regent to her son, Edward III, whose taxes on the wool trade brought Flemish weavers and wool-workers to settle and begin the domestic industry and trade in woollens in England. Wolverhampton then became an important wool town and, as the trade progressed, famous throughout Europe.

The dawning of the industrial era created a great deal of wealth for those who had the vision, craft and acumen to capitalise on the the technological innovation that followed the Quaker ironmaster, Abraham Darby’s successful introduction of coke smelting in 1709.  In these early stages of the revolution in iron production in Shropshire and Staffordshire, which led to the area becoming known as ‘the Black Country’, John Molineux (b. 1675) was an ironmonger, supplying manufacturers with their raw materials, then selling their finished goods. He became an extremely successful and wealthy businessman. He began by selling Black Country hardware such as brass and iron in Dublin, then returned to Wolverhampton and set himself up as an ironmaster in Horseley Fields, where he had two houses with workshops at the back. John and his wife Mary had five sons and three daughters. Their fifth and youngest son, Benjamin, became an ironmonger like his father, and ran his uncle Daniel’s warehouse in Dublin, where he stored and sold all kinds of goods such as locks, hinges, tools, and saddler’s goods. He also sold Birmingham-made steel toys. At the time, the trade between Britain and the West Indies had  increased greatly, and so Benjamin exported many of his goods to that region. He also imported Jamaica rum, and in 1775 opened a Jamaica rum warehouse in Wolverhampton, where he also became a banker. He invested in the local canals, and made many astute loans, becoming one of the most successful businessmen in the area. Another of their children, Thomas, also became wealthy and built himself a large house in Dudley Street, Wolverhampton. The house, which was built in 1751, had imposing entrance gates, and an ornamental garden that extended to Pipers Row. Thomas married Margaret Gisborne on the 5th August, 1732, at St. Paul’s Cathedral, London. They had nine sons and three daughters, most of whom died in infancy.

 

001The family residence in Tup Street, Wolverhampton, which became known as ‘Mr Molineuxe’s Close’, came into the possession of the family in 1744 after the death of the original owner, John Rotton, who owed Benjamin Molineux £700. The beneficiaries of his will (his wife, and his business partner Richard Wilkes), agreed to sell the property, and around eight acres of surrounding land, to the Molineux family to pay off the debt. Little is known about the original property, which was probably built around 1720. 001 (2)The Molineux family extended the house, and added a fine rear extension, which looked even better than the main façade. What is certain that by 1750 work had finished on the house, and the rear formal garden, because they appear on Isaac Taylor’s map (see opposite), which was drawn during that year. By the time the ‘Tithe Map’ was published, in 1842, it had become known as ‘Molineux House’. It stood proudly on a hill overlooking extensive gardens, with delightful views of the Clee Hills and the Wrekin, together with panoramic views of Chillington and the woods. one of the largest houses in the town.

Benjamin Molineux died in 1772, by which time the family had already become accepted into the ranks of the local gentry.  They continued to reside in Molineux House until 1856, the last family occupant being Charles Edward Molineux. On 6 April 1859, the house was advertised for sale by private treaty, being described as ‘a handsome and spacious mansion, with extensive out-offices, buildings, coach-houses, stabling, and beautiful grounds, plus gardens, pool, elegant conservatory and greenhouses, four and a half acres within the walls.  A further three-and-a-half extending from the grounds of Molineux House and fronting the Waterloo Road could be purchased separately.

002So it was that the estate was bought in 1860 by Mr O E McGregor, obviously another man with a vision. He retained the name ‘Molineux Grounds’, spending seven thousand pounds on returning the house to its former glory, and converting the rest of the estate into a pleasure park, which he then opened to the public for a small admission fee. The ‘Grounds’, the first park of its kind in Wolverhampton, boasted a number of different attractions, including a skating rink, a boating lake with fountain, croquet lawns, flower-beds, walkways and lawns, plus amenities for football and cricket, and soon became established as a popular place of recreation, with many fetes and galas being held there, including the 1869 South Staffordshire Industrial and Fine Arts Exhibition.

The Wolves arrive at the Molineux Grounds, 1889

003By 1872, the grounds had been further developed to include a number of other attractions, and the arena facilities were used to stage a number of sporting events including cycle racing, football and cricket matches. When, subsequently,  Northampton Brewery acquired the entire site, they converted Molineux House into a hotel and, in 1889 rented the grounds to Wolverhampton Wanderers for a very low annual rent of fifty pounds.

They calculated that they could make many times that from the thirsty thousands who would attend each match. By 1901, the building was purchased by W. Butler & Co., the Wolverhampton brewers. It still maintained it architectural attraction when I went to watch games with my father in the 1960s and 70s (see photo left), but closed in 1979 and the fine old building was allowed, tragically, to fall into dereliction.

005The Wolves had first played a game on ‘The Molineux Grounds’as they were then known, in 1886, losing 2-1 to their neighbours, Walsall Town in the final of the Walsall Cup. In 1888, the club reached its first FA Cup final, losing 1-0 to Preston North End. The new grounds matched the growing aspirations of the committee members who decided to accept the offer to move to the Molineux Leisure Grounds, and so the ‘legendary’ Molineux story began.

Prior to playing on the Dudley Road pitch, from 1881, Wolves had played on three other sites, starting at Windmill Field, Goldthorn Hill, from 1877 to 1879, then John Harper’s Field, Lower Villiers Street, from 1879 to 1881, and occasionally at the cricket ground of Blakenhall Wanderers, one of the founding clubs. The quality of all these pitches left a great deal to be desired, so now the team had a far better surface on which to match themselves against the best opposition in the new Football League.

However, before Wolves could move into their new home, the land between the house and the track had to be cleared of trees, fencing had to be removed and the bandstand had to be pulled down. The lake was drained and filled in and the iron bridge that spanned its narrowest point was dismantled. The brewery paid for the construction of players’ changing rooms, refurbished the existing three hundred-seat grandstand and built a shelter alongside this to house a further four thousand spectators on a raised embankment, with a further narrow cinder bank on the north side of the pitch. Thus, MOLINEUX was built and opened.

004 (3)From the grandstand and the new embankments, the spectators watched ‘The Wolves’ beat ‘The Villa’ 1-0, with centre-forward Wykes scoring the winning goal with a low shot. Of course, there were no floodlights then, hence the 5.30 kick-off, allowing just enough time for the local supporters and players to walk or cycle there from work. Apparently, upon entering the ground, many could hardly recognise the place. The freshly-laid 115 x 75 yard pitch looked as level as a billiard-table. Chairman of the Wanderers Committee, Councillor Hollingsworth, kicked off for Wolves. After the game, seventy people, players, friends and officials, were entertained to dinner at the Molineux Hotel. Five days later, on a beautiful Saturday afternoon, at 4.20 p.m. (the game having been delayed by the late arrival of the visitors), Wolves kicked off their first League fixture at the ground.

Their opponents that day were Notts County, whom they beat 2-0. Once again, the turn-out was below capacity, at only four thousand. This shows that ‘Association Football’ had not yet captured the imagination of the people of Wolverhampton, especially with the cricket season not yet over. Throughout the first part of that season, the ‘gates’ only rarely reached five thousand, but the Boxing Day match against Blackburn Rovers attracted nineteen thousand, vindicating the faith of both the Committee and Butler’s brewery.  Interestingly, yesterday’s clash (30 August 2014) with Blackburn in the Football League Championship attracted just over 21,000 to the new all-seater Molineux, whose capacity is 32,000.  Wolves went on to reach the semi-final of the FA Cup in their first season at Molineux, and eventually won the FA Cup in 1893, reaching the final again in 1896.

During these pioneering years, the Molineux Hotel hosted a number of meetings for the Football League, and in March 1891 the ground played host to England’s international with Ireland, which the home nation won 6-1. It was also chosen to host the 1892 FA Cup semi-final, and three more semi-finals and a further international match followed, but its basic facilities for spectators soon fell behind those of its neighbours, including West Bromwich Albion. It changed little until a curved roof was built over half of the north end, in 1911, made from corrugated iron, earning it the nickname ‘the Cowshed’, which was where I stood as a boy, the name still in use then, despite the demolition of the original structure in the 1920s.

Molineux in the Twentieth Century

006In 1923, the club bought the Molineux freehold from the brewery and Wolverhampton Wanderers Limited came into being.  However, they had to wait another thirty years to win the old First Division Championship (now replaced by the ‘Premiership’). Following their title-winning season in 1953-54, Wolves played hosts to a number of European club sides under the new floodlights at Molineux. The most famous of these was the game against Budapest Honved, the crack team of the Hungarian Army, eight of whom, including captain Ferenc Puskás, had been in the team which had beaten England 6-3 at Wembley (the first time England had lost to a continental side on home soil), and 7-1 in Budapest in the previous season.

T011he Hungarian national team should have won the World Cup that summer in Switzerland, but were beaten in the final by a West German side which came from 2-0 down at half-time to win 3-2. The England team did not meet the Hungarians in the finals, so this club match at Molineux was billed as the chance for revenge for Billy Wright (Wolves and England captain) and his boys. Again, Honved went 2-0 up in the first quarter of an hour, but Wolves came back to win 3-2 in a match which was televised live (my cousin watched it in his national service barracks). The Hungarian uprising of 1956 put paid to this magnificent Magyar team, who were touring at the time, but two years later, almost to the day, a benefit match was played, again floodlit, with MTK (Red Banner) Budapest. The team included Hidegkuti at centre-forward, and three other internationals, and raised 2,300 pounds for the Hungarian Relief Fund. The 1-1 scoreline was largely irrelevant, and the match did not live up to the heritage of the Hungarians, no matter how hard they tried, though Hidegkuti and Palotas combined brilliantly at times. What may better be remembered was the speech of the Wolves Chairman, James Baker, at the pre-match banquet, when he referred to the Wolves’ motto ‘out of darkness cometh light’, and hoped that very soon that would be the way in their native land.

006‘Fast-forward’ nearly forty years, to December 1993, and the Hungarians were again in town, having emerged from more than three decades of ‘darkness’ into the light in 1989. To mark the opening of the stand completing the ‘new Molineux’ on 7 December 1993, a capacity crowd of 28,245 watched the visitors, Kispest Honved, hold Wolves to a 2-2 draw. For the first time in nine years, Molineux was once more a four-sided stadium. Interestingly, just prior to kick-off there was a short delay due to problems with the floodlighting. Once again, the message went out (with a touch of Black Country humour this time!): ‘Nothing to worry about, for as all Wolves fans know – Out of Darkness Cometh Light!’ In this 1993/94 season, on the fiftieth anniversary of their first floodlit games at Molineux, it was fitting that Wolverhampton Wanderers were back again in the top flight of English football.

014Twenty seasons later, and Wolves are already in third place in the Championship, promising an early return to the Premiership, after dropping two divisions and gaining promotion last season. Let’s hope that after celebrating 125 years at Molinuex, Wolves can again return to the top flight, where a club with such a great history as theirs, truly belongs. But then, success in the modern game is no longer based on heritage and tradition, if it ever was.

 Printed Source:

John Shipley (2003),  Wolves Against the World: European Nights, 1953-1980. Stroud: Tempus Publishing.

 

 

 

Triumph and Disaster: May 1954 – Billy Wright’s boys in Budapest.   Leave a comment

 

0061953/54 turned out to be a great season for Wolverhampton Wanderers Football Club and their captain Billy Wright. However, for the national football team it was not so great. Beaten 6-3 in the Match of the Century at Wembley by Ferenc Puskás’ Mighty Magyars (their first ever defeat on ‘home soil’), they faced a return match on 23 May at the Népstadion (People’s Stadium) in Budapest on 23 May.

Wolves improved on their previous highly placed League finishes to win the First Division Championship (now Premier League title) for the first time in an otherwise already illustrious history. The whole of The Black Country population was ecstatic; Wolves finished top, and their neighbours and rivals, West Bromwich Albion, finished second, four points (then two wins) behind.  However, The Baggies also won the FA Cup, making it a double for the close-knit area. Wolves’ first championship success increased the club’s growing reputation as a fast attacking and well-disciplined outfit.

May 1954 also saw another sporting milestone, in middle-distance track athletics. At Iffley stadium in Oxford on 6 May, medical student Roger Bannister became the first man to break the barrier of the four-minute-mile, setting a new world record of 3:59.4.

If Bannister was the fastest and fittest runner of his time, Stan Cullis’ Wolves were the fittest footballers of their generation; he had them running up and down the steep banking of the Spion-Kop on the South Bank of their stadium, Molineux. Wolves players were expected to be tremendous all-round athletes, and they were.

004In the summer of 1954, Switzerland was set to stage the World Cup Finals and, fittingly, the English champions provided a number of players for the national team squad, with Billy Wright set to lead them as team captain. Towards the end of May, the flew to Budapest for the second leg of their friendly exchange with Hungary. Puskás met Billy Wright at the old Ferihegy Airport, which has a photograph of the England captain being presented with a bouquet by his Hungarian counterpart. The custom must have seemed strange to the lad from Ironbridge. They spent a week in Budapest, no doubt taking in some of its many tourist attractions.

On 23 May, ninety-two thousand fans fille001d the People’s Stadium (now known as the Puskás Ferenc Stadion)  in the Hungarian capital to see if their heroes could the repeat the performance which had led to the demise of the (then) greatest team in world football in the previous winter in London. Later in life, Puskás himself told of the competition for tickets:

You see, to beat an England team is always very important. If it were possible, we could have sold five hundred thousand tickets, so many people wanted to get into the stadium. You could sell a ticket for at least ten times its face value. Some people were even offering their prize pigs for a ticket! That’s how big this game was…

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The Hungarian fans were not disappointed, as the English lions went down like lambs, receiving a 7-1 drubbing, with Puskás bagging a brace of goals and Kocsis also scoring twice. In 2002, Puskás recalled:

But nobody talks about it (now)… It could easily have been ten or twelve if we hadn’t had so much fun… The English came to Budapest to win; that’s what they said . At the end they said, “There was nothing we could do… “

010This was England’s worst ever defeat, and has not been matched since. After the match, the Hungarian press had great fun playing with words, coining the expression, The English came for one ‘seven’ (days, a ‘week’ in Magyar) and went with (or ‘for’) seven-one! The match took place only a fortnight before the opening of the World Cup finals, so the sensational Hungarians arrived in Switzerland as clear favourites to add to their status as Olympic Champions by winning the Jules Rimet trophy. Under coach Gusztáv Sebes, the Aranycsapat (Golden Team) were playing a new brand of quick-passing football that was taking everyone by surprise.

The Magical Magyars continued their spell-binding form by beating the Korean Republic 9-0, followed by an even more impressive 8-3 victory against West Germany. Billy Wright captained England in both their group matches: against Belgium, which they won 4-3 after extra time, Billy being the only Wolves player in that team, and against the hosts Switzerland, which they won 2-0, with Jimmy Mullen and Dennis Wilshaw joining their club captain and scoring a goal each, Mullen standing in for the legendary Nat Lofthouse at centre-forward.

014Thei005r goals put England through to a quarter-final with Uruguay, which they lost 4-2 to Uruguay. The South Americans, the reigning World Champions who had never been beaten in a FIFA World Cup match, then met the Hungarians, who had already beaten Brazil 4-2 in their quarter-final. The semi-final went into extra time and finished 4-2 to the Magyars, a great match but another physically-draining encounter. Puskás’ team finally ran out of steam against West Germany in the final, losing (disastrously) 3-2, surrendering a 2-0 lead. It was their first defeat in six years, eventually earning them the dubious title of the best team never to win the World Cup. Two years later, the Soviet tanks rolled into Budapest, and many of the team defected, including Puskás, who went to Real Madrid.  

Football’s Match of the Century, Wembley, 25th November 1953.   1 comment

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The 25th November, 2013 marks the sixtieth anniversary of the so-called ‘Match of the Century’ at Wembley Stadium, between two national teams of England and Hungary. England had never been beaten on home soil by continental opposition and Hungary had gone twenty-four matches without defeat, winning twenty of them. Besides being the year of the Queen’s Coronation in the UK, it was also the ninetieth anniversary of the Football Association, now celebrating its 150th anniversary. The Hungarian ‘Golden Team‘ of the 1950s  had won international recognition in 1952 when they became Olympic Champions, beating Yugoslavia 2-0 in the final with late goals from Puskás and Czibor. Their 1953 international season began for the Hungarian team in April 1953 with a 1-1 draw against the Austrians in Budapest. Puskás played, alongside Czibor, who scored Hungary’s goal. However, some weeks later in Rome, the official Gusztáv Sebes ‘ensemble’ turned out for the European Cup match. The Olympic Stadium allowed eighty thousand spectators to watch with a mixture of awe and shock as the Magyars ran rings around their Italian opposition. Puskás twice found Lucidio Sementi’s net, followed up by a goal from Hidegküti. So the Hungarian team ran out of the new stadium as 3-0 winners. The team’s next match was in Stockholm where Puskás scored the opening goal as Hungary secured a 4-2 victory. Next came a clash with Czechoslovakia in October in Prague, with Puskás’ men securing an impressive  5-1 victory.   On October 11th, the Austrians were the opposition for the second time that year, this time in Vienna. This was Puskás’ fiftieth appearance for the national team. He didn’t celebrate with an individual goal, although the Hungarians were 3-2 winners. There were some unpleasant post-match minutes for the leader of the ruling Hungarian Workers’ Party, Mihály Farkas, who was there to present the captain with a beautiful twenty-four piece porcelain dinner service on the occasion of his fiftieth cap. In return, Puskás presented Farkas with a small silver cup, which were accompanied by some carefully chosen but sharp remarks about the situation in their homeland, which rather took the ‘statesman’ by surprise.

So it was that on 24th November 1953, ‘the Golden Team’ arrived in London, still unbeaten. The story of the match itself has been well told in documentary and feature films,  including the surviving recordings of the live television coverage, which is almost complete in both English (with commentary by Kenneth Wolstenholme) and Hungarian. In addition, there are many printed sources covering the match, from match programmes, to still photographs and newspaper reports. Some of these are inserted below, together with the sleeve notes from the recently released DVD.:

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With their emphatic 6-3 win against England in 1953 at Wembley, Hungary had become the first team from outside the British Isles to defeat England on home soil, and they had followed this up with a 7-1 humiliation in Budapest before the World Cup. Billy Wright was England’s captain on both occasions, as he was in the 1954 World Cup in Switzerland,  in which  they beat the host team 2-0, before the losing to Uruguay in the quarter-finals, the team which the Hungarians beat in the semi-final to go through to the ill-fated 3-2 defeat in the final against West Germany. The Hungarian team recovered over the next two years, and their last match was another 2-0 defeat of Austria on 14th October 1956, just nine days before the Uprising began in Budapest, resulting in the invasion by the Soviet Union in November and the flight of many refugees, including sportsmen and women. Puskás went into exile in Spain, playing for the glory team of Real Madrid, and many other members of the Golden Team also left to play their football elsewhere. They therefore went down in history as the greatest team never to win the World Cup, and although qualifying for the finals since, most recently in 1982 and 1986, the Hungarian national side has never again looked like one which could lift the trophy, as it looked certain to in 1954.

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Tibor Bán & Zoltán Harmos (2000), Ferenc Puskás. Budapest: Aréna

Puskás, Goulash and 1956: Hungary and Britain   3 comments

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Fifties’ Football: Legendary Links

In the ‘season’ following the Queen’s Coronation, 1953/54, the best football team in Britain were Wolverhampton Wanderers, from the ‘Black Country’ in the English Midlands. They were champions of the English First Division, the original name of what is now known as ‘the Premiership’ and they had beaten Glasgow Celtic in a ‘floodlit friendly’ at their home stadium, ‘Molineux’. Although this was the first time they had won the Football League Championship since they had been founder members in 1888/9, in previous ten seasons, excluding the war break, they had finished second three times, third twice, had two other placings in the top six, and had also won the FA (Football Association) Cup. They had a deserved reputation as a fast-attacking and well-disciplined team of tremendous athletes.

In the 1954 World Cup in Switzerland, the Wolves captain Billy Wright also captained England, and two other players scored against the host team in their 2-0 victory, before the team lost to Uruguay in the quarter-finals, the team which the Hungarians beat in the semi-final to go through to the ill-fated 3-2 defeat in the final against West Germany. With their emphatic 6-3 win against England in 1953 at Wembley, the 1952 Helsinki Olympic Champions  had become the first team from outside the British Isles to defeat England on home soil, and they had followed this up with a 7-1 humiliation in Budapest before the World Cup. Both these defeats were still fresh in the minds of English fans when, in December 1954, the ‘Mighty Magyar’ club team of the Hungarian Army, ‘Honved’, arrived in Wolverhampton. Their team contained many stars from the national, ‘Golden team’, including the legendary Lieutenant-Colonel Ferenc Puskás and his well-drilled fellow-soldiers, Bozsik, Kocsis, Grosics, Lorant, Czibor and Budai. Kocsis had been the leading scorer in the World Cup, so, following their own sensational win over Moscow Spartak a month earlier, the ‘Wolves’ were eager to welcome the tormentors of England to Molineux.

The game was played under the new floodlights on a Monday night, 13th December, with 55,000 cheering fans watching at the ground and many more on the new phenomenon of TV. The BBC broadcast the game live, which pleased the National Servicemen who were allowed to watch it in their canteens, like my cousin John Hartshorne (see picture) who, coming from Wolverhampton, and supporting the Wolves, was given pride of place in front of ‘the box’ and treated as a hero after the game. Millions more tuned in to the radio, as not many people had acquired TV sets at this time. Just as they had twice led out their national teams in 1953/4, Billy Wright and Ferenc Puskás were again side-by-side. The visitors immediately began to play with fantastic ball-control and speed of passing. By half-time they were 2-0 up and in full control, their precision passing and speed of attack drawing gasps of appreciation from the crowd. The first goal came from a pin-point Puskás free kick which found the head of Kocsis and the ball flew past Bert Williams in the Wolves goal like a bullet. This was followed up by a second from the speedy winger, Machos, who was put through the Wolves defence by Kocsis. That was in the first quarter hour! Williams pulled off a string of saves to keep the score down to two at the interval. As the teams left the field, the crowd rose to salute the Hungarian artistry, but were worried that the home team might be humiliated in the second half, just as England had been at Wembley year earlier.

In the second half, however, Wolves called upon all their reserves of fighting spirit and energy. They scored a penalty soon after the restart, and with fifteen minutes left, and the skilful Hungarians tiring on a very muddy pitch, Swinbourne scored twice to win the game 3-2. The crowd went wild with joy on a night on which it became good to be an English football fan once more. Thez were singing all the way home on the bus, and there were great celebrations in the canteens where the National Servicemen were watching. ‘Wolves are champions of the world’ was one of the headlines in the national newspapers the next morning. However, if this was seen a ‘revenge’ for the ‘dents’ in national pride which the defeats of the previous season had inflicted, this was a friendly, since the European Champions’ Cup had not yet come into being.

The ‘Revolution’ of 1956:

This is how it is defined in the ‘Dictionary’ of ‘Hungary and the Hungarians’, ‘forradalom’ in Hungarian:

“…the bitter, desperate uprising against the Soviet Empire was one of the few events in the history of Hungary that was also of importance to the history of the world as a whole; the euphoric experience of the precious few days of freedom that followed the rapid, overnight collapse of an oppressive regime could never be forgotten, despite the forty-year-long, strict taboo against any mention of it; its defeat left an equally deep mark on the nation’s consciousness, as did the painful realization that Hungary’s fate was decided by the bloody fighting on the streets of Budapest; none the less, the events that led to the change in regime became irreversable (with every Hungarian citizen realizing this full well) when it was openly declared that what happened in Hungary in 1956 was a revolution, and not a ‘counter-revolution’.”

This is how a British History school textbook described the events of 1956 in 1985:

“In 1956 Premier Khrushchev‘s speech attacking Stalin’s leadership sent shock waves through Russian satellites in Eastern Europe. Stalin had treated East Germany, Poland and Hungary almost as ‘slave colonies’  of Russia. Hungary was forced to pay war reparations in food and goods to Russia. The standard of living in Eastern Europe got steadily worse; shortages of food were common. Workers in farms and factories were told to work harder for less. Each satellite state had a feared secret police, prison and labour camps. In Hungary alone 25,000 people had been executed without trial since 1945.”

ImageAs one of my guides told me on my second visit to Hungary in July 1989, “You know Orwell’s ‘1984?’ That was Hungary in 1948.” In 1955, the satellites had been forced to sign the Warsaw Pact, a military and foreign policy alliance which bound them to the Soviet Union still further. However, Khrushchev’s speech offered them a new hope of a higher standard of living, less economic direction from Moscow and greater political freedom. Each country would be free to develop its own Socialist society, as long as it remained within the Soviet ‘bloc’. Unrest began in Poland in the summer of 1956. In July, there was a revolt against harsh living and working conditions. Khrushchev flew to Poland and told the people, “We have shed our blood to liberate this country and now you want to hand it over to the Americans.” Nonetheless, the Poles were granted some reforms. When the news of this spread to Hungary, students and workers began to put forward their reforms on 23rd October. This has been recently well-depicted in Andrew J Vajna’s film, Szabadság, Szerelmem (Liberty & Love), in which a student delegation from Szeged arrives in Budapest to put forward a series of demands to the student body in the capital.

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George Mikes, a journalist who had left Hungary after the war and was working for the BBC in London, reported:

Tempers were running high. A few thousand people went to the city park and surrounded the giant statue of Stalin. They got a rope round the neck and began to pull it….then it toppled slowly forward – laughter and applause greeted the symbolic fall of the former tyrant.

However, perhaps also symbolic of what was to come, Stalin’s boots remained in place, firmly cemented, while the rest of the statue was dragged through the streets by a dustcart. The protest gathered strength outside the Parliament building and protesters clashed with the hated AVO security police at the radio station. Soviet tanks rolled into the city from their bases nearby and a battle developed:

Every street was smashed – paving stones were torn up, the streets were littered with burnt-out cars. I counted the carcasses of forty Soviet tanks. Two monster T34 tanks lumbered past, dragging bodies behind them…a warning of what happened to freedom fighters.

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Street fighting raged on for five days in Budapest, with the rebels being backed by the Hungarian Army and ordinary Police. Sándór Kopácsi, their Chief, wrote an account of these days in 1979, translated into English in 1986. Only the security police remained loyal to the Soviet Union. Hundreds of them were lynched by the rebels, their bodies being hung from lamp-posts. The Russians, many of whom had been in Hungary for years since its ‘liberation’ by the Red Army in 1945, lacked the will and the manpower to crush the revolt. After talks with the new Prime Minister, Imre Nagy, their tanks withdrew from the capital. Seemingly, the Revolution had succeeded. The American Secretary of State, John Foster Dulles, congratulated the Hungarians on their challenge to the Red Army and assured them ‘you can count on us.’

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The Suez Crisis and the Hungarian Uprising

However, the western powers were distracted by events in the Middle East, where a new friend of the Soviet Union, President Gamal Nasser of Egypt, was ‘making a nuisance of himself’. On 14th October, Britain and France moved against Nasser’s Egypt, which had nationalised the Suez Canal, taking it over from the ownership of a British/French company. Although NATO allies with the USA, they did not inform the Americans of their secret plans to retake control of the Canal zone by force, under cover of an Israeli attack on Egypt across the Sinai desert. Meanwhile, in Budapest, Imre Nagy announced the abolition of the one-party system, promising free elections and the formation of a new coalition government. Revolutionary Councils were recognised and the suppressed political parties, including the Social Democrats and the Smallholders, were hastily reconstituted. The Kremlin apologised for its use of troops against what it now agreed was a legitimate Uprising, following the withdrawal of the troops to the border. This was the moment, 1st November, that the Israelis, in league with Britain and France, launched their invasion of Egypt. When Britain bombed Egypt on 31st October, world attention moved away from events in Hungary and Europe and towards the Middle East. Eisenhower was shocked and angry over the invasion, coming as it did just a week before a Presidential Election for him. He now faced two major international crises simultaneously.

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The Suez affair distracted attention from events in Hungary just as they entered their most critical phase. It split the western camp and offered the Kremlin a perfect cover to move back into Hungary.  However, Khrushchev was also anxious not to be seen as an imperialist aggressor like those who had invaded Egypt, so his decision was delayed. Nevertheless, when Nagy criticised Soviet troop movements near the border, declaring Hungary’s neutrality and withdrawal from the Warsaw Pact, Khrushchev was effectively presented with an ultimatum to get out and stay out. Deng Xiaoping’s visit to Moscow also helped to stiffen his resolve, as Deng claimed that the Uprising was not simply anti-Stalinist, but an anti-Communist Counter-Revolution. On the 3rd, following another sitting of the Politburo, fifteen Soviet Army divisions, many from non-Russian parts of the Union, and more than four thousand tanks encircled Budapest. The day after, at dawn, they rolled into the capital and shooting began immediately. The following day, November 5th, Britain dropped paratroops into the Suez zone to drive the Egyptians away from the Canal. Nasser reacted by closing the Canal, thus cutting the West’s economic lifeline by sea. Meanwhile, many Hungarians, buoyed up by the propaganda and promises of the American-backed Radio Free Europe, broadcasting continually from West Germany after the Hungarian state radio station was forced of air, believed that the Americans were on their way. The BBC’s Hungarian correspondent, George Mikes, reported that they had heard that the US troops were only two hours away. But they never arrived, the White House settling for a strong protest to the Kremlin instead. Britain, with its troops committed in the Middle East, also sent strong words to Moscow, but could do nothing to come to the aid of a burning Budapest. Despite Soviet claims that the US was behind the Uprising, the speed of events had clearly caught all the western powers by surprise. The US National Security Council concluded that there could be no intervention, military or political, in the affairs of the Soviet satellites, no incursions beyond the iron curtain. Secretary of State Dulles’ plan of ‘rolling back’ Communism in Eastern Europe was put on hold, and Hungary was left to its own limited devices. Khrushchev seized his opportunity and threatened to deploy rockets against the British and French invasion of Egypt, building on the show of strength of his land forces in Hungary. However, even without Suez, it is unlikely that Eisenhower would have risked a world war over Hungary, any more than he would over Poland. In practice, ‘rollback’ was not a viable option, in Europe at least, so the US fell back on the Truman Doctrine of Containment. The Hungarian people had been abandoned in their hour of need and by November 14th the fighting was over, four thousand Hungarians lay dead, with a further quarter of a million fleeing across the border to Austria, many eventually seeking refuge in Britain and the US. Tom Leimdorfer was a fourteen year-old when he arrived in Britain, later becoming a Headteacher. Thirty-five thousand revolutionaries were arrested, three hundred being executed, including Nagy and other ministers in his government. The tragic story of Nagy’s arrest at the Yugoslav Embassy where he and some of his inner circle were seeking asylum, his imprisonment and trial has been faithfully re-told and re-enacted in Márta Mészáros’ film, A Temetetlen Halott.

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What of British reactions to the crushing of Hungary? The following letter, signed by Tony Benn and other leading members of the British Labour Party, was written in January 1957, to the Editor of Pravda:

‘We,…who in the past have always worked for a better understanding between our two countries, are deeply distressed at the use of Soviet armed forces in Hungary…

‘First of all, your newspaper has portrayed the Hungarian Uprising as ‘counter-revolutionary’. May we ask exactly what is meant by this expression? Does it include all systems of government which permit political parties whose programmes are opposed to that of the Communist Party? If, for example, the Hungarian people were to choose a parliamentary system similar to those in Sweden and Finland, would you regard that as counter-revolutionary?

‘Secondly, you said on November 4th that the Government of Imre Nagy ‘had in fact disintegrated’. Did you mean by this that it had resigned or that it was overthrown? If it was overthrown with Soviet arms, does this not amount to Soviet interference in Hungary’s internal affairs?

‘Thirdly, do you consider that the present Government of János Kádár enjoys the support of the majority of the Hungarian people? Would it make any difference to your attitude if it did not? We ask this question because on November 15th, according to Budapest Radio, János Kádár said that his Government hoped to regain the confidence of the people but that ‘we have to take into account the possibility that we may be thoroughly beaten at the election.

‘Fourthly, we recall that the Soviet Union has repeatedly advocated the right of all countries to remain outside military blocks. Does this right to choose neutrality extend, in your view, to the members of the Warsaw Pact?

‘Finally, we recall have said that the Hungarian Uprising was planned long in advance by the West and you have in particular blamed Radio Free Europe. Are you seriously suggesting that masses of Hungarian workers and peasants were led by these means into organising mass strikes aimed at restoring the power of feudal landlords and capitalists?

‘Fenner Brockway, Barbara Castle, Dick Crossman, Anthony Wedgewood Benn, George Wigg’

Task: Give the answers you think the Editor of Pravda would have made publicly to these questions. Give this plenty of thought.

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Wolverhampton Wanderers FC v MTK Budapest, 11th December 1956:

Another recent drama-documentary, a collaboration between Lucy Liu, Quentin Tarantino and Andrew G Vajna, A Szabadság Vihara, (‘Freedom’s Fury’) retells the story of the victory of the Hungarian water polo team over the Russian team they had helped to train, at the Melbourne Olympics in December 1956. Following the brutal final, the team disbanded, with many of them going into permanent exile. For the ‘Golden’ football team of the mid-fifties, the events of October/November 1956 brought a premature end to their glory days. They were touring at the time of the conflict, and many of the players decided against returning to their homeland, preferring instead to use their skills in western Europe. Almost exactly two years to the day after the match with Honved, on 11th December 1956, Wolves entertained ‘Red Banner’ or MTK Budapest at Molineux for another floodlit friendly at Molineux. Although not as great a match in footballing terms, the game was, if anything, even more significant. It was held as a benefit match and raised what was then a huge sum of £2,312.3s.0d., which was donated to the Hungarian Relief Fund. At the pre-match banquet, the Hungarians, who had expressed their wish to be known by their original name of MTK, rather than ‘Red Banner’, had promised to play the very best football they could in honour of their gracious hosts. Responding, the Wolves Chairman told his guests that the motto of both the town of Wolverhampton and its football club was ‘out of darkness comes light’ and that he hoped that very soon that would be the way in their native land. They had to wait forty years for the light to shine through the gloom at home. Nevertheless, the match was a worthy contest, as the report below demonstrates.

TASK: MEANINGSImage

Find these words and phrases in the text below. Rather than trying to translate them, try to explain their meanings in English:

humiliating victories –
floodlit defeat –
lair –
to demonstrate a brand –
to give the impression of holding something back –
to unleash the kind of power –
to witness –
previous occasions –
’The Molineux Murmur’ –
customary ’roar ’ –
fairy-tale ending –
cool under pressure –
to make a debut –
to save their blushes –
proud unbeaten record –
to palm away –
to drift outside –
smartly hit shot –
ruck of players –
cool, calculating football –
all too frequently guilty –
talented –
to acquit yourself well –
a string of acrobatic saves –
the solemnity of the occasion –
the fare served up –
the course of events –
stricken country –

MTK’s team was packed with Hungarian internationals, three of whom had played in the humiliating victories over England a few years earlier. They became only the second team to escape floodlit defeat at Wolves’ Molineuy lair, demonstrating a brand of top-class individual fooball artistry. In the game itself, Wolves gave the impression of holding something back. Certainly they didn’t unleash the kind of power we had witnessed on previous occasions…. The rather subdued Molineux crowd, sensing this, produced what can only be described as ’the Molineux murmur’ instead of the customary ’roar’. The biggest cheer came when Johnny Hancocks replaced Jimmy Murray eight minutes from time. Everyone was looking for the little magician to provide a fairy-tale ending, but the winger only touched the ball three times…. Wolves couldn’t break down the visitors’ defensive system, which was one of the coolest under pressure ever seen at Molineux. The Hungarians took the lead in the sixth minute, Palotás whipping the ball past the diving Bert Williams following some excellent work by world-famous centre-forward Hidegkúti. Portsmouth schoolboy Pat Neil, making his debut for Wolves, saved their blushes and their proud unbeaten record under the Molineux floodlights. He scored the equaliser after Veres palmed away a corner. Neil was unmarked, having drifted outside the goal-area: his smartly hit shot passed through the ruck of players to beat Veres to his left.… The cool, calculating football of MTK saw them too frequently guilty of trying one pass too many… At half-time, the talented Hidegkúti was replaced by Karasz. The game wasn’t exactly dull; there were chances at both ends. Both goalkeepers acquitted themselves well, making a string of acrobatic saves, but the solemnity of the occasion, set against the backdrop of the Russian crushing of the Hungarian Uprising, was really responsible for the fayre served up that night. The day after the match, the Hungarians were on their way to Vienna, where their future movements would be dictated by the course of political events in their stricken country.

QUESTIONS AND TALKING POINTS: READING ’BETWEEN THE LINES’

1. Why might Wolves have been ’holding something back’ compared with the way they had played ‘on previous occasions’?

2. What two other reasons are given for MTK leading at half-time?

3. How and why were MTK seen as being ’too clever’ by the Wolves fans?

4. What three other reasons are given to explain why, in the second-half, the game was less exciting, though ’not exactly dull’.

5. Why was the Hungarian team unsure about ’their future movements’ after the match?

British Journalists’ perspectives on the Uprising and ‘Goulash Communism’:

In October 1981, Gordon Brook-Shepherd wrote an article for the Sunday Telegraph in commemoration of the 25th Anniversary of the Hungarian Revolt:

“It has been one thing to hear everyone in Budapest – diplomats, Government officials, party men, and even anti-Communist intellectuals – affirming that János Kádár was the mainstay of Hungary’s hard won stability and unity. It was quite anoher thing to hear survivors from a feudal world…declare that, though Communists were all atheists, Kádár himself was ‘a good man’. Moreover things, on the whole, were ‘better than they used to be’. Seldom in Eastern Europe have I heard such a telling tribute paid across such a wide gulf. For this verdict came, among others, from a family who had made their dutiful daughter break of her engagement purely because the fiancé was the son of a local party boss…

“The first (cause of acceptance of Kádár) was the irrelevance of so much of our fine talk about the struggle for freedom, when applied to a country like Hungary, which suffered so cruelly a generation ago from western rhetoric unsupported by Western aid. Freedom fotr them today id defined as a weekend house, a better apartment in the city, a shorter wait for a better car, more frequent foreign travel and for the intellectuals (as one of them put it to me), ‘the privilege to go on censuring ourselves’. If you do not get what you like, you eventually like what you get.”

Hella Pick wrote in ‘the Guardian’ at the time of Kádár’s seventieth birthday in 1982 that, while at first he was both feared and reviled in the late fifties for his role in helping to suppress the revolt, ‘much of what Mr Kádár did’ was put into ‘the back drawer of memory’. It may not have been forgotten or forgiven, but in the early eighties, most Hungarians accepted that he had genuinely helped them ‘to rise from the ashes of the Uprising’ to gain both self-respect and respect in the eyes of the world. Pick concluded that, even in a free election, Kádár would feel confident of victory.

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The invention of ‘Goulash Communism’ was an example of Hungarian innovation. The term refers to the variety of socialism as practised from the early 1960s until Kádár’s now infamous ‘last speech’, his death and the dissolution of Communism in 1989. With some elements of a free market, private enterprise and an improved human rights record, it represented quiet reform and deviation from the strict Leninist principles adhered to by other Communist bloc countries. Since a ‘goulash’ is made with an assortment of ingredients, the term shows how Hungarian Communism was a mixed ideology not based on pure dogma, but on more mixed first principles, or ideology. Goulash communism focused much more on the material well-being of the citizens than had been the case before 1956. It provided a wider latitude for discussion and dissent within the limits of a state socialist system. Hungary by the late eighties had become the favourite destination not only for East German holiday-makers, but also for Westerners who could see a Communist country with their own eyes without having to bear the harsh realities of hard-line Soviet Communism. Goulash Communism meant that Hungarians did not have to queue for the meat and groceries needed to cook an edible goulash.
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The Eighties: Educational Exchanges

The link between Coventry and Kecskemét went back decades, one of twenty-six twinnings resulting from the Blitz of November 1940. It had, however, been dormant since the Hungarian troops had been sent to help suppress the Prague Spring of 1968. Together with Tom Leimdorfer, the Quakers’ Peace Education Advisor at Friends’ House in London, himself a Hungarian exile from 1956, I met teachers from ‘behind the iron curtain’ at the second International Teachers for Peace Congress in Bonn in May of 1988. Although we knew that ‘one swallow does not a summer make’, we were particularly impressed by the frankness of Hungarian delegates who reported how, after establishing exchanges with other countries, children were enabled to speak out about their experiences of violence in their societies. In the Autumn of 1988, a group of us, Quaker teachers, were invited to visit Hungary, as the guests of the state-sponsored, but increasingly independent, Hungarian Peace Council.

On the first full day of our visit, the anniversary of the Hungarian Uprising of 1956, our guide and hostess became very excited about two announcements on Kossúth (state-controlled) Radio. The first was that the Uprising would no longer be described, officially, as a ’Counter-Revolution’ and the second was that the Soviet troops would be invited to leave the country. This came as a dramatic confirmation of the sense we were already getting of a far freer atmosphere than we knew existed in other Warsaw Pact countries, including the one we were looking across the Danube at, the then Czechoslovakia. We visited Kecskemét a few days later and a link was formed with KATE, the English Language teachers association in the town, who needed an invitation to attend the International ELT Conference at the University of Warwick the next year.

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So, with the the support of Coventry City Council and the Teachers’ Centre in Coventry, an exchange was established through the One World Education Group, with myself as facilitator. The twelve KATE teachers were hosted by Coventry and Warwickshire Friends and teachers in the Spring of 1989, and a twelve-strong OWEG group were invited to Kecskemét the following summer. At the time, the Exchange Project was reported in the local press in Hungary as having the purpose ’to educate for peace, to develop mutual understanding within the scope of a subject which is not compulsory in school in order that the children should have an all-embracing picture of the world’. In explaining the purpose of the exchange, we tried to emphasise that ’Britain is not too great to learn from Hungary’, the Petö Institutes in Birmingham being just one example, and that Hungary was considered to be a bridge between East and West. Hungary no longer meant just ’goulash, Puskás, and 1956’. We were beginning to learn about Hungarian expertise and aspirations in Science, Mathematics, Music and Art, as well as in society in general (there were even later exchanges of police forces!) In July 1989, just after the barbed wire was first cut in May (Tom Leimdorfer was there, twenty miles south from where he escaped by crawling under it in December 1956), the Lord Mayor of Kecskemét reminded us that whilst it was important that the Iron Curtain should be removed physically, ’it also needs to be removed in people’s hearts and minds…as more and more educational links are forged between ordinary people in the East and the West, so it will become impossible for politicians to keep the existing barriers up, or to build new ones…’ Coventry had long been interested in reconciliation between Western and Eastern Europe – we could now help bring this about by our practical support for the teachers and people of Kecskemét. This public statement, from a then member of the ruling communist party in what was still a ’People’s Republic’, gives a clear indication of the importance of these exchanges and contacts between ’ordinary people’ in the tearing down of the curtain and the fall of the wall, now nearly a generation ago.

Sources:

Peter Fisher, The Great Power Conflict after 1945, Blackwell History Project, 1985

Margaret Rooke, The Hungarian Revolt of 1956, Longman Case Studies in History, 1986

John Shipley, Wolves Against the World: European Nights, 1953-80. Stroud: 2003

Jeremy Isaacs & Taylor Downing, The Cold War. Bantam Books: 1998

György Bolgár, Made in Hungary, Budapest, 2009

István Bart, Hungary and the Hungarians: The Keywords, Budapest: 1999.

Video Posts (Extracts) & Links:

Freedom! (History Channel): http://youtu.be/TrbID90o0_I

Fifties Football (Sky Sports/FIFA): http://youtu.be/DvlFSN4ONhw

BBC2 Newsnight Report, 2006: http://youtu.be/0Zei1xmguxc

BBC Schools Drama-Documentary on Hungary 1956 (GCSE Modern World History): http://youtu.be/Z7XRqnn4j6Y

The Last Speech of János Kádár (Útolsó Beszéde – in Hungarian with subtitles): http://youtu.be/j7jyrS3I4xM

The Fifties: Friendly Floodlit Football   1 comment

In the ‘season’ following the Queen’s Coronation, 1953/54, undoubtedly the best football team in Britain were Wolverhampton Wanderers, from the ‘Black Country’ in the English Midlands. They were champions of the English First Division, the original name of what is  now known as ‘the Premiership’ and they had beaten Glasgow Celtic in a ‘floodlit friendly’ at their home stadium, ‘Molineux’. Although this was the first time they had won the Football League Championship since they had been founder members in 1888/9, in previous ten seasons, excluding the war break, they had finished second three times, third twice, had two other placings in the top six, and had also won the FA (Football Association) Cup. They had a deserved reputation as a fast-attacking and well-disciplined team of tremendous athletes. In the 1954 World Cup in Switzerland, the Wolves captain Billy Wright also captained England, and two other players scored against the host team in their 2-0 victory, before the team lost to Uruguay in the quarter-finals, the team which the Hungarians beat in the semi-final to go through to the ill-fated 3-2 defeat in the final against West Germany. With their emphatic 6-3 win against England in 1953 at Wembley, Hungary had become the first team from outside the British Isles to defeat England on home soil, and they had followed this up with a 7-1 humiliation in Budapest before the World Cup.

Both these defeats were still fresh in the minds of English fans when, in December 1954, the ‘Mighty Magyar’ club team of the Hungarian Army, ‘Honved’, arrived in Wolverhampton. Their team contained many stars from the national, ‘Golden team’, including the legendary Lieutenant-Colonel Ferenc Puskás and his well-drilled fellow-soldiers, Bozsik, Kocsis, Grosics, Lorant, Czibor and Budai. Kocsis had been the leading scorer in the World Cup, so, following their own sensational win over Moscow Spartak a month earlier, the ‘Wolves’ were eager to welcome the tormentors of England to Molineux. The game was played under the new floodlights on a Monday night, 13th December, with 55,000 cheering fans watching at the ground and many more on the new phenomenon of TV. The BBC broadcast the game live, which pleased the National Servicemen who were allowed to watch it in their canteens, as well as on the radio, to which millions more tuned in, as not many people had acquired TV sets at this time. Just as they had twice led out their national teams in 1953/4, Billy Wright and Ferenc Puskás were again side-by-side. The visitors immediately began to play with fantastic ball-control and speed of passing. By half-time they were 2-0 up and in full control, their precision passing and speed of attack drawing gasps of appreciation from the crowd. The first goal came from a pin-point Puskás free kick which found the head of Kocsis and the ball flew past Bert Williams in the Wolves goal like a bullet. This was followed up by a second from the speedy winger, Machos, who was put through the Wolves defence by Kocsis. That was in the first quarter-hour! Williams pulled off a string of saves to keep the score down to two at the interval. As the teams left the field, the crowd rose to salute the Hungarian artistry, but were worried that the home team might be humiliated in the second half, just as England had been at Wembley year earlier.

In the second half, however, Wolves called upon all their reserves of fighting spirit and energy. They scored a penalty soon after the restart, and with fifteen minutes left, and the skilful Hungarians tiring on a very muddy pitch, Swinbourne scored twice to win the game 3-2. The crowd went wild with joy on a night on which it became good to be an English football fan once more. They were singing all the way home on the bus, and there were great celebrations in the canteens where the National Servicemen were watching. ‘Wolves are champions of the world’ was one of the headlines in the national newspapers the next morning. However, if this was seen a ‘revenge’ for the ‘dents’ in national pride which the defeats of the previous season had inflicted, this was a friendly, since the European Champions’ Cup had not yet come into being. For the great Magyar teams of that season, the events of October/November 1956 brought a premature end to their glory days. They were touring at the time of the conflict, and many of the players decided against returning to their homeland, preferring instead to use their skills in western Europe.

Almost exactly two years to the day after the match with Honved, on 11th December 1956, Wolves entertained ‘Red Banner’ or MTK Budapest at Molineux for another floodlit friendly at Molineux. Although not as great a match in footballing terms, the game was, if anything, even more significant. It was held as a benefit match and raised what was then a huge sum of £2,312.3s.0d., which was donated to the Hungarian Relief Fund. At the pre-match banquet, the Hungarians, who had expressed their wish to be known by their original name of MTK, rather than ‘Red Banner’, had promised to play the very best football they could in honour of their gracious hosts. Responding, the Wolves Chairman told his guests that the motto of both the town of Wolverhampton and its football club was ‘out of darkness comes light’ and that he hoped that very soon that would be the way in their native land.

The MTK team was packed with Hungarian internationals, three of whom had played in the humiliating victories over England two seasons  earlier.  They became only the second team to escape floodlit defeat at Wolves’ Molineux lair. The home team were not exactly howling at the Hungarians’ gates, however, and ‘the Molineux Murmur’ soon began as the crowd senses that they were holding something back. To be fair, they could not break down the visitors’ defensive system, one of the coolest under pressure ever seen at Molineux. The Magyars took the lead when Palotás whipped the ball past the diving Bert Williams after some world-class work by centre-forward Hidegkúti. Wolves drew level from a Hooper corner, which was palmed away by Veres, only as far as Neil who had drifted outside the goal area and was unmarked. His smartly-hit shot passed through the ruck of players and beat Veres on the line. The cool, calculating football of MTK sometimes became over-complicated. They were all too frequently guilty of playing one pass too many.  At half-time, the talented Hidegkúti was replaced by Karasz. After that, the game was far from dull, with both goalkeepers acquitting themselves well by making strings of acrobatic saves.

The solemnity of the occasion, set against the Soviet crushing of the Hungarian Uprising, meant that the fare served up on the night was not as tasty as that in the Honved game two years earlier. The day after the match, the Hungarians made their way back to Vienna, unsure of their future movements, given the course of events in their stricken country.

Main Source

John Shipley, Wolves Against the World: European Nights, 1954-1984.

ACTIVITIES: WWFC v MTK, 11th December 1956

MEANINGS: Find these words and phrases in the text. Rather than trying to translate them,  try to explain their meanings in English.

humiliating victories –

floodlit defeat –

lair –

to give the impression of holding something back –

’The Molineux Murmur’ –

customary ’roar ’ –

fairy-tale ending –

cool under pressure –

to palm away –

to drift outside –

smartly hit shot –

ruck of players –

cool, calculating football –

all too frequently guilty –

talented –

to acquit yourself well –

a string of acrobatic saves –

the solemnity of the occasion –

the fare served up –

the course of events –

stricken country –

 

QUESTIONS AND TALKING POINTS: READING ’BETWEEN THE LINES’

 

  1. Why might Wolves have been ’holding something back’ compared with the way they had played against Roumania CCA, (they had beaten them 5-0 in October)?

  2. What two other reasons are given for MTK leading at half-time?

  3.  How and why were MTK seen as being ’too clever’ by the Wolves fans?

  4. What three other reasons are given to explain why, in the second-half, the game was less exciting, though ’not exactly dull’.

  5. Why was the Hungarian team unsure about ’their future movements’ after the match?

 

 

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