Archive for the ‘Wolverhampton Wanderers F.C.’ Tag

The Wanderers’ Return, 1954-2019: Rewinding the Gold & Black Clock.   Leave a comment


Above: Diogo Jota fires a shot at goal during Wolves’ return to Europe against Crusaders. Jota scored Wolves’ first goal in European competition for 39 years in the 38th minute.

Picture: Matthew Childs/ Reuters

This summer, a sense of history has enveloped Molineux, the home of Wolverhampton Wanderers FC as ‘the Wolves’ returned to European football for the first time since they narrowly lost to PSV Eindhoven in the 1980/81 UEFA Cup. On the hottest July day on record, Wolves played the Belfast club Crusaders, who finished fourth in the Irish Premiership in the 2018/19 season, also winning the Irish Cup. Wolves won 2-0 and went through to the next round after winning by a similar margin in the return leg in Belfast the following week. Before the opening game, highlights of the Molineux team’s historic 1950s triumphs over the likes of Spartak Moscow and Budapest Honved were beamed on the big screens.


Fifties Floodlit Friendlies: Spartak & Honved.

Wolves’ first floodlit friendly against a European team at Molineux had resulted in a 2-0 victory over Glasgow Celtic on 14 October 1953, but their first match against continental opposition had been against the crack Austrian team, First Vienna FC. The match was played on Wednesday night, 13 October 1954, and ended in 0-0 draw. The match against Spartak Moscow had taken place on a foggy Wolverhampton evening of 16 November at Molineux, with the BBC broadcasting the game live. Spartak had recently crushed two of Belgium’s finest sides, Liége and Anderlecht. A week earlier they had beaten Arsenal 2-1 at Highbury, so Wolves knew that they were in for a tough night. Billy Wright led out the Wolves team clad in their fluorescent gold shirts and black shorts. The visitors moved the ball around the pitch with great skill, playing with unbounded enthusiasm and panache. Twice the ball had to be cleared from Wolves’ goal line with Bert Williams beaten. Bert then saved several more good attempts on his goal. Wolves countered with a display of fierce but fair tackling, moving the ball around with purpose, and they finally went ahead in the 62nd minute through the outstanding Dennis Wilshaw. Then, seven minutes from time, with the Russians noticeably tiring, Johnny Hancocks got Wolves’ second. It began to look good for the home team, and Wolves’ superior stamina now began to tell. In the eighty-eighth minute, Roy Swinbourne added a third, followed a minute later by Hancocks making it four. Wolves had scored three in a little over five minutes against one of the tightest defences in Europe. The 4-0 scoreline may have looked a little flattering, but Bill Shorthouse and Billy Wright broke up a series of threatening Russian attacks.


Next came the big one; the amazing Magyar soccer machine was coming to town. The ‘Mighty Magyars’ had burst onto the international scene in the early 1950s, and the Hungarian national team, already Olympic Champions, had been unlucky to lose 3-2 in the 1954 World Cup Final to West Germany. The Honved match was one of the first matches to be televised live the year after the ignominious defeat of the England teams 6-3 defeat to Ferenc Puskás’ crack Hungarian national side in 1953. Hungary was the first national team from outside the British Isles to beat England on home soil. If this wasn’t bad enough, it had been followed in the summer of 1954 by a 7-1 mauling in Budapest. These two humiliating results were still fresh in the minds of English fans, who saw Wolves’ forthcoming match as an opportunity for ‘revenge’. Honved were Hungary’s top team with many famous internationals in their side, including Lieutenant-Colonel Ferenc Puskás and his other well-drilled soldier stars: Bozsik, Kocsis, Grosics, Lóránt, Czibor and Budai; Kocsis having won the leading scorer prize in the World Cup finals in Switzerland. Billy Wright, captain of club and country, had a chance to atone against Puskás’ club side, the army team from the Hungarian capital which also contained the core of the country’s Arány csapat (‘golden team’).



Billy Wright & Ferenc Puskás lead their teams out at Molineux in December 1954.

European Cup Competitions:

The prospect of entertaining the tormentors of Billy Wright and England at Molineux was mouth-watering, especially following Wolves’ sensational win over Moscow Spartak a month earlier. I have written about the match itself and its outcome in more detail elsewhere on this site. Its significance was that on 13 December 1954, under the Molineux lights and in front of the BBC cameras, Wolves, then champions of England, played Hungarian champions Honved in a game many have viewed as being instrumental in the launch of European club competition nine months later. A crowd of 55,000 watched the home side secure a thrilling victory. Wolves went down 2-0 to Honved by half-time, before reviving to win 3-2. They were acclaimed as the champions of the world in the English media before the European Cup was established the following season. It may be thirty-nine years since their last proper European involvement, but Wolves can lay claim to being the pioneers of the former European Cup, now the Champions’ League, after their famous floodlit friendlies midway through the last century. Wolves then became the second English team – after Manchester United – to play in the European Cup in 1958-59 and 1959-60. They also reached the UEFA Cup final in 1972, beating Juventus in the quarter-final before losing to Tottenham in a two-legged final.


These European experiences form a significant part of the impressive Wolves museum at Molineux (pictured above). Back in 1980, the floodlights had gone out as Mel Eves (pictured below) scored but Wolves could not cancel out PSV’s 3-1 first-leg lead. That season they won the League Cup and finished sixth in what was then the Football League’s First Division.


After their victory over Crusaders in the Europa League earlier this summer, Wolves then went on to beat the Arminian club Pyunik, 8-0 on aggregate, and on 29 August, they booked their place in the Europa League group stage after beating Torino in front of a jubilant Molineux. The Black Country side are in the main stage of a European competition for the first time since 1980 after coming through three rounds of qualifiers. Their popular Portuguese manager, who has turned the club around since his 2017 appointment when they were in the Championship, named a strong team, making only four changes from Sunday’s home draw with Burnley. They started the game on the back foot, with Torino dominating possession and Wolves playing a counter-attacking game. But wing-back Traore was lively down the right and forced a save from Salvatore Sirigu after a sensational surging run – before setting up Jimenez for the opener. The Mexican has scored six goals in as many qualifiers this season.

Raul Jimenez

Pictured above, Raoul Jimenez has scored six goals in as many Europa League qualifiers this season.

Raul Jimenez opened the scoring as he hooked home Adama Traore’s cross. Torino needed three goals at that stage and for about 60 seconds they seemed back in the tie when Italy international Belotti headed in Daniele Baselli’s free-kick. That made it 4-3 on aggregate, but before television replays of that goal were even shown, Leander Dendoncker put the game out of reach. Wolves had restored their two-goal aggregate advantage when Diogo Jota’s shot was saved and Dendoncker’s first-time shot from sixteen yards went in via the post. That goal meant Torino, who lost the previous week’s home leg 3-2, needed to score twice to force extra time, and, despite some late chances, a comeback never seemed likely. Wolves discovered their group opponents during last Friday’s draw in Monaco. Manchester United, Arsenal, Celtic and Rangers were also in the draw. No sides from the same country can be in one group, but an English team and Scottish team can be drawn together. United, the 2017 winners, and last season’s beaten finalists Arsenal are among the top seeds.

‘Massive’ Mission accomplished for Wolves:

Wolves’ European run may end up causing problems for their twenty-one-man first-team squad – this was their ninth game in thirty-six days – but that is a problem boss Nuno Espirito Santo wants. He has not bulked up his squad for Europa League action yet, with central defender Jésus Vallejo close to signing on loan from Real Madrid as a first summer signing, so Wolves have been fielding a similar line-up to that of last season. After finishing seventh in the Premier League in May and reaching Wembley for an FA Cup semi-final in which they led Watford 2-0 with eleven minutes remaining, Wolves look set to challenge towards the upper echelons of the Premiership this season, despite a series of tough early games running parallel to their qualifying games in Europe.

Below: Wolves manager Nuno Espirito Santo

Wolves manager Nuno Espirito Santo

After the Thursday night match, Wolves boss Nuno Espirito Santo, seen here saluting the crowd after his side qualified for the Europa League group stage, commented:

“Work started two years ago and this is the next step. This is massive for us.

“It has been tough so far. The way the fans push us, they are the 12th man.

“Tomorrow, after training, we will watch the draw. I don’t want to look too far ahead. We want to improve during the competition and use the games as a tool to improve the team.”

Following the draw on the 30th, Wolves discovered that they would face Besiktas, Braga and Slovan Bratislava in the group stage (Group K). In reaching the Europa League group stage, Wolves have returned to European competition they played a significant role in inspiring sixty-five years ago. Just reaching the Europa League group stage has not been an insignificant task for Wolves. Home and away victories in the play-off round against Torino represented only the 11th time an English club has beaten the same Italian opposition in back-to-back games in the entire history of European competition. It is a notable achievement for a side whose history is based around Europe and has happened in this of all weeks, when two of the oldest clubs in the Football League, Bolton Wanderers and Bury, have been threatened with closure, the latter being expelled from the League.

Mixed Fortunes to Fame Again, 1980-2019:

It is worth remembering that Wolverhampton Wanderers were themselves less than an hour away from going out of business in 1982. It turned out their supposed ‘saviours’, the Bhatti brothers, had had debatable motives in acquiring the famous club. After a land purchase went wrong, investment was cut off. Half of their ground was shut and Wolves were relegated to the fourth tier of English football for the first time before the long climb back to prominence began.


After beating all England’s top six at some stage last season, including the two sides that met in last year’s Europa League final, is it possible Wolves could go all the way and lift the trophy in Gdansk on 27, May 2020? Ex-players, still close to the club, feel it is a distinct possibility. “Yes, they are quite capable of doing it,” said Mel Eves, who made 214 appearances in nine years for his home town club from July 1975. From Darlaston in the Black Country, he grew up as a Wolves fan (see above). He was then eighteen when, on leaving Wolverhampton Grammar School, he joined the club as a professional player. He had already been ‘lucky enough’ to play for the youth team and the reserves. By the time he arrived, the famous players of the fifties had left the club. However, he met many of them when they visited the dressing room on match days and drew inspiration and advice from his heroes.


He did get the chance to play alongside one of Wolves’ ‘legends’ of the seventies, John Richards. Like me, he’d watched John’s career develop and blossom as he became one of the country’s leading goalscorers.  Prior to this season, Mel was the last Wolves player to score in Europe, in 1980, something he wrote about in his foreword for John Shipley’s 2003 book, Wolves Against the World, written for the fiftieth anniversary of Wolves’ first floodlit match against European competition.


In the 1979/80 season, Wolves had beaten Brian Clough’s Nottingham Forest in the League Cup Final at Wembley. Forest had won the European Cup in 1979 and went on to retain it in 1980. Wolves also finished a creditable sixth in the First Division. So it was that, at the beginning of the 1980/81 season, that Wolves found themselves on another, fourth UEFA Cup adventure.


However, it was short-lived, as ‘Dutch masters’ PSV Eindhoven pretty much put an end to the club’s dreams on Wednesday 17 September by beating Wolves 3-1 in Holland. Just past the half-hour mark, PSV’s impressive trio of K’s: Kerkof, Koster and Kraay, combined well to tee-up the ball for Ernie Brandts. He walloped a twenty-five-yard cannonball that flew past Bradshaw. After that, the Wolves goalkeeper put on a superb display to keep the score to 1-0 at half-time. A minute after the restart Wolves got an equaliser when George Berry sent a looping cross over to Andy Gray, who met it cleanly to score with a great header. But then PSV moved up a gear and the speed of their attacks were at times breathtaking. Dutch international Adri Koster switched wings, creating many problems for Wolves. He fastened onto one of Van der Kerkof’s defence-splitting passes before beating Brazier to fire in a fabulous ball that Kraay put into the Wolves net. In the seventy-sixth minute, another of Koster’s mazy runs was foiled by a strong but seemingly legitimate challenge by Wolves’ Uruguayan centre-back Rafael Villazon. The referee pointed to the spot and the hotly-disputed penalty was converted by Willie Van de Kuylen to give PSV a 3-1 advantage.


That deficit was always going to be difficult to reverse, even at Molineux, where such things had happened before in European matches. Richards and Gray did everything they could to get the ball in the net, in spite of the fouls perpetrated against them. The Dutch ‘keeper stopped everything that came his way, but it looked as if Wolves might just come out on top. Then, in the 38th minute, the lights suddenly went out, as the stadium and much of Woverhampton’s town centre was thrown into darkness by a power-cut. The players and spectators stood around for twenty-five minutes until the game could be restarted, but it was not until the second half that a Wolves goal came, following a fiftieth-minute goalmouth melée, with Darlaston-born Mel Eves the scorer of what was destined to be the last Wolves’ goal to be scored in a European competition.


Wolves were denied two penalties and, urged on by Emlyn Hughes (above), they threw everything into attack, but failed to get another breakthrough. Once again, the dream was over. As Mel Eves later wrote, neither the players nor the fans envisaged the catastrophes that were looming on the horizon, nor that this would turn out to be their last European adventure for a very long time:

I often get asked what it was like to be the last Wolves player to score a goal in a European competition; the answer is simple: at the time, neither I, nor anyone else that I know of, could have imagined that this would be Wolves’ last European goal; I’d never have believed it if someone had told me that. I suppose my best answer is that it was great to score any goal for Wolves. Now I can’t wait to lose the tag because for someone to score a European goal would mean we’d have regained our rightful place in the top echelon of English football, back where Wolves belong.


Mel Eves has had to wait another sixteen years for this to happen when Diego Jota scored Wolves’ first goal against Crusaders in July 2019:

“Nobody under forty will have any recollection of Wolves being a European team but those who are older do and it is that success the current owners are trying to emulate.

“In the 1970s we were always capable of competing with the likes of Liverpool and Manchester United, even if we weren’t consistent enough to win league titles.

“This week, with all that has happened at Bury and Bolton, it has been easy to remember when it was us, when Wolves were the ones in trouble and falling down the leagues.

“Our owners now want to return us back to where we were in the glory days – and everyone is loving it.”


As a Wolves fan of fifty years, I hope the ‘glory days’ are finally back for the team in old gold and black. As the club and town motto attests, Out of Darkness Cometh Light!


The Sunday Times, July 2019

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

Puskás, Goulash and 1956: Hungary and Britain   3 comments


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.


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.


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.’


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.


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.


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.


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.


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.


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.


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.

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.


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.


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):

Fifties Football (Sky Sports/FIFA):

BBC2 Newsnight Report, 2006:

BBC Schools Drama-Documentary on Hungary 1956 (GCSE Modern World History):

The Last Speech of János Kádár (Útolsó Beszéde – in Hungarian with subtitles):

Happy Birthday, Football Association!   3 comments

002Apparently, today (16/1) marks the 150th anniversary of the Football Association. My team, Wolverhampton Wanderers, came into being in 1877. Like other teams, they grew out of a local school team, St Luke’s, who joined together with Blakenhall Wanderers Cricket Club to form the town’s football club and entered the FA Cup for the first time in 1883, reaching the second round. In 1860, Mr O E McGregor had bought the eight acres of land extending around Molineux House, a ‘handsome and spacious mansion’ which had been built for the gentry family of that name by 1750. McGregor was a man of vision who also respected tradition, keeping the Molineux name for the Grounds and restoring the House to its former glory.

003He converted the estate into a pleasure park, which he then opened to the public for an admission fee. The first park of its kind in Wolverhampton, it contained a number of attractions, including a skating rink, a boating lake with fountain, croquet lawns, walkways, lawns as well as facilities for cricket and football. The park soon became a popular place of recreation, also become the venue for many fétes, galas and exhibitions. By 1872 the grounds were able to stage a variety of major sporting events, including cycle racing, athletics meetings and cricket and football matches. However, to begin with, Wolves played their matches on a sloping pitch at Dudley Road from 1881. It wasn’t until five years later that they played their first game at the Molineux grounds in 1886, losing 2-1 to Walsall Town in a local cup competition.

001They reached their first Cup Final in 1888, losing 1-0 to Preston North End. By then, on 2nd March, 1888, Wolves had become one of the founding members of the Football League for the 1888/9 season, drawing their first match with Aston Villa, 1-1 on the 8th September. With these results, the foundations for greatness had been laid, and the club needed a more permanent and prestigious home to match their aspirations. When the Northampton Brewery acquired the Molineux Leisure Grounds in 1889, the House was converted into a hotel and the grounds were rented to Wolverhampton Wanderers at an annual rent of fifty pounds. No doubt the brewers saw an opportunity to make more money by meeting the needs of thirsty supporters. Wolves now had a much better playing surface on which to entertain the best teams in League and Cup.

004The brewery paid for the construction of players’ changing rooms, refurbishing the 300-seat grandstand, and also built a shelter for 4,000 next to it and embankments on both South and North sides of the pitch. The Molineux legend had begun, and on Monday 2nd September 1889 Wolves beat their local rivals, Aston Villa, 1-0 there, in a pre-season friendly watched by nearly four thousand spectators on their way home from work, the kick-off being at 5.30 p.m. Apparently, the freshly laid pitch looked as level as a billiard table.  Five days later, Wolves welcomed Notts County to their new lair, beating them 2-0. However, it took some months for the spectacle of Association Football to capture the imagination of the Black Country folk, as league games failed to attract even five thousand spectators. However, on Boxing Day, a crowd of 19,000 turned out to watch Wolves play Blackburn Rovers. With the Hotel on site, the ground became a popular venue for League meetings as well as important FA Cup and international matches. However, its facilities were soon overtaken by the new stadia built by its neighbours, Birmingham, West Bromwich Albion and Aston Villa. Only in 1911 was a roof built over the north end of the ground, its nickname ‘the Cowshed’ coming from the iron fencing surrounding it. Although this was demolished in the 1920s, that part of the ground still retained the nickname when I began attending matches in the sixties.




By then, Wolves had won the FA Cup twice, in 1893 and 1908, also reaching the final in 1889, 1896 and 1921.


Printed Source:

John Shipley, Wolves Against the World:

Stroud, 2003.

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