Ex-Wolves striker Ted Farmer recalls 'greatest game' at Molineux

‘It was probably the greatest competitive match ever played at Molineux’.

Those are the bold words of former striker Ted Farmer who scored five goals in the FA Youth Cup final to win the prestigious trophy for Wolves, writes Jamie Brassington.

It was in the 1957/58 campaign and the only time that Wolves have laid their hands on the trophy.

Wolves considered it the ‘jewel in the crown’ - on the back of a hugely successful campaign when they had won the First Division, alongside three other league titles with their second, third and fourth teams made up of reserve and youth players.

Farmer, aged 78, spoke exclusively to the Express & Star to shed light on that historic year.

Originally from Rowley Regis and now living in Bridgnorth, he started his Wolves career when he signed as an amateur aged 16.

He went against the advice of his headmaster, who told him he could go to university with his school grades.

But Farmer was quickly recognised for his goalscoring talents and a year later Wolves snapped him up on a professional contract.

He said: “I joined as an amateur in 1956. I played for my school in the morning and Wednesbury Youth Club in the afternoon. The chairman of the youth club happened to be big friends with George Noakes who was the chief scout at Wolves.

“What happened was our chairman asked him if I could go down to their training. And he sent two players just to train, they hadn’t been spotted.

“So we started training there and one day they came to me and said ‘We are short of a player in the amateurs team, which was about the fifth or sixth team, can you play centre forward for us?’.

“Of course obviously I did against the Arcadians in Birmingham. I scored a hat-trick in my first match for Wolves and from then on I was going to be signed as a professional at 17.”

Farmer was taken into Wolves as part of their youth programme – which was kick-started by Major Frank Buckley back in the 1930s, a man who had fought at the Somme during the First World War.

Farmer continued to shine at Wolves and recalled being in awe at the likes of Stan Cullis and Billy Wright. After being taken on professionally, he was named in their FA Youth Cup team.

It wasn’t an easy journey for Wolves though who had to face the might of Manchester United in the semi-final. They met United numerous times in the competition before and as a result had established a rivalry with them.

Farmer said: “The big problem was that Wolves has always got to the final of the (FA) Youth Cup, but always been beaten by Busby Babes of Manchester United.

“For us Manchester was a brilliant effort because I mean there was 20,000 spectators at either ground, and Nobby Stiles and Johnny Giles played for them and we had our third and fourth team as reserves.

“But Cullis had never won it and Wolves had won everything. This one was the jewel in the crown, the FA Youth Cup.”

Wolves beat United over two legs with a 3-1 win and a 1-1 draw.

The final was against Chelsea, who legend Jimmy Greaves was part of, and it set up to be a block-buster of a show.

The match was to be played over two legs, with the first instalment at Chelsea’s ground.

Unfortunately for Wolves, they lost the first leg 5-1 although Farmer did get on the scoresheet. After the defeat, Wolves had been written off from the final before even playing the second leg. Recalling the first-leg, Farmer said: “The Chelsea match was ridiculous because we were 1-0 up in 10 minutes.

“And then I had never seen a team play like – it was like a hurricane had hit us – Chelsea came back and beat us 5-1. So according to everybody, we had lost another final.

“The first leg was on a Tuesday and the second on a Thursday.”

Cullis was upset at the defeat and was ‘a bit rough’ on the players, said Farmer.

But Cullis flew to Switzerland with the first team ahead of the second leg which eased the pressure off the young players.

The second instalment of the cup final proved to be a thrilling encounter. Farmer recalled on that morning that the ‘air seemed different’ and the result did not go the way many people had predicted.

“There was something in the air,” said Farmer.

“I used to travel from Dudley on the trolleybus to Wolverhampton. And this night, Thursday night, it was electric the atmosphere.

“We were 5-1 down. Everybody knew.

“We had a wonderful run right the way through it.

“We had beaten our nemesis Manchester United and the crowd was about 20,000 at Molineux that day.

“There was something about that day. Don’t ask me what it was.

“Walking down Molineux alley, you could feel the tension. And in the dressing room you could feel it. They said to us ‘Play your best and give the crowd a win if you can and that is all you can hope for’.”

Wolves did play their best. Farmer scored within the first 10 minutes before adding another three to level the scores by half-time.

“They had a hurricane, we had a tsunami,” said Farmer with a grin.

“You couldn’t believe that we kicked off after 10 minutes and I scored the first goal and there was a little ripple of applause.

“Five minutes later I scored a second goal, a bit more and we were 5-3 down then.

“Another 10 minutes went and I scored another goal and it was 5-4 then and the crowd started to go absolutely bananas.

“Ten minutes later I scored again so within half an hour I had scored four goals and levelled the match before half-time.

“And the crowd you could sense, it wasn’t just emotion, it was something deeper than that. It was love if you like.

“I will never forget it, the hairs on the back of my neck stand up now just thinking about it.” Farmer recalled the atmosphere at half time where Wolves staff in the dressing room struggled to contain their emotion.

“At half-time you have got grown men crying in the dressing room,” said Farmer.

“Directors didn’t know what to do. Trainers didn’t know what to say to you.

“The atmosphere, the tea ladies were crying their eyes out, the crowd was going mad.

“We were this under-18 team in the dressing room, we had just equalised four goals.

“My friend, my mate Phil Kelly who played in the team, the whistle went for the second half and I had to stop him because he had got his shirt on back-to-front.

“This is how the atmosphere was. It was absolute pandemonium, chaos.”

News quickly spread around town of the youth side’s epic first-half comeback.

Soon the Wolves staff opened the turnstiles to thousands of more supporters who packed inside the ground to catch a glimpse of the second half.

Farmer said: “We went out the second half and what had happened is the Wolves had opened the ground, the crowd had heard that the Wolves had equalised, scoring four goals by half-time.

“It had got round the town so the Wolves had opened the turnstiles and another 10 or 15,000 had come in.

“So then we were rampant in the second half.

Cliff Durandt scored two so we were now 7-5 up and it was absolutely ridiculous the atmosphere.

“Greaves scored one 10 minutes from time, 7-6, so now we are in ‘bite-your-nails’ time.

“But they got us through.

“That was probably the greatest match ever at Molineux, the greatest competitive match, to this day.”

Wolves won the First Division the following year as well.

Farmer also made two appearances for England’s under-23 side and netted five goals. But his career was cut short aged 24 through injury.

The FA Youth Cup that he won with Wolves was one of five trophies that the club had won that year, and rounded off a brilliant campaign.

It was a time when Wolves were truly unstoppable.

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