Wolves 60th anniversary special - The Champions of England 1958/9
The 1958/59 season was a special one for Wolves, retaining the First Division title and scoring more than 100 league goals for the second campaign in a row.
Today marks 60 years since they achieved the mighty feat, grabbing their third top-flight trophy. And can a triumph be more emphatic?
Successfully defending the crown by a six-point margin – back in the days when a win was worth two, not three – ahead of Manchester United, who fought so valiantly a year on from the Munich air disaster, takes some doing.
But this Wolves team was full of quality, with Billy Wright donning the armband, Ron Flowers the midfield powerhouse and Peter Broadbent and Jimmy Murray grabbing goals by the bucketload.
Once Stan Cullis’s side hit their stride, they could not be stopped. In fact, they ended the campaign 13 games unbeaten, so nobody could say that they did not deserve it.
And it all kicked off with a convincing Molineux victory. Nottingham Forest were brushed aside 5-1 in front of 52,659 supporters. Bobby Mason, who ended the season with 13 goals, bagged a hat-trick while Norman Deeley and Broadbent got one apiece.
But back-to-back away losses followed – 2-0 at West Ham, and 6-2 at Chelsea – before a 1-1 home draw with the Hammers, so an early setback had to be overcome.
And how better to do so than with four wins on the bounce?
Jackie Henderson came up with three goals across the spell, which began as they beat Blackpool 2-0 and continued with a 3-1 success at Villa, a 2-1 win at Blackburn and a 4-0 victory over Villa at Molineux.
That purple patch proved to be his only one of the term for Wolves though. The Scot did not get on the scoresheet again as he moved to Arsenal, where he enjoyed four impressive years.
October kicked off in fine fashion, beating Manchester United 4-0 at a raucous Molineux. Murray, Mason and Jimmy Mullen were those on the mark. And history was made in the process as it was the first-ever league game to take place on a Saturday night.
Broadbent and Deeley then struck to dispose of Manchester City 2-0, and they ended the month unbeaten thanks to a 1-1 draw with Arsenal and a 3-1 victory against Birmingham City.
But a big blow was dealt at the beginning of November.
Travelling to The Hawthorns to face Albion, Deeley’s goal was not enough to prevent Wolves from being downed by their bitter rivals.
They recovered with three wins out of four by the time December came around.
Alan Jackson, who was handed an opportunity because of an injury to Mullen, got his one goal of the season in one of those wins, prevailing 2-0 against Burnley. Deeley, who ended the campaign as third top scorer with 17 in the league, netted the other.
Broadbent made history during the month too, scoring Wolves’ first European Cup goal against Schalke. But the German side won the two-legged second round affair 4-3 on aggregate.
We all know the festive period can be busy when it comes to football – and Wolves had to make sure they did not have too much turkey on Christmas Day as they played on both Boxing Day and December 27.
But they came out on top twice, of course, in a double-header against Portsmouth.
Pompey first fell at the hands of Cullis’s charges at Fratton Park, with Broadbent’s hat-trick and strikes apiece for Deeley and Colin Booth seeing Wolves win a madcap encounter 5-3.
And it was seventh heaven at Molineux 24 hours later. Trebles for Booth and Deeley, and Des Horne’s goal, gave them their biggest victory of the campaign – 7-0. A phenomenal way to end 1958.
January only consisted of two league games – a 2-1 loss to Chelsea, and then a 5-0 victory against Blackburn.
Wolves’ FA Cup involvement started and ended during the month too. They got past Barrow in the third round, beating them 4-2 with Deeley (two), Booth and Mickey Lill on the mark. But they were knocked out in the fourth, losing 2-1 to Bolton.
February included the final defeat of the term. Thrilling 4-3 and 6-2 wins against Newcastle and Leeds respectively were followed by a 2-1 loss to the Red Devils at Old Trafford, perhaps giving Matt Busby’s side a psychological edge in the title race as they moved level on points, albeit having played one more match than Cullis’s men.
A 4-1 success over the Citizens rounded off the month and began the 13-game streak. Wolves went up another level.
A 6-1 thrashing of Arsenal, a revenge-filled 5-2 victory over Albion and a 5-0 demolition job on Luton came in the run, building towards the day they were confirmed as champions.
And, again, talk about doing it in style. A 3-0 win at Molineux against Leicester was in keeping with a truly terrific season. The efforts of United, who were even level on points on April 11, were in vain as Wolves made the most of their games in hand.
It was written in the Express & Star at the time: “Moments of restlessness they had suffered during the game were forgotten by the thousands who stayed behind at Molineux to give Wolves their real championship cheer. This time there were no ifs and buts.
“They sang ‘The Happy Wanderer’, they swung their rattles and they released a giant balloon that disappeared out of the floodlit arena to take its ‘Wolves, the champions’ legend into the darkness.”
One more game still had to be played – and Wolves won that too, beating Everton 1-0 thanks to Murray, pulling the curtain down on a sublime spell and the illustrious career of Wright.
With 541 appearances as a Wolves player, and more than 100 England caps, the club’s most iconic, decorated and successful player hung up his boots in the manner most could only ever dream of. A captain and team of legendary proportions.