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A Stay-At-Home Preparation For Changing Wolves
Pre-season plans didn’t always include flights across Europe and beyond – even in the era in which Wolves travelled much further and more often than they now do.
At a time when Austria has again become a destination of choice for the club, we have been reminded how the Wanderers squad stayed within these shores when preparing almost half a century ago for Bill McGarry’s first full season in charge.
Friendlies were not so plentiful then by way of a warm-up and, in the countdown to 1969-70, the newish manager took his players no further than what we might now call the M4 corridor.
There was good reason to remain considerably closer to home – Wolves had not long returned from a highly successful end-of-season trip to America for the second time in three summers.
A couple of weeks after the squad had reported back for duty, they were whisked off to a base in Oxford, from where they struck out for games at the Manor Ground and at Bristol City.
In the city of spires, they faced a Second Division side who had just come under the control of former Wolves chief coach Gerry Summers.
And there were no upsets on the Monday night of July 28 as the top-flight visitors ran out 5-1 winners despite the absence of Derek Dougan. The centre-forward was away playing for a Rest of the UK team in a special fixture against Wales in Cardiff to mark the investiture of Prince Charles – and made the game’s only goal for Francis Lee.
At the Manor Ground, the class gap showed against opponents containing Jim Barron and Ron Atkinson, with Dave Wagstaffe, Hugh Curran (2), Paul Walker and a Robin Gladwin own goal sealing a comprehensive 5-1 victory.
Bernard Shaw, newly signed from Sheffield United, went on as a substitute and this was also the week in which Wolves took Jim McCalliog from the other side of the Steel City, McGarry driving north on the morning after the Oxford game to seal the deal.
A couple of new faces was often as much of a close-season overhaul as squads underwent at that time and, what with the reintroduction of black shorts instead of gold ones, they were exciting times.
McGarry’s men found the going much tougher at Bristol two nights later and had to settle for a 1-1 draw.
A Peter Knowles penalty three minutes from time, just a few weeks before his dramatic Molineux walk-out, staved off the prospect of a defeat after former Wanderers forward John Galley had made the second-tier home team’s early goal for Gerry Sharpe.
Following their eight games in America, the only other friendly arranged as preparation for Wolves’ 1969-70 campaign was against Kilmarnock, who were sent packing from Molineux 1-0 a week before kick-off day.
The programme certainly paid early dividends. Wolves won their first four League matches, including a home-and-away double against Southampton.