Genial Figure Who Prepared Wolves For Greatness
It has often been lamented by veteran Wolves supporters that Stan Cullis was denied the full extent of the praise he deserved for winning three League titles and two FA Cups at Molineux.
Here, though, we can present evidence that one of his predecessors, Major Frank Buckley, was very much lauded – in an obscure and long-forgotten publication at least.
We were given access to a 1955 book by Archie Ledbrooke and Edgar Turner, Soccer From The Press Box, that fully celebrated the achievements of the man who transformed Wolves before the war and, to varying degrees, Notts County, Hull and Leeds in later years.
The Mancunian arrived in the West Midlands from Blackpool in 1927 and is credited with doing much to inspire Wolves’ rise to near greatness in the late 1930s, as underlined by runners-up places in the League and FA Cup.
And that, in the eyes of these particular co-authors, has him right up there with and even above Herbert Chapman, the legendary multi League title winner at Huddersfield and Arsenal.
“There are people who believe Major Buckley not only challenged Chapman but in many ways led him in the between-the-wars period,” they wrote.
“Here is a man who staggered the football world with watered pitches, gland treatment for players, the selling of Bryn Jones for a pre-war record fee and, vitally, his nine-week revival of Hull. He was one of the first of the few – a successful player who turned out to be a highly successful manager.
“It was at Wolverhampton Wanderers that the real genius of the man became evident. In four years from May, 1935, he revealed such aptitude for finding and making young players that Wolves ‘lifted’ £110,000 in transfer fees alone. Buckley paid £42,000 for players in the same period, so the totally favourable margin was £68,000.”
Among Buckley’s boldest moves was to have a pair of 16-year-olds, Alan Steen and Jimmy Mullen, on the wings for a 3-1 League victory over Manchester United in the late winter of 1939.
“Here is a man who has never been loath to make the most daring of experiments,” the book added. “He brought into the Football League lads of 17 and less. His most famous find was Cullis but there have been many, many more, including (at Leeds) John Charles.
“During the war, he went to Notts County, where his salary was supposed to be £4,000, and sold Jesse Pye to Wolves. It was said he made the sale because his own code of honour forbade him leaving a club without showing a profit.
“He formed Hull’s team in nine weeks before the 1946-47 season started. At Leeds, he soon showed the biggest profit they had ever known. Yes, this is the manager with the Midas touch.”
The Major died in Walsall in 1964 at the age of 82.