No Wolves, No Teeth
A Hiding For GB, Without Billy & Co
In the week that Wolves head back to Eastern Europe to take on Besiktas, we highlight how a trip of similar distance six and a half decades ago prevented further additions to the many international honours being accumulated at Molineux at the time.
Great Britain 1 Rest of Europe 4 in the summer of 1955 is a game that would surely ordinarily have included Billy Wright and possibly one or more of his fellow England caps Bert Williams, Ron Flowers, Jimmy Mullen, Bill Slater, Peter Broadbent, Eddie Clamp and Dennis Wilshaw.
It was played in Belfast to celebrate the Irish Football Association’s 75th anniversary, the GB team even adopting Northern Ireland’s green strip for the occasion.
It was the last time the four home nations would join forces in a competitive fixture, although we reported in January how Derek Dougan had lined up in a Rest of the United Kingdom side to face Wales in 1969.
But mid-August, 1955 is a time that will be ingrained in some Wolves minds – and one that will explain the complete absence of any members of Stan Cullis’s in the British line-up.
The club were in Russia at the time on their trail-blazing trip behind the Iron Curtain and some of the players Walter Winterbottom may have wanted at his disposal against the continent’s elite were in Moscow.
So Billy, who had played for a Rest of the United Kingdom team against Wales in 1951-52, was denied the chance of a cap of a different kind.
Note that we didn’t include Johnny Hancocks above in the list of Molineux-based fellow England stars.
The tiny winger was available for Britain in 1955, having declined to go to Russia because of his fear of flying.
But his England prospects were dimmed by the presence of the great Stanley Matthews as well as by his reluctance to travel for away games and it was the Blackpool and Stoke legend who had the shirt against the Rest of Europe.
Not that Matthews stood out as the only icon of the game in Belfast. Local heroes Danny Blanchflower and Jimmy McIlroy were there, too, as was Scotland’s Liverpool legend Billy Liddell. Foremost among the Welsh contingent was ‘all-rounder’ John Charles, a formidable centre-half or centre-forward.
Rest of Europe fielded the French great, Raymond Kopa, who joined Real Madrid the following year and became part of one of the greatest club sides ever; one who claimed consecutive European Cups between from 1957 to 1959.
It was a Yugoslav who saw to it that Great Britain were soundly beaten 64 years ago, though, Bernard Vukas scoring an 11-minute hat-trick in the second half.
Also in the GB side pictured across the two-page centre spread in the latest issue of Backpass were Tommy Docherty and Don Revie.