So Long Ago, Yet Still So Special

Strange Things Happened On The Way To Wembley!

To commemorate the fact that it will be 40 years ago this Sunday since Wolves beat Nottingham Forest at Wembley to win the League Cup, we present a look back with a difference at the big date with Brian Clough’s seemingly impregnable side.

So, how many of our loyal readers can remember these events from the countdown to the March 15 tussle between East Midlands and West Midlands?

John Richards, chaired off here after scoring twice against Swindon in the 1980 League Cup semi-final, always seemed to be among the goals come competition time.

*Wolves’ last outing before the League Cup showpiece might well have been against Wrexham…..what odds would you have got on that? A private midweek practice match against the Second Division club was arranged at Lilleshall, with Andy Gray using a 3-1 win to break a goal duck stretching back well over a month to January 26. John Richards and Mel Eves netted the others.

*Thirteen-year-old Andrew Bailey had good reason to remember the build-up to the twin towers invasion…..he was mugged and robbed of his match ticket soon after reaching the front of a 10,000-strong queue at Molineux. Wolves commercial manager Jack Taylor came to the rescue, though, by arranging for John Barnwell and Kenny Hibbitt to present the grateful youngster, from Wolverley near Kidderminster, with two replacement enclosure tickets as well as a scarf and hat in the club’s colours.

*Was it Forest that Wolves were up against or East London’s finest? Bizarrely, the hot favourites chose I’m Forever Blowing Bubbles as one of their three permitted requests with the Bands Of The Queen’s Regiment, who were to play on the pitch on final afternoon. They also chose Mull Of Kintyre and (at the apparent insistence of manager Brian Clough) My Way while Wolves opted unsurprisingly for The Liquidator, The Happy Wanderer and Hi Ho Silver Lining.

*Barnwell’s players spent the Saturday before the final at selected Stars News outlets, promoting the Wembley Wolves magazine that had just been published.

*’Bully For Wolves At Wembley’ read the back-page main headline on League Cup final eve. Was this a blurring of different eras? No…after travelling to London, Barnwell’s men trained at the Cockfosters comprehensive school that the England squad regularly used and were surprised to learn there were no goalposts! The groundsman informed the Wolves management on arrival that the national team trained on pitches that had hockey posts, so that unconventional lead was followed for the session.

Andy Gray…..thank goodness he was cleared to play! Otherwise these scenes wouldn’t have been burned on to our memories.

*The Wrexham friendly was arranged amid concern that Wolves’ planned League trip to Villa on the Monday before Wembley might be called off. It all hinged on whether there was a definite result when Ron Saunders’s side travelled to West Ham in the FA Cup in the meantime. No-one had a greater vested interest in that tie than Gray, who would have been suspended for the final had he not been able to serve his ban with the staging of the West Midlands derby. He endured 89 nervous minutes with the score at Upton Park at 0-0 before Ken McNaught’s disputed hand-ball led to Ray Stewart hitting the Hammers’ winner from the penalty spot. Gray said: “I felt sorry for my old mates and would have much preferred the result to go the other way. But I’m delighted to be available for Wembley.”

*Never before had Wolves played so many games (ten) in reaching a major domestic cup final. That total of matches included two two-leg ties and two others that went to one replay or more.

*Had there been a draw at Wembley, the replay would have been at Old Trafford on March 31, a full 16 days later. Wolves had won at Manchester United through a Mel Eves goal as recently as the February.

We plan to return with more memories of this great occasion in the coming days, so please check and make sure you read on…..

Thomas Publications