European Trail Blazers
The Run To The All-British 1972 Final
By Steven Chowdry
Forget Chelsea v Manchester United in Moscow 12 seasons ago or Liverpool v Tottenham in Madrid last year, the 1972 UEFA Cup final between Wolves and Tottenham was the first-ever all-British major European final.
The tie was played over two legs as the showpiece last stage of a tournament expanded from the old Fairs Cup.
With Wolves still dreaming of Europa League success this season, we look back at the club’s best ever run in Europe and the hope that they could go one step further in the coming weeks.
Wolves had easily dispatched their early opponents, namely Academica Coimbra of Portugal and ADO Den Haag from the Dutch capital. The aggregate score on each occasion was 7-1……so much for Bill McGarry’s side adopting the cautious approach to away legs that was common at the time.
In the third round, Wolves beat Carl Zeiss Jena 4-0 but a more challenging and tastier tie awaited them in the last eight against mighty Juventus.
The meeting proved to be a big attraction for the Wolves faithful as Molineux drew in 15,000 extra supporters for the game after their side claimed a highly creditable 1-1 draw in Turin.
Roared on by a 40,000-plus crowd, the 1970-71 First Division fourth-place finishers took a 2-0 lead through Danny Hegan and Derek Dougan with a consolation late in the game from Helmut Haller unable to prevent Juventus being knocked out.
McGarry’s side avoided AC Milan, as well as Spurs, in the semi-final and instead faced Ferencvaros, once more doing much of the hard work by scoring in the drawn first leg.
The game in Hungary ended 2-2 and the tie as a whole was memorable for goalkeeper Phil Parkes and Steve Daley, in particular.
Lofty performed heroics with a penalty save in each leg while the 19-year-old Daley was a goalscorer along with Frank Munro in the return. The midfielder made a dream start in the clash at Molineux by bagging the opener in the first minute.
The outcome was a 2-1 victory on the night and progress on a 4-3 aggregate. Happy days, indeed!
In the other half of the draw, Tottenham prevailed against AC Milan and, to the chagrin of both finalists, this meant the two-leg showpiece would be played in England.
Star performers from both teams admitted to being disappointed at missing out on an exotic away day – and Spurs striker Martin Chivers described how the players’ wives had been excited by the prospect of an all-expenses paid trip abroad.
“They started dreaming of Madrid, Paris and Rome,” he said. “They weren’t enamoured about going to Wolverhampton.”
That domestic showdown was quite a contrast to a 2019-20 campaign in which Wolves have been to Greece, Portugal, Turkey, Italy, Spain and the Czech Republic as well as Armenia and Northern Ireland.
And they look set to return for further travels later this year as they stand at 1/4 to finish in the top six in the Premier League betting odds.
The record books show that Spurs secured a vital 2-1 away victory 48 years ago with a brace from Chivers sandwiching a goal from skipper Jim McCalliog.
Despite an upturn in performance in the second leg, a 1-1 draw at White Hart Lane wasn’t quite enough to lead Wolves to European glory.
Dave Wagstaffe scored a stunning goal to reduce the deficit to 3-2 on aggregate but the team couldn’t breach the Spurs defence again, although Spurs manager Bill Nicholson reportedly conceded that Wolves deserved to win on the night.
As shown by today’s win over Everton, the current side are Wolves’ most exciting team since those heady days. Although we are still talking only about them being in the last 16, it is not beyond the realms of plausibility that they could go one step further and win the competition.
The 1971-72 season was as close as Wolves have ever been to European immortality. The present team will now hope to exorcise the memories of that disappointing final in their own quest for glory.