How Cullis Tackled Keeper Crisis
Injury Pile-Up In Warm-Up Prompted Rapid Action
Charles Bamforth delves once more into the dusty archives to capture a few weeks in Molineux time – with the accent on the position in which many of his Wolves heroes played…..
The annual pre-season Colours v Whites game on August 6, 1960 did not go exactly as Stan Cullis would have liked.
Testimony to the fact that it was not a fixture in which the players pussy-footed around, the Iron Manager was unhappy to see three players receive bad knocks and leave the field.
One was little Norman Deeley, who had scored a brace of goals in the FA Cup final a few weeks earlier. But the other two were the club’s senior goalkeepers.
Nine minutes into the second half, Malcolm Finlayson received severe concussion diving at David (‘Slipper’) Read’s feet and was ferried to the Queen Victoria Nursing Institution. Fred Davies went on to replace him.
Five minutes from the end, Geoff Sidebottom in the other goal was led off with a shoulder injury, leaving full-back Phil Kelly to don the green jersey. Wolves, simply, had run out of keepers!
Sidebottom’s injury was not serious enough to stop him being named for the Charity Shield game at Burnley the following Saturday and he opened the season as the Wanderers’ first choice. Finlayson, however, would not see First Division action until October.
Davies, who had been recruited from Borough United in 1956-57, had for the most part plied his trade for Wolves in the Birmingham League and Worcestershire Combination, competing as he was not only with Finlayson and Sidebottom, but also the mercurial Noel Dwyer before the latter’s release to West Ham in December, 1958.
Fred was clearly in for a sustained stint in the Central League side. There was just one problem: he was on an RAF course at Compton Bassett that made him unavailable for midweek games. And Wolves Reserves had two of these in August alone.
For the first, Wolves went cap in hand to Oxford, who had not only changed their name from Headington United during the summer but also recruited Dublin-born Johnny Cullen, who had been Wolves’ keeper in that sensational FA Youth Cup final victory over Chelsea in 1957-58.
Wolves implored Oxford to let Cullen return for a game to help them out of the pickle and he featured in the 3-1 victory over Bolton Reserves at Molineux on August 22.
The search was on, though, for a longer-term option. The Sport Argus of September 3 reported that Wolves had signed 20-year-old George Wittey, just de-mobbed from the Army and on the books of Leyton. The article said he’d come from Leytonstone, but Wittey was certainly playing for Leyton of the Athenian League in the previous season.
He played against Bolton in the reverse game at Burnden Park and came through with flying colours. And that was the only Central League fixture he played.
By September, he was back with Leyton in a career that took him to the likes of Dagenham, Cray, Tooting & Mitcham and Faversham. Wolves were back to square one.
There were younger contenders on the books – youth-team keeper Trevor Edwards for one. Another was John Shanley. The People of July 10, 1960 included this intriguing snippet: “Have Wolves decided to use Scotland as their unofficial nursery? They may not have much chance of getting Scotland leader Alex Young from Hearts but they are favourites for his cousin, centre-forward Jim Gilpin, of Lonehead.
“And five other Scots youngsters will visit Molineux: full-back John Cumming (Loanhead Mayflower), keeper John Shanley (Edina Hearts), wing-half Billy Miller (Tynecastle Athletic), outside-left Gavin Hughes (St Bernard’s) and schools international left-back Bob Moncur.”
Yes, THAT Bob Moncur, who won the FA Cup with Sunderland but was previously a rock at Newcastle, not least in the side who defeated Wolves in the FA Youth Cup Final of 1962.
Shanley clearly was too young for the senior sides. But there was a student at Loughborough College who caught the Cullis eye. Back to the Sports Argus…..the December 31 edition announced that Wolves had signed 19-year-old Bob Wilson on amateur forms.
They had tried out 16-year-old Tony Harvey and had an annual game against Loughborough College in those days. That continued after Wilson had signed for Wolves, with him turning out for the college against Wolves.
So, the name Wilson (R) – the initial was included to indicate he was an amateur – started to appear in the Wolves reserve and junior sides, as it would for three years. The young man, albeit a reserve for the England Amateur side, still wasn’t considered ready, though perhaps his signing was stimulated by the loss of the ever-brave Geoff Sidebottom – carried off at West Ham earlier in the month and replaced in goal by John Kirkham after colliding with Bobby Moore’s boot.
Cullis continued to cast his eyes around and hit upon Chic Brodie. The ex-Manchester City youngster, who learned at the side of Bert Trautmann, was playing for Aldershot just three years after being freed by Gillingham. And now £14,000, a huge fee for a keeper in those days (although less than Villa had forked out for Sidebottom the previous week) was going to take him to Wolves, largely on the strength of an outstanding display at Molineux just a day earlier in a second replay of the FA Cup tie against Stoke.
The Saturday after signing for Wolves, Brodie replaced the injured Finlayson for the home game against Manchester United and it seems fitting to highlight further custodial strangeness in pointing out that the England amateur international keeper MJ (‘Mike’) Pinner was guesting for United.
Dick Bott, writing his verdict in that Saturday’s Argus, said: “Brodie could hardly be judged on this showing, but his distribution was excellent.” It seems his first save came after 36 minutes when he thwarted Nobby Stiles. After 42 minutes, he was beaten by Bobby Charlton but George Showell cleared off the line.
The new man had relatively little to do as Wolves won 2-1, the United goal being reported thus: “In the 69th minute, Slater slipped when trying to reach a through ball and Nicholas ran through unchallenged to shoot past the helpless Brodie.”
Before the end of the month, the Argus was writing of Brodie’s lucky cap (“I bought it when I was with Manchester City in 1954”) as well as his collection of over 100 Perry Como and Frank Sinatra records. Alas, lucky ‘titfer’ or not, that was Chic done in the Wolves first team. Finlayson was back, Davies was doing well in the reserves, so, by the beginning of March, Brodie was in the Midland Intermediate League team.
Seven months later, he was on his way to Northampton for exactly half the fee for which he arrived. Half-way through 1961-62, Davies finally inched out Finlayson – at a time when Bob Wilson was still coming over from the East Midlands on the back of his mate’s motorcycle.
Jim Barron and Bob Knight had arrived and just starting to train with the club was a certain Phil Parkes. The goalkeeper crisis had well and truly passed.