A Rare Rivalry

Saints Ties Are Deeply Embedded In Pages Of History

Kick-off time in the 1908 semi-final at Chelsea. We are grateful to our friends at the www.saintsplayers.co.uk website with their help in the compilation of this article.

First things first, there’s not a man or woman alive who has seen Wolves beat Southampton in the FA Cup.

A healthy number of us were at St Mary’s to see Dave Jones’s side lose 2-0 in the quarter-final of the 2002-03 competition and many more would have watched it on TV.

But the round-five tie that will take place at a bitterly cold Molineux tonight is a rarity indeed – it is only the fifth time the clubs have been paired together in the primary domestic knockout.

And three of those (two won by Wolves) were played well over a century ago.

The highest-profile clash was the one in 1908 as it was a semi-final, staged at Stamford Bridge on March 28 after the Saints had included Albion among their victims earlier in the run.

But two Dell old boys helped do for them at a time when both clubs were unrecognisable from what they have become. Wolves were a mid-table Second Division team and their opponents were members of the Southern League and not destined to join the Football League for more than another decade.

The scorers in Wolves’ 2-0 victory were Wally Radford, a Wolverhampton-born forward who spent 1906-07 with Southampton in between his two Molineux spells, and George Hedley, a hero at The Dell after knocking in 54 goals in 113 games in red and white.  

Radford drew first blood with a close-range shot just before the interval when Billy Harrison’s dash down the right was followed by a pull-back that took out Saints keeper Tom Burrows – standing in for first-choice man Bert Lock, who had failed a pre-match fitness test.

In the 65th minute, the contest was as good as all over when Hedley received possession from a throw-in, controlled well and ‘dispatched the leather’, as one match report put it.

More local accounts of the day talk of large crowds gathering outside the Express & Star office in Queen Street in search of score updates, among them the father of Kenneth Hunt, the wing-half who played throughout his career as an amateur and won a gold medal playing for Great Britain in the Olympics later in the year.

Wolves’ goal heroes in the big game 113 seasons ago.

Wolves, who went on to win 3-1 in the final against Newcastle, with Hunt joining Hedley and Harrison on the score-sheet, played two other FA Cup ties against Southampton in that era.

The one at Molineux in 1905 was won 3-2 by the Saints despite the presence in the home side of two men who would be victorious finalists three years later, Jackery Jones and Billy Wooldridge. Maybe the fact the visitors had a Molyneux in their ranks was significant…..

But Wolves were celebrating again after the first-round 3-0 win over Southampton at Molineux in 1914, only to then lose in a replay to Sheffield Wednesday at the next stage.

One other snippet of news from the columns following the semi-final meeting 113 seasons ago is that Wolves supporters were said to be somewhat in the minority among the 44,696 crowd at Stamford Bridge; perhaps not surprising given the respective journeys.

We hope and trust that tonight’s will be the only Cup tie between the clubs ever to be played without spectators.