Strange Trends Galore

A Relegation Season With Some Highlights

Bobby Thomson sweeps the ball away from Roger Hunt at Anfield in Wolves’ 2-1 defeat against Liverpool in 1964-65.

We all know 1964-65 was the season in which the unthinkable failed to stave off the unbelievable – Stan Cullis was sacked and Wolves were relegated.

But how many other unusual statistics and sequences were buried away in that sorry campaign?

Look at the club’s results for a start and imagine the highs and lows that nine months held. Okay, the highs were only relative but they were clearly there and out of keeping with long stretches of shuddering failure.

Wolves lost six of their first seven matches, drawing the other, and went on to concede 40 goals in their first 14 Division One games.

They didn’t win on a Saturday until their 16th game, that 2-0 triumph at Stoke on November 7 having been preceded almost two months earlier by a 4-3 Monday night success at home to West Ham in the last of the 748 League and cup fixtures they played under Cullis’s management.

After beating the Hammers, they lost another seven in a row to find themselves seriously adrift at the bottom of the table and a full 20 points behind the Chelsea side they had faced in a series of exhibition matches in the Caribbean a few months earlier. But then the tide turned, turned back and turned again……

By now under the caretaker leadership of Andy Beattie, they won three out of four, then lost five more in succession before an FA Cup draw at Portsmouth kicked off a trot of seven games without defeat. It seemed to be all or nothing.

This was a season in which Wolves played no fewer than six games on Mondays and two of those, both against Villa, heralded a marked change in fortunes.

When they beat them in an FA Cup fifth-round second replay in the Hawthorns snow on the first night of March, it set them off on another revival of four victories in five games but defeat in the League at Villa Park exactly three weeks later was the prelude to a spell of three defeats in four, with the other drawn.

Finally, there was a late flourish made up of four wins in six but the damage had been done. The gap was too large and the club’s 33-year occupation of a top-flight place came to a sad end.

If there was consolation for supporters, other than an entertaining run to the Cup quarter-final, it came with the fact they had brief bragging rights over fans of other local clubs.

Liverpool again in opposition – this time at Molineux in April, 1965, after relegation had been confirmed. Hugh McIlmoyle is the attacker. Photo courtesy of Liverpool Post & Echo.

Having been well beaten by Birmingham and Albion in the first third of the season, Wolves later had revenge wins over both, completed a League double over Stoke and ultimately prevailed in the Cup marathon against Villa.

As if to emphasise that 1964-65 was a time of very contrasting feelings at Molineux, the Boxing Day home defeat against Villa was both Peter Broadbent’s farewell appearance and Dave Wagstaffe’s debut.

Thomas Publications