A Quite Remarkable Old Boy
Special Sitting Honours Molineux’s Greatest Leader
England games against Scotland popped up a lot more frequently in Stan Cullis’s playing days.
Two of his 12 full peace-time caps were gained in this oldest of international fixtures and his three outings for the Football League side came in a pre-war era in which he was able to savour victories over the Scottish League both in Glasgow and Wolverhampton.
There was even a nod to the rivalry between Three Lions and Scottish blue at the unveiling ceremony held in the birthplace of Wolves’ most successful manager three days ago.
One of the photos in a special framed collage paying tribute to he and another son of Ellesmere Port, Joe Mercer, showed Cullis shaking hands with a counterpart from north of the border after being named as one of England’s youngest ever captains at 22.
The Iron Manager’s son, Andrew, along with Wolves directors past and present, John Richards and John Gough, were present to speak at the tribute occasion, which we are delighted to have seen well publicised on the official club website as well as in the press over the last couple of days.
We wrote in early May how Cambridge Road Primary School, where young Stanley kicked off his education, were unveiling a special plaque to him and engaging pupils in art projects that increased awareness of the special link.
The Stan Cullis football tournament will also be staged annually there for a new trophy and various displays featuring him were seen by the visiting dignitaries the day before the deadlocked England v Scotland Euros meeting.
The pre-match hype and commentaries reminded us that Friday’s Wembley clash was the first between the countries in a tournament proper since the one lit up by Paul Gascoigne at Wembley in 1996.
The old rivals then met three and a half years later when Kevin Keegan’s England just clung on to a clear first-leg lead from Hampden Park to go through 2-1 via a play-off for a European Championship place in Belgium and Holland in 2000.
Cullis made his England debut in a 5-1 win over the Irish in Belfast but his fourth cap – in a 1-0 defeat against Scotland at Wembley – was in an annual end-of-season fixture in which he also played at Hampden in April, 1939, two weeks before leading Wolves out for their shock FA Cup final defeat against Portsmouth.
Matches against the home nations accounted for almost half of his 12 England caps but he also faced Czechoslovakia, France, a FIFA XI, Norway and, in a closing flurry of appearances just before the war brought his service at this level to a halt, Italy, Yugoslavia and Rumania on a summer tour.
At the ceremony, Richards sat next to outgoing PFA chief Gordon Taylor, who was another of the speakers, and said afterwards: “It was all done very nicely and the speeches were very short. The school organised everything well.”
It is now 105 years since Cullis was born in Ellesmere Port and neither the European Championship nor World Cup were contested by England until well after he embarked on his phenomenal trophy-winning stint as Wolves manager.