A Call For Drastic Measures

Outspoken ‘Solution’ That Was Not Adopted

Arthur Oakley (left) on a club trip, with Malcolm Finlayson at his side.

Even as radical suggestions go, we wonder whether this theory from inside Molineux’s corridors of power gained any significant traction.

Arthur Oakley was, at various times, Wolverhampton Wanderers’ vice-chairman and chairman, a club life member, an England selector and a Football League president. He was also clearly a man of strong opinions. Keep reading if you want the proof.

The summer of 1959 was not a World Cup time but it could be described as representing the absolute pinnacle of Wolves’ powers, with the League Championship having just been won for the second season running.

Which is presumably why Oakley felt bold enough around the end of his three and a half decades as a Molineux director to express a view that appears utterly extraordinary with the benefit of more than 60 years of hindsight.

The England team were on an extended close-season tour at the time, initially in Brazil and Peru and then Mexico City and Los Angeles.

And it was during that long jaunt in May, 1959, that Oakley made a point that appears more extreme than even those voiced at post mortems into our country’s worst failures at major championships in the decades since.

Just before the USA v England game in LA that proved to be the last of Billy Wright’s 105 caps, this highly regarded figure was quoted in the Express & Star as saying: “Something drastic has got to be done. More and more, I am convinced the selectors will have to consider playing a top club team in the England shirts.

“It’s ridiculous to throw 11 players from different clubs together and expect them to play like a machine in only a few days.”

Billy Wright – known to Arthur Oakley through both Wolves and England.

Given his strong boardroom connections with Wolves from the 1920s to the late 1950s, Oakley, who was described in print by Billy as having ‘tremendous’ football knowledge, presumably had the back-to-back League champions in mind as just the sort of club who might fill all those three lions shirts!

In the same article, which was published a year or so after we had gone out of the World Cup in Sweden in a play-off game arranged just before the quarter-final stage, he went on to question the attitude of some international players.

“Something is all wrong,” he added. “There is this emphasis on pay instead of play. Once, it was sufficient to play for the honour alone. Now, players worry about how much they are getting for playing for their country.”

A dinner was held at Wolverhampton Civic Hall in Oakley’s honour in September, 1956 at the end of the day on which Sir Stanley Rous officially opened the Castlecroft training ground.

Thomas Publications
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