One of Wolves’ biggest post-war crowds was shoehorned into Molineux when the club set a standard they will hope to reach when tackling more East European opposition this week.
It was almost exactly 60 years ago that Stan Cullis’s side dismantled Yugoslav champions Red Star Belgrade with the sort of powerhouse performances Nuno would love to see from his side against Slovan Bratislava, starting tomorrow night in Slovakia.
Wolves, of course, had a high starting point at the time as they had won the League Championship for the previous two seasons and were putting together a sustained bid for more major honours.
But they had their backs to the wall on their November 11 European Cup trip behind the old Iron Curtain in 1959 – their reward for narrowly overcoming Vorwaerts at the first stage. And they did well to emerge with a 1-1 draw secured by Norman Deeley’s goal.
Thankfully, there was a helpful start to the return 13 days later when Vladimir Beara, the Red Star keeper who faced Manchester United in the last match before the Munich air crash, let Jimmy Murray’s seventh minute cross from the left float over him and in off the far post.
Despite this surprise assistance from a man greatly admired by the legendary Lev Yashin, Wolves had to struggle to assert any supremacy over a side who drew one magnificent save from Malcolm Finlayson and were still only one down with five minutes left.
Then, Bobby Mason, having scored four goals in a mixed bag of results in the previous two and a half weeks, took a decisive hand.
The Tipton-born inside-forward made the tie safe when he sidefooted home a Des Horne cross following an excellent pass by Murray and the same player climbed unmarked to head in Peter Broadbent’s centre and establish a three-goal cushion.
The crowd was an astonishing 55,519, which was over 10,000 more than for Manchester United’s visit a month earlier and some 6,000 in excess of the late-February home win against Albion in the same season.
But that Red Star attendance figure was narrowly bettered by the 55,747 who witnessed the victory over Vorwaerts – that remains Molineux’s sixth highest crowd since the war.
A curious aspect of the Yugoslavs’ visit was the appearance of an illuminated red star, reportedly borrowed from a local cinema, that was hung from a floodlight pylon at the North Bank end.
Red Star lost 5-0 at Tottenham in the Champions League last night but beat Albion by the odd goal over two legs in the UEFA Cup in 1978-79.