The FA Cups That Never Were

Food For Thought From Long Ago

Major Frank Buckley.

Wolves have a four against their name in the area of the record books reserved for showing FA Cup final triumphs. But that doesn’t tell the whole story.

There is a school of thought that those clubs who lifted the Wartime League Cup achieved something very close. And, as we embark on third-round weekend, we look in more detail at how Wolves won that trophy almost 80 years ago.

In terms of matches played, it far outstripped what the club did when getting their hands on the more recognised silverware in 1893, 1908, 1949 and 1960.

The usual number of games played on those journeys was seven but Major Frank Buckley’s side played ten in their triumphant 1941-42 War Cup adventure, PLUS no fewer than ten in a qualifying competition. So this was a marathon effort.

It was also something of a ‘welcome back to action’ success because Wolves had not fielded a team in 1940-41. That’s why and when Billy Wright and Jimmy Mullen guested for Leicester and, by playing 13 and 16 games respectively, helped them to win the Midland Cup.

Star forwards Dicky Dorsett and Dennis Westcott were also on their travels in playing 14 matches for Liverpool between them but all four were back for the 1941-42 season in which Wolves marked Christmas Day by beating Walsall 4-3 to complete their 16-game Football League South programme.

They then turned their attentions to the Wartime League Cup and qualified by winning six of their ten matches, the last of them a crushing 11-1 defeat of Everton.

Guest players contributed eight of the goals in that double-figure haul, with Manchester United’s Jack Rowley hitting five and Villa’s Frank Broome three, and the side kicked on by overpowering Chester 4-1 on aggregate in the first round of the cup proper.

Next, also over two legs, came a 6-5 win over Manchester United that was clinched in extra-time at Molineux, followed by another odd-goal triumph over United’s neighbours from across the city. The run was gathering good momentum.

Cyril Sidlow is beaten by one of Sunderland’s two goals in the Midland Wartime League Cup final at Roker Park.

If Wolves expected the going to become tougher with the further progress they made, though, they were pleasantly surprised.

They faced Albion in the semi-final and were as good as through after winning the away first leg 4-1, a 3-0 romp in the return making it a very smooth passage to a much harder final.

It was May 23 when Wolves, captained by Tom Galley, travelled for the first leg to Roker Park, which, like Molineux, had one end closed for military reasons…..namely, the storage of ammunition for the war effort.

Sunderland had defeated Oldham, both Bradford teams and Scunthorpe on their way to the final but their poor home form over the season came back to haunt them as they fell behind to an 11th minute Westcott goal and found themselves on the receiving end for most of the first half.

But the tide turned after the interval and Raich Carter equalised nine minutes in with a half volley and Albert Stubbins – a shipyard draughtsman in the town and guesting from his parent club Newcastle – struck in the 77th minute.

Sunderland deserved their lead but it was pegged back when Westcott broke down the middle to score his second goal and set up a second leg that had drama surrounding it even before a ball was kicked.

Between 60 and 70 Wearsiders travelling south by train reportedly came under machine gun fire from the air in the early hours of match-day, Saturday, May 30. It is thought the vehicle was the target of a Nazi hit-and-run raider who swooped on the station of ‘a north-east town’. Reporting restrictions meant the precise location couldn’t be disclosed but it was known to be Newcastle, where bullets were heard splattering on the station roof and track. Luckily, no-one was injured.

The Football League had imposed minimum admission prices for the final of 1s 6d, with 1s for members of the Armed Forces and boys. There was no mention of females or what they should pay if they ventured to the games!

Wolves weathered a bright Sunderland opening at Molineux and Westcott opened the scoring with a goal set up by Alex McIntosh, who later served as prisoner of war in Holland after being captured.

Dennis Westcott on the rampage at Molineux.

Six minutes into the second half, Broome took aim and fired into the corner, only for Carter to restore Sunderland hopes seven minutes later. But Rowley immediately took a square pass from Mullen to restore Wolves’ two-goal advantage, and he added the last blow in an onslaught in which Mullen and Broome also struck the woodwork.

Wolves won 4-1 on the day and 6-3 on aggregate and many from a crowd of 43,000 swarmed on the pitch at the end in celebration before the cup was presented to Tom Galley by the Football League’s Mr W Cuff. The victorious players also received war savings certificates instead of medals.

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