The Final Curtain

Over And Out From Those Wembley Heroes

With the 50-year anniversary of Wolves’ first League Cup glory just around the corner, we continue our countdown to the red-letter date by revisiting a theme we raised two or three years ago….

Mike Bailey stretches to help frustrate Mike Summerbee in Wolves’ famous Wembley victory over Manchester City.

Should we be surprised that March 2, 1974 – the very day of a certain epic victory over Manchester City – was the last time Wolves’ first 11 League Cup final winners started a game together?

For many clubs, winning a major domestic honour following years of knocking loudly on the door would be seen as the start of an era, not the end.

But there is a logical reason why the tracksuited team Bill McGarry led into the North London sunshine all those years ago were not seen together again on the same starting sheet. Or two reasons to be precise.

The first was that John Richards just about managed to see out the big game and rifle home the glorious late winner before succumbing to the pelvic injury that ruled him out for the rest of the season.

A few minutes before the absolute best of his countless golden moments in football, Richards had been earmarked by the management for possible replacement in those one-substitute days.

Then, Dave Wagstaffe went down with the thigh injury he had hidden from McGarry and Sammy Chung in the previous few days and aggravated in the game, so he was the one Barry Powell went on for instead.

The winger was back playing in the first team in three weeks but Richards wasn’t seen again at that level until scoring at Burnley on the opening day of 1974-75.

And that goes a long way to explaining why Messrs Pierce, Palmer, Parkin, Bailey, Munro, McAlle, Hibbitt, Sunderland, Richards, Dougan and Wagstaffe didn’t line up together again after receiving their winners’ tankards at the twin towers.

As the match winner himself has said in interviews over the decades, the squad as a whole were delighted that the older statesmen like Waggy, Derek Dougan and skipper Mike Bailey had at last won one of the game’s major prizes.

A winners’ medal at last. The Doog in jovial post-match mood with the gold-shirted Denis Law.

And therein lies the rub. Dougan was 36 and, despite the costly failure inside the club to spot what an outstanding performer Peter Withe was destined to become, would play only another ten first-team matches, several of those as a substitute.

That is the main reason why the Wembley line-up didn’t take to the field together again.

With John Farley on board, Waggy was used sparingly as well, although Bailey – also comfortably into his 30s – played 38 out of 42 League games.

The only other time the Wembley line-up played together was in the League defeat at Everton three weeks before the final and we can give some context to this statistic.

John Barnwell’s winning line-up against Nottingham Forest in 1980 played together a dozen or so times.  

 

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