Time To Switch On Those Lights

Wolves’ Alternative Part In Bright New Era

A Wolves side in their familiar colours do battle with white-shirted Bury under the new Gigg Lane lights in 1953.

It wasn’t all about Molineux and that hallowed strip of turf during Wolves’ famous floodlit era.

We have all heard and read about the epic nights featuring Honved, Spartak, Moscow Dynamo and others but there were also evenings out for Stan Cullis’s side at Bristol City, Hull and even Bilston as more football grounds became illuminated.

We bet that nothing like as many Wolves supporters are aware of those away games. And what are the odds on Bilston ever being mentioned in the same sentence as Honved and Real Madrid?

There was even a fixture against Albion at Hednesford among the matches marked in the list of friendlies in Tony Matthews’s first Wolves Complete Record by the letters OL, denoting Opening Lights.

Yes, the side travelled as the all-star visitors for when other clubs first switched on their own floodlights, just as the South Africa XI came to Molineux when the cherished grass was seen in an exciting new light for the first time in the autumn of 1953.

Six days after Eddie Stuart proudly led out the League champions-elect against the cream of players from the country of his birth, in fact, Wolves played a little-remembered friendly at Bury amid the same sort of ceremony.

In between a 3-3 draw at Sheffield United and a 2-1 win at home to Newcastle, Cullis took his players north in those pre-M6 days for a Tuesday evening assignment against opponents the club hadn’t faced for more than 20 years.

The delighted Lancashire public didn’t quite get the full thrilling package. Billy Wright and Jimmy Mullen were absent as they were preparing for England duty against Wales and Bert Williams stayed at home because of a cold.

‘Commentator’ in the Express & Star reported that ‘Edwin Clamp would be tried out’, with Nigel Sims taking over in goal. Dennis Wilshaw did play but reported for his country the next day as a late call-up for the international fixture in Cardiff.

Bury had a notable name in their line-up – they were captained by the former Wolves defender Angus McLean, who came in for Johnny Hart. They also had a Daniel in their side, as well as a Fletcher and a Kelly.

There were other tenuous links between the clubs, with the Star report revealing about the new addition to the Gigg Lane landscape: “The floodlight system follows the Molineux pattern of lighting from towers placed at the four corners of the ground.”

The clash took place on October 6, 1953, and Commentator (Phil Morgan) reported: “As at Hull last season, Wolves found themselves beaten 3-1, with a moderate Second Division side making a special effort before their own crowd.”

Under lights said to be less vivid than those at Molineux, Wolves fell behind to a 21st minute goal by Fletcher and equalised through a neat Ron Stockin header just before half-time.

It was in the latter stages that Bury secured a surprise victory against the side who would win the League Championship seven months later, Kelly and Plant scoring in the last 11 minutes.

The host club had announced they had other friendlies lined up against Bolton, Blackburn and a ‘crack Yugoslav side’ as a further celebration of their new facility.

And Wolves made another cluster of trips to mark the switching-on of floodlights when they visited Celtic, Hendon and Morton in the late 1950s and early 1960s.

Eddie Clamp – floodlit friendly gave fans an early sighting of him.

We would love to hear from any of our readers who may have attended any of these games.

Wolves’ team at Bury: Nigel SIMS, Eddie CLAMP, Roy PRITCHARD, Ray CHATHAM, Bill SHORTHOUSE, Bill BAXTER, Johnny HANCOCKS, Peter BROADBENT, Roy SWINBOURNE, Dennis WILSHAW, Ron STOCKIN.

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