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40 years since Wolves' Wembley cup triumph

By Black Country Bugle  |  Posted: March 20, 2014

By Clive Corbett

  • John Richards signed this picture of the Wolves players celebrating his winning goal in the 1974 League Cup final

  • Above left, Frank Munro and, above right, Gary Pierce, both outstanding players for Wolves in the 1974 League Cup final

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LAST week we began the story of Wolves' victory over Manchester City at Wembley in the League Cup final 40 years ago. Quarter of an hour into the second half, Manchester City had equalised but there was still plenty of drama to be played out in the game.

At half time John Richards had been given painkilling sprays to ease the growing discomfort of an injury but fate took a hand when Dave Wagstaffe broke down on a run down the right wing and had to go off with a hamstring injury. With only one substitute available, Barry Powell replaced him, and it is generally assumed that had Wagstaffe not pulled up then it might well have been Richards coming off. Waggy certainly believed that this would have been the case; "John was going to come off but I came off before him. Who knows what might have happened if I had stayed on!"

Bill McGarry later confirmed that Richards had spent the previous two nights with his legs strapped together to ease the discomfort of his injury; "It was not even a calculated risk. He really should not have been playing." He never played again that season and remembers; "As the game wore on I became a bit more laboured, the more I did on it the worse the pain got, it was really sore."

John Richards found the strength from somewhere to reward the Midlanders' strong finish with the winner. Six minutes to go and Kenny Hibbitt took a left wing corner. Wolves had only three players in the box – the Doog at the near post, Munro at the far, and Richards lurking on the edge. City had eight men in the area, plus keeper McRae. Hibbitt's flag kick was hit long and Booth leapt to beat Munro and head away but the ball fell only to Alan Sunderland on the right hand edge of the box. He was closed down quickly by Lee, but found Bailey behind him. The skipper then threaded a precision pass between Lee and Law to find Sunderland. Letting the ball run across him and past Donachie, the Wolves youngster got in a cross that clipped Marsh's heel. The ricochet found Richards on the penalty spot. Doyle couldn't close him down quickly enough and the number nine drove the ball into McRae's left hand corner.

Mike Bailey recalls the build-up; "I managed to find Alan Sunderland with a pass down City's right. Alan showed great skill in tempting Donachie's tackle by letting it cross his body before delivering the cross." Richards naturally remembers the goal well but is typically modest; "It was a combination of good players. The pass from Mike Bailey in between players to Alan Sunderland was beautiful. Alan's cross then deflected off Rodney Marsh's heel. I definitely didn't pick a spot with this one. It was just a case of hitting it hard and low, simple as that. I did that and somehow it threaded its way through and into the corner of the net. I didn't even see it hit the net. It was the reaction of the crowd at the back of the goal where all the Wolves supporters were that told me it went in."

We of course went barmy and my enduring vision is of my granddad, last at Wembley with Wolves in 1949, hardly able to believe that we were back in the big time.

At the final whistle, the Wolves bench of Wagstaffe, Phil Parkes, Jim McCalliog and Steve Daley, as well as Bill McGarry, Sammy Chung and physio Toby Andersen, poured on to the hallowed turf. Although McGarry's untypically emotional embrace of Gary Pierce was a memorable moment, it must be the splendid gesture of the bitterly disappointed Parkes towards his replacement that lingers longest. Steve Daley agrees; "Phil just shrugged it off, didn't bear people ill will. I would imagine that after that '74 cup final Phil would have been absolutely delighted for Piercy. Annoyed that he couldn't play due to no fault of his own, but the first to say 'Well done kid', absolutely brilliant, Phil's a great guy." Palmer chips in; "Gary hadn't played that many games. I think it had been touch and go all week with big Phil and his ankle, but you could always tell he was going to be just a week short. It was a shame for him but Gary came in and the rest is history. He was a card he was, all goalkeepers are nutters."

Hibbitt sums up the joy and relief that swept over both team and supporters at the final whistle; "Gary was man of the match, a star that day. He was just enormous, magnificent. You could see that Bill McGarry was elated, not just because of the win but also because of the performance that Gary had put in. He ran on the pitch in his sheepskin coat and went straight to Gary, got hold of his hand and shook it. I'll never forget the scene. John was laid out on the middle of the pitch when the final whistle went. You just didn't know who to go to. It was just like a dream, a mist and you were waiting to come through it. You only calmed down when we walked up the steps to get the cup. Mike Bailey must have been a very proud man, he was the best captain I played under."

Bailey accepted the cup, wiping the mud from his hands so as not to dirty the gloves of the Duchess of Kent. The proud captain adds; "As we followed a very sporting Man City side up the steps to the royal box. I felt enormous pride in holding up the trophy above my head to the Wolves end of the ground."

In the week of a general election, the Times cleverly chose the headline for the match report, "Avoiding a recount".

Skipper Bailey appreciates the key role of his two centre backs; "Gary Pierce's part in our win is deservedly remembered, but Frank Munro and John McAlle in front of him were magnificent. John never seemed to get many accolades but he was an outstanding defender, very brave. He was a team player and the bigger the game the better he played. He would be the first man I would want to take to war with me!"

Geoff Palmer is fulsome in his praise of those around him; "The way Mick Bailey, Derek Parkin, Frank Munro and John McAlle played that day, and obviously Gary, was amazing. Mike was just an inspiration that day, leading from the front. I've never played under anybody as close to being as good a captain as him. He didn't ask people to do anything he couldn't do himself. If you needed telling off he'd tell you off, and if you needed looking after he'd look after you."

The abiding memory for most that were there is of Derek Dougan and Denis Law, arms around each other with the latter in Frank Munro's shirt, as the Doog remembered; "You walk off the pitch and are friends, it's all about rapport."

The victory was suitably celebrated at an evening banquet at the Hilton Hotel in Park Lane, as Bailey adds; "The club had booked the banquet for after the game, win or lose. With our wives, girlfriends and friends we celebrated our achievement at putting Wolves back into the limelight. As I was one of the last to go to bed I saw the cup still on the top table. It looked quite lonely so I took it to bed with me and brought it down to breakfast the next morning." The Doog chipped in; "Speaking for my Wolves colleagues, the rousing crescendo of support we had from the stands and terraces in those last 20 pulsating minutes drove us on to victory and provided the highlight of my career." Derek Parkin adds; "It was a fantastic day, not just for the players, but for the wives, the chairman, the fans and the club. I think Bill enjoyed the day as well."

The next day supporters waited for hours in St Peter's Square to welcome the conquering heroes to a lunch time civic reception. As the team coach pulled up outside the Town Hall the crowd erupted – let Mike Bailey pick up the story; "Sunday was an unbelievable day. The team coach, driven by Sid Kipping, took us to Wolverhampton. All of the town's dignitaries were there plus thousands of fans looking up at the hall's balcony where we later appeared to show them the cup. The celebrations were far from over since quite a few of the lads, me included, had to drive back to London for the PFA awards dinner! The cup remained in my possession until Tuesday and my son Andrew took it to school on the Monday. He was very popular as you can imagine. I only took the cup back when people at the club thought it had been stolen!"

Like all Wolves fans I am for ever indebted to the 12 players who delivered Wembley success 40 years ago. The memories that they made live on and must provide inspiration to the present Molineux generation who are fighting hard to restore pride to the gold and black. Big thanks to Mike Bailey and the boys.

Clive recorded his interviews with the Wolves stars between 2005 and 2007.

Share your memories of Wolves' 1974 cup win, contact editor@blackcountrybugle .co.uk

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