Wolves versus Honved

In November 1953 England, had been heavily beaten by Hungary 6-3 in their first ever defeat at Wembley.  In Budapest in May 1954 England were again beaten heavily 7-1 by the World Cup finalists who were a fierce and awesome team.  Billy Wright had been in both England sides that had been so convincingly beaten while Bert Williams had been on the bench for both games.  Bert remembered how upset Billy Wright had been after those defeats and the whole Wolves team wanted a victory for their captain.

Honved had a squad that included 9 Hungarian Internationals and 2 “B” team Internationals, not a weak link in sight.

The date was December 13th 1954.  It was wet and the pitch was heavy.  The game was being watched and listened to by the whole of Britain.  It was covered by television and the radio as most people didn’t have a television.

Editor’s note: - I remember that well as we didn’t have a television and we went across the road to a neighbour in Caton to watch the game on a 9-inch television with a huge magnifying glass in front of it.  It was like the hall of Mirrors at Blackpool.

Molineux was packed to capacity.  The electronic counting system broke down 30 minutes before kick-off but the crowds still came in and although the attendance was given as 54,998, it was likely in excess of 60,000.  Wolves lined up for the National anthem in their new fluorescent shirts, even the linesmen had lights on their flags to help the fans see the decisions.  It was the first time Wolves had used these new satin shirts and it made them look like glow worms in the night.  It gave Wolves a superhuman look which was apt as that was what the team turned out to be.

The game kicked off at a tremendous pace.  Honved truly lived up to their reputation, they were fast and turned defence into attack at a startling pace.  Within 14 minutes we were losing 0-2 and things looked tough to say the least.  Honved were so quick and so fit but at half time Stan Cullis said, “Don’t worry, we can still beat them”.  Stan thought that Wolves were the fitter team and he was to be proved correct.

Out they came for the second half and as the game progressed Wolves became accustomed to their style of play.  After 49 minutes Johnny Hancocks was fouled and converted the penalty to bring Wolves back into the game.  On 75 minutes Roy Swinbourne scored to equalise and within two minutes he scored another scorching goal to put Wolves ahead.  The crowd went absolutely wild, caps and hats were being thrown in the air and the noise was deafening.  But still Honved kept coming at Wolves and in the closing minutes of the game a Hungarian forward broke through the defence and had only Bert Williams to beat - it was at this point that the BBC radio made the mistake of fading out the game.  On came the Show Band with “365 Kisses”.  Immediately the calls began to pour in.  Thousands of angry listeners phoned the BBC in Birmingham and London.  The Birmingham switch board had to be closed for a time and in London callers went into a queue.  Half an hour later Show Band was broken off and a voice said, “This is a very repentant Adrian Waller saying I do realise I made a mistake fading out the game which Wolves won 3-2”.

Wolves line up for the National anthem

Ron Atkinson was on the Wolves ground staff at the time and rolled the pitch before the Honved game.  Whenever he used to meet Bert he always called him “Il Gattone” - The Cat.

One of Billy Wright’s favourite memories was that one of the Hungarian party had come up to him after the match and asked, “Where did you get Williams from - what a goalkeeper?”, “Walsall” Billy replied.  “Where did you get Hancocks from - what a shot?",  “Walsall” Billy replied.  “And where did you get Wilshaw from - what a schemer?",  “Walsall” Billy again replied.  “Thank goodness we did not play Walsall tonight!” said the Hungarian.

A memorable night in the history of Wolverhampton Wanderers

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