f it were possible to stage-manage a football season, skilfully building the actions of the play up to a tremendous climax, that which occurred on Saturday would stand as the perfect example of contrariness.” Lancashire Evening Post, May 1938
In August 1937, Dixie Dean told the Daily Mail: “This threatens to be the most open campaign we’ve ever seen. Half a dozen clubs stand a good chance of winning it, and any one of 10 clubs could go down.” Dean was right. Tight finishes at both ends of the table, surprise pacesetters, arguably the worst title winners ever, doping allegations, player meltdowns, the start of the TV revolution and the champions in freefall – all in the tumultuous 1937–38 season.
Title favourites were Major Frank Buckley’s Wolverhampton Wanderers, aiming to win the league for the first time. Banned from a pre-season tour due to their ‘over-vigorous’ play the previous season, Buckley’s men – with skipper Stan Cullis setting the standard – buzzed with confidence. Perhaps it was due to the ‘secret remedy’ Buckley had given his players. In June, Buckley had been approached by chemist Menzies Sharp, who had studied the experiments of French quack Serge Voronoff. The eccentric doctor had made a name for himself grafting the testicles of young sheep and goats onto older ones, claiming the older animals regained their vigour as a result. Believing his players could benefit, Buckley chose to undergo a four-month course of 12 injections taken from monkey glands.