Black Country Bugle
The Story of the Wolves – Part 50
OUR two previous articles have covered the numerous departures from Wolves between 1934 and 1939 as Major Frank Buckley proceeded to rebuild the team.
It is no surprise to learn that the 1936-37 season would eventually see Wolves register a record profit of £21,105. But they started that campaign badly, winning only four games out of their first thirteen and losing seven. The long suffering fans saw no signs of progress and took matters into their own hands after a 2-1 home defeat to Chelsea on 7th November.
Although only 16,510 were in attendance, the crowd invaded the pitch from the South Bank and called for Buckley’s resignation. The crowd attacked visiting players and uprooted the goalposts before police reinforcements restored order.
Buckley was offered police protection but he refused and walked home alone. Newspaper reports suggest that over 2,000 people were involved in the shocking demonstration against Buckley.
But Buckley was to have the last laugh – the Wolves Board persisted with him and the team managed a fifth place finish in 1936-37, following up with the runners-up spot in 1937-38. In 1938 he agreed a new ten-year contract with Wolves.
He told the local newspaper: “Since coming to Wolverhampton ten years ago I have become so bitten by the Wanderers bug that no other club could ever interest me. It has been plainly stated. I shall be happy to spend my football life with the club I so love.”
Buckley’s contribution to the success of Wolves cannot be underestimated. He developed a more direct style of playing football, as Stan Cullis wrote: “It was simply the task of the defenders to get the ball forward as quickly as possible and not to over-elaborate their roles. The wingers were to take opposition defenders on and cross the ball to the central attackers whose job it was to put the ball in the net ... He wanted fewer dribbling moves and more passing.”
He added that players were expected to do exactly as Major Buckley ordered otherwise, “you’d very soon be on your bicycle to another club.”
His innovative ideas, the most controversial of which we shall return to in Part 51, were many. In the 1930s football teams travelled to away grounds on the day of the
match. Buckley observed that players often arrived tired and fatigued. He therefore arranged for players to stay overnight in hotels when playing distant away fixtures. Buckley even argued, “that where possible players should be ferried to games by air,” and predicted that in future every top club would have its own helicopter to do this.
Buckley wanted to take his team on a tour of Europe before the start of the 1937-38 season. However, the Football Association refused permission for this due to “the numerous reports of misconduct by players of the Wolverhampton Wanderers Club during the past two seasons.”
There had been seven sending-offs while Buckley was manager of the club, although four of these were accounted for by two players, Charlie Phillips and Alex Scott. An indication of the support that the boss had from his players came in Stan Cullis and his teammates writing to the FA claiming: “We would like to state that far from advocating the rough play we are accused of, Major Buckley is constantly reminding us of the importance of playing good, clean and honest football, and we as a team consider you have been most unjust in administering this caution to our manager.”
But don’t take my word for it, the definitive work on Buckley is The Major: The Life and Times of Frank Buckley by Patrick A Quirke.
Wolves team in 1938. Back row from left to right: Bill
Morris, Dennis Westcott, George Ashall, Alex Scott, Jack Taylor, Tom Galley. Front row: Dicky Dorsett, Bill Parker, Bryn Jones, Joe Gardiner and Teddy Maguire.