Shropshire Star

Out of darkness came light: When Wolves served up a day to remember

It was a grim time.

Wolves lifted the League Cup in 1974 despite starting against Man City as underdogs

Parliament had solemnly decreed a state of emergency. The crippling miner’s strike blighted by rancour and ill-feeling which led to an economically disastrous three-day working week was just coming to an end.

Power cuts necessitated homes being illuminated by candles; restricted television schedules and pubs being closed were all now mercifully becoming items of turbulent history.

Two bitterly-contested General Elections were fought on the premise of whether government or trade unions ran the country, while inflation soared and morale sagged.

Worst of all, the country faced IRA atrocities already perpetrated and horrifyingly destined to come notoriously and with devastating effect in Birmingham that same year.

Welcome to 1974 and a country divided and demonstrably ill at ease with itself.

Rock band Slade had just released their iconic hit, Merry Christmas Everybody, splendidly ironic given that the festivities had been virtually cancelled amid the crisis and gloom.

In America, President Nixon floundered haplessly over Watergate while Cher had filed for divorce from Sony Bono. Bob Latchford became Britain’s most expensive footballer moving from Birmingham to Everton for a sizable £350,000 and significantly, Wolves hadn’t won a meaningful trophy for 14 years.

Mind you, they had come agonisingly close to breaking their duck. Two major cup semi-finals and a European final had all ended in defeat during the previous two years and although a couple of top-five league finishes proved how good a side Wolves were, time was running out for this squad and its manager Bill McGarry.

When the League Cup began for Wolves in October 1973, the team were experiencing a poor run of form in the First Division. They benefitted from facing opposition from the lower divisions in the first three rounds, comfortably disposing of Halifax first up and although Tranmere pushed them to the limit at Molineux in a replay, a late goal from Barry Powell finally saw Wolves make progress.

The following tie against Exeter had to be played on a weekday afternoon as the power crisis meant that floodlit matches could not take place. A paltry 7,623 spectators were sprinkled around Molineux’s lowest post-war attendance and Wolves took some time to adapt before cruising home 5-1 to set up the ultimate test – a home quarter- final against the league champions Liverpool.

Both teams fielded their strongest teams – no rotation back in those days – and A magnificent second-half stunner from the prolific John Richards settled another midweek afternoon fixture. Bolstered no doubt by some dubious sick-notes, 16,242 fans by whatever means managed to attend the game!