This article originally featured on our sister site Tale of Two Halves back in July 2018 – and you can also find the first part here.
Here we are again, folks! You’ll recall yesterday that we looked over Cullis’ first two seasons at Molineux, a FA Cup win and a second-place finish. You can read part one here. Now, I’m going to be upfront with you because I’m nice like that. At the end of yesterday’s article. I commented on the fact that we needed to bounce back after missing out on the league title by the finest of margins. Would Cullis win our first-ever league title in the 1950-51 season? Not exactly…
It all started rather well. The opening day saw us entertain a Liverpool side and I’ve got to be totally honest, I’ve only got the scorers from this game and the return fixture at Anfield. Billy Crook gave us the lead in the first half, Roy Swinbourne made it two in the second and the rest, as they say, is history. That was followed up with a midweek win at the Baseball Ground, maybe this would be our season after all. Crash. Bang. Wallop. Two defeats in three days to Fulham and Derby respectively meant we were swiftly brought back down to earth and from that point onwards, we lacked consistency. To give you some idea what I’m referring to, Cullis’ side went on a nine-game unbeaten which ran from November to January. However, our last thirteen league games of the 50-51 season were fucking abysmal. And that’s putting it mildly.
Was The FA Cup A Distraction Once More?
Before we get to those thirteen games. I must let you know about our FA Cup run. In Cullis’ maiden managerial season, as mentioned earlier, we won the FA Cup. In turn, that meant our league form faltered which you can understand in some respects. The 50-51 season saw us nearly make the final again. Oh, so close. Plymouth were seen off at Home Park in the Third Round, a narrow 2-1 scoreline did just the job. Villa were the opponents in the Fourth Round; no issues beating them, 3-1. It was all going a bit too well, don’t you think? Huddersfield in the next round and once again, we didn’t really break a sweat as we won 2-0.
Sunderland and Roker Park was the venue for the last eight of the FA Cup. Could Cullis keep the run going? Yes, but only after a second bite of the cherry. It finished 1-1 in the North East before we turned it on at Molineux, winning 3-1 and setting up a semi-final date with Newcastle. Much like our FA Cup win in 1949, we drew the semi-final on this occasion as well. 0-0. Whereas we beat Man United in 1949 to set up a Wembley date with Leicester, Jackie Milburn got in the way of it happening here. Newcastle won 2-1 and the dream of two FA Cups in three seasons was over.
After the loss to Newcastle in the semi-final replay, the run of thirteen began straight away. Portsmouth arrived at Molineux. They beat us. We then went to Highbury. Arsenal beat us. We then hosted Villa. They beat us. A day later, we went to Villa Park. They beat us. You’re starting to sense a pattern, aren’t you? From the final thirteen games, we picked up four points. FOUR. Our only win during that run came up at Ayresome Park. We finished 14th, six points above the relegation zone. Despite our lowly position, we still scored the fifth-highest number of goals in the league (74), defending was still an issue.
Steady Rather Than Spectacular
Cullis would’ve written off the season and got the lads to regroup before going again. Again, for this season, we’re without goalscorers as the internet doesn’t seem to care too much for Wolves. Not before we won anything, anyway. In case you’ve forgotten, we’re in the summer of ‘51 now. It started with a bit of good news and a bit of bad news. The good news is, we managed to keep a clean sheet. The bad news is, we didn’t score. 0-0 away at Manchester City. Not the worst result in the world, not by a long shot. Hell, if we get that this season, I’ll be over the moon!
We then did our normal (this and last season) early routine of being a bit of inconsistent before we finally got out of first gear. Twenty-three goals in SIX games meant we meant business. Well, it should have done. Huddersfield were on the receiving end of the worst beating as we stuck seven passed them.
By now, you should know what came next. Yup, that’s right. We went seven games without a win. In that seven-game winless run, we shipped seventeen goals. In fact, looking over the results from that season, after that blistering six-game run, we didn’t win consecutive games. We barely won at all, Cullis’ side only managed five more league wins. The FA Cup can’t even be blamed this time around, either as we exited at the hands of Liverpool in Round Four. Overall, we scored one fewer goal than the season before and finished on exactly the same number of points. Meh.
Only Two Defeats In The Opening Fourteen
You always knew when we were going to have a productive season under Cullis. We’d actually do well at the beginning of a campaign and not fall into an abyss at the halfway point. Cardiff were taken care of at Molineux, 1-0 the score. That was the opening day. Bolton were next to fall into the line, they were put to the sword before falling 3-1 on a Bank Holiday Monday. I suppose it could be said that we had a slight dip after that as we failed to win in three. One game is important, keep a note of it. Have you got a pen and paper handy? Wicked. We drew against Charlton & Arsenal (remember Arsenal) and lost the early reverse fixture against Bolton. Four points from a possible ten. Not brilliant, yet not terrible.
Six points from the next three games (two for a win, remember) made things look rosier. Do you want to know the best thing about the three straight wins? Two of them came against Villa! Come on, you know the words; “Because they’re oh so shiiiite, shit on the Villa, shit on the Villa tonight” – that’ll do for now.
Bizarre is the word I’m looking for. That just about sums up our game on the 20th of September. We lost at home. Not too much untoward there. To Blackpool. Mm, I’ve seen stranger things. We lost 5-2 AT HOME TO PISSING BLACKPOOL. Then again, this was a fabulous Blackpool side which contained none other than Sir Stanley Matthews. Is he a sir? I’m not sure, it sounds right. If he isn’t, Liz, Queeny, can you sort that out? Cheers.
Fifteen Games Left In The Calendar Year
Cullis wasn’t going to allow mediocrity and that was clearly evident as we scored ten goals in our next three. Two against Chelsea, two against Newcastle and SIX against Manchester United. What a side we were. Yet again, we dropped points after a promising run, though. We failed to win at The Hawthorns which was becoming the norm as we were held to a 1-1 draw and a week later saw us drop another point at home to Middlesbrough, this time it was 3-3. We’ll brush over the loss at Anfield as it doesn’t need to be talked about. I tell you what can be talked about. Cullis’ lads putting SEVEN in the net against Man City. THIRTEEN goals scored in our two home games against the Manchester clubs. Have some of that.
We just about managed to construct a win away at Stoke, before another mini-blip arrived. Get your pen and paper back out, the first of our mini-blip was against Preston, they beat us 2-1 at Molineux. Keep a note of that, there will be a test at the end of all of this. Goalless draws against Burnley & Spurs didn’t do our title aspirations any good as we entered December. A trip to Hillsborough would prove to be our last win of the year. 13.12 the date, 3-2 the scoreline. We always play Sheffield Wednesday away in the winter, no idea why – there’s a fun fact for you.
Another two draws, this time against Sunderland and Cardiff meant we were doing relatively well at plotting our own downfall as per. Things went from bad to worse when we visited Roker Park for the second part of our Sunderland double header, they whacked us. 5-2. Merry Christmas and all that jazz.
Top Of The League
Despite the drubbing, Cullis’ side sat top as the calendar flipped over to 1953 and we’re going to call it a day there. I believe that’s what they call a cliffhanger…