Wolverhampton Wanderers were not just one of the best teams in England back in the 1950s – they were one of the top clubs in the world. Their successes against foreign opposition led to the creation of the European Cup (or the Champions League for younger readers).
Seven of the programmes on offer at Hansons Auctioneers on February 22 cover matches against European opposition, plus an FA Cup final programme from 1960 when Wolves beat Blackburn Rovers 3-0.
Kevin Bucknall, Hansons valuer, says: “This rare collection of programmes is a tribute to a Wolves team that took on Europe.
“This was a time when Wolves were a force to be reckoned with, playing the likes of Russia’s Spartak and Moscow Dynamo, West German champions Schalke and Hungary’s Honved.”
The Black Country club became a beacon of light in dark times for English football, when the national team were being thrashed by the Mighty Magyars – Hungary.
The 1950s was the most successful period in Wolves’ history. From all 1949-60 the club - one of the founder members of the Football League in 1888 – won the league three times, finished as runners-up three times and won the FA Cup twice.
Wolves had invested in new floodlights at Molineux Stadium and a series of floodlit friendlies were organised against strong European opposition.
On November 11, 1954, Wolves secured a 4-0 victory over Spartak Moscow, watched by 60,000 fans. Then on December 13, 1954, they took on Honved of Budapest, a team which contained six members of the Hungary side which had recently destroyed England, including Ferenc Puskás, a man regarded as one of the greatest players of all time.
Bucknall adds: “Wolves came back from being 2-0 down to beat Honved 3-2 – and were hailed the best team in the world.”
The game was such a big event that the BBC broadcast the second half live on television. Only FA Cup finals and a few experimental broadcasts almost all from London had been deemed worthy of such coverage before then.
Bucknall says: “Plans were made for a Europe-wide competition as a result of the Honved game. That competition became known as the European Cup. Consequently, that Honved programme is a crucial part of European football history.”
In 23 matches under floodlights, both friendlies and competitive games against mainly European opposition, Wolves lost only one game, to Barcelona.
The Wolves football programmes have an estimate of £100-£200 in a Football and Sports Auction at Hansons in Etwall, Derbyshire.