Old Gold | Wolves slay European giants Juventus

Wolves achieved one of the greatest results in the club’s history 50 years ago today (22nd March 1972) as the gold and black knocked European giants Juventus out of the UEFA Cup at the quarter-finals stage.

To mark the anniversary of the second-leg tie under the Molineux lights, historian Clive Corbett reflects on a European night which will go down in Wolves folklore.

Fifty years ago, Wolves experienced their most prestigious European contests since the glorious floodlit friendlies of the fifties. On this occasion they had reached the last eight of a European competition and were pitched against La Vecchia Signora of Italian football.

Three days after a 2-1 defeat at Derby’s Baseball Ground on 4th March 1972, Wolves were able to put their increasingly miserable league form behind them as they flew out to Turin to continue their European campaign.

Wolves’ relatively easy stroll through their first three UEFA Cup outings in 1971 (three aggregate wins by the margins of 7-1, 7-1 and 4-0) had not truly whetted the appetite of the Wolverhampton public for European football, but when the quarter-final draw paired them with the mighty Juventus that all changed.

John Richards had seen the early rounds as “fairly low key affairs, but after Juventus people began to take note of our achievements, the interest was growing and growing.” Steve Daley recalls a wonderful time: “The journeys around Europe, especially to Italy and Hungary, were fantastic. The older players, Jimmy Mac, Mike Bailey, Bernard Shaw, Phil Parkes and Frank Munro, they all looked after us.”

Interestingly, the first leg match on 7th March 1972 was played in a previous incarnation of the same stadium in which Wolves played Torino, on the 22nd August 2019 in the Europa League. What is now the Stadio Olimpico Grande Torino (renovated and named as such for the 2006 Winter Olympics), started its life in 1933 as the Stadio Comunale Benito Mussolini.

For obvious reasons, it was renamed after the war as the Stadio Comunale Vittorio Pozzo and was shared between Torino and Juve until 1990 when they moved to the Stadio delle Alpi after the 1990 World Cup. After 2006 both teams moved to the now Stadio Olimpico, Juventus staying there until 2011 and Torino still occupying the 27,958-capacity ground.

Wolves’ Development Association advertised a two-day trip to Turin for supporters, at an all-in cost of £27.50 (excluding match tickets). The itinerary was: Tuesday 7th March – depart by coach from Molineux to Birmingham airport; direct flight by jet to Turin (refreshments and duty-free bar in flight); coaches from the airport to the hotel (dinner, bed, breakfast and lunch the next day included); and coach to the match. Wednesday 8th March – Coach to Turin airport; direct flight to Birmingham; coach to Molineux.

Given the fact that £1 in 1972 is estimated to value about £14 50 years on, the trip would have cost the equivalent of approximately £386 today.

Footballing great John Charles travelled with the team as a ‘guide, philosopher and friend’ to share his knowledge of the players, language and city. Fondly known by the locals as ‘Signor Charlo’ and warmly applauded wherever he went, the great Welshman proved to be an invaluable ally to the Midlanders.

Phil Parkes recalls McGarry’s inspired idea of taking the great Welshman along: “Going to Juventus nobody gave us a chance. Bill McGarry pulled a masterstroke and took John Charles with us. He was a god in Italy and especially at Juventus. Bill had this idea of taking John as a goodwill gesture and they idolised him. He took us shopping and we even got discount in the shops.”

Steve Daley remembers that he and Alan Sunderland accompanied Charles on one particular expedition: “He took me and Alan into town. We were only young kids and wanted the gear, some Italian shoes. Everywhere we went people were coming out of shops, putting their shopping down in the street and clapping him as he walked by. He was such an unassuming guy, but if he’d have wanted it he could have had anything he wanted in that town. I was going to say, ‘Can you get us two suits please?’ I was only joking.”  

Mike Bailey agreed: “Mr McGarry’s idea to take my idol John Charles as an interpreter to Turin was inspired. When we got off the coach at the stadium the fans couldn’t believe their eyes when they saw John. I haven’t seen hero worship like it, but John just modestly waved his hand as the Queen might do and walked through the crowd into the stadium.

“Inside we met a man who had worked as a dressing room attendant with Juventus for 43 years. He dropped his tea tray when he saw big John and there were tears in his eyes when he shook the hand of his beloved ‘Signor Charlo’. The kit man, who had looked after John’s boots when he played there, bent down and kissed his feet.

“The affection for John was so great that when we came out on to the pitch with him alongside us rockets were let off and the night air was filled with the excited chants of ‘Charlo! Charlo!’ We felt like the home team and it lifted us so much. I was injured and couldn’t play, but it was a privilege just to sit on the bench with him, a wonderful man and a great, great player.”

Officials of the Italian club presented Wolves players with a book ‘Juventus Primo Amore’ (First Love) that contained a photo gallery and long-playing record as well as a leather-bound case. John McAlle still has his, signed by John Charles, and he recalls: “We played so well in those games. The players were very together on the trips and we knew that we would always give anyone a good game.” Kenny Hibbitt adds: “Name-wise, Juventus was the best match in that run. Playing away against the likes of Anastasi and the blond bombshell Haller was a remarkable sensation.”

Top of the Italian league and losing Fairs Cup finalists to Leeds in 1971, Juventus had eliminated Aberdeen in the previous round. With Bailey still absent, a knee injury also deprived Wolves of the services of Derek Parkin and there was still a doubt over Dougan’s fitness.

Phil Parkes and Steve Daley recall an amusing incident involving John Charles on the day of the game: “We were training on the morning and Juventus had one half of the pitch and we had the other. There were a lot of people watching them and us train, as they did every day there. Derek (Dougan) got a slight strain and John said, ‘Come on, I’ll walk you back to the treatment area.’ They walked down the side of these supporters and everyone stood up, clapping and shouting. The Doog waved his hand and Big John said, ‘I don’t want to embarrass you, boyo, but they’re clapping for me not you! They were probably thinking, ‘Who’s that skinny bloke with John Charles?’”

UEFA Cup quarter-final, first leg | Tuesday 7th March, 1972 | Stadio Communale Vittorio Pozzo, Turin

Juventus: Piloni (Carmagnani 25), Spinosi, Marchetti, Furino (Cuccureddu), Morini, Salvadore, Causio, Haller, Anastasi, Capello, Novellini.

Wolves: Parkes, Shaw, Taylor (Sunderland 76), Hegan, Munro, McAlle, McCalliog, Hibbitt, Richards, Dougan, Wagstaffe.

Referee: George Loraux (Belgium). Attendance: 45,000

Although Juve lost Roberto Bettega through illness, West German World Cup star Helmut Haller still bestrode their midfield and £440,000 striker Pietro Anastasi led the line. Another notable absentee as a result of illness was the Express and Star’s Phil Morgan, and John Dee stood in to report from the Stadio Comunale that Juve then shared with local rivals Torino.

Frank Munro still considered it: “The best game we ever played. We all did well and drew 1-1 but we should have won that game easily. They’d just bought an expensive centre forward, Anastasi, but we played as a team.”

With 37 minutes gone, Guiseppe Furino took the ball to the bye line and put in a cross that deflected off John McAlle in the direction of Gerry Taylor. Unfortunately, the Wolves defender slipped to allow Pietro Anastasi to sweep the ball past Phil Parkes. With the partisan home crowd roaring their team on, Wolves were happy to get to the break only one goal down. The tension continued in the second period and Dougan was cautioned on 62 minutes for showing dissent.

However, having had just one real shot on goal in the first 45 minutes (late in the first half from Gerry Taylor) Wolves stunned the 45,000 home crowd on 66 minutes with an equaliser. A free kick was awarded ten yards inside the Juve half when Jim McCalliog was obstructed. Dave Wagstaffe ran over the ball for McCalliog to square it to Taylor. Furino headed Taylor’s centre straight to McCalliog on the edge of the box. He struck an excellent left-footed volley past the despairing dive of replacement keeper Carmagnani and into his left-hand corner.

Jimmy Mac had also scored in his previous game in Italy, a 3-1 Anglo-Italian competition win over Fiorentina in the summer of 1970. The joy of the travelling supporters was reported by John Dee in the Express & Star: “This silenced the Juventus supporters who had been waving their flags in excitement and setting off fire rockets at every opportunity, but the small band of Wolves fans was jubilant as the players ran to where they were standing.”

A few minutes later Bill McGarry found himself taken to task by Belgian referee Loraux for touchline coaching, and in spite of a protest from John Charles he had to watch the rest of the game surrounded by policemen on the perimeter of the athletics track that circled the pitch. With the clock running down there was still time for Phil Parkes to pull off a blinder to deny Causio from eight yards out and retain parity.

Full-time | Juventus 1 (Anastasi 37) Wolves 1 (McCalliog 66)

Although Wolves had failed to go one better than Leeds United and get a seventh straight European win in one year, to hold Juventus was a magnificent achievement in itself. The visitors were generously applauded from the field by the home supporters for their efforts.

John Dee picked out Frank Munro and Phil Parkes for their contributions: “On a night when Wolves held their heads high it would be difficult to single out any one player but the performance of Frank Munro was masterly. Munro marshalled his defence like a general on the battle front and perhaps his ablest lieutenant was the big man between the posts. Phil Parkes was at his best, making a couple of world-class saves (from Anastasi and Causio).”

Bill McGarry described the performance in Turin as their best display: “Juventus are a fine team but we outran them and never allowed them to get on top.”

John Charles had argued that the hardest part of the tie had been negotiated via a 1-1 draw in Turin, but there were a few scares left to be faced in the return at Molineux.

UEFA Cup quarter-final, second leg | Wednesday 22nd March, 1972 | Molineux, Wolverhampton

Wolves: Parkes, Shaw, Parkin (Taylor 80), Hegan, Munro, McAlle, McCalliog, Hibbitt, Richards, Dougan, Wagstaffe.

Juventus: Piloni, Spinosi, Longobucco, Marchetti, Roveta, Salvadore, Haller, Cuccureddu, Novellini, Savoldi, Viola.

Referee: Michel Kitabdjian (France). Attendance: 40,421

The unfinished European business was attended to on the evening of 22nd March when the Express & Star welcomed the Italians with the headline ‘Piacere Juventus!’ Having fielded their best available team in Turin, Juve, surprising all but Charles, chose to rest Causio, Anastasi, Capello and Furino to keep them fresh for a key league game against second-placed local rivals Torino, not that this particularly offended most in the first 40,000-plus Molineux crowd of the season.

On 34 minutes, Danny Hegan chipped a perfect shot that dipped at the last minute just inside Piloni’s near post to put Wolves ahead, capping a fine all-round display by the mercurial Scotland-born Northern Ireland international.

Phil Morgan, back in the press box after an illness, commented: “The first (goal) was a fitting reward for his outstanding part in the victory. Expert opinion seemed to agree he was perhaps the only Wolves man who would have essayed the perfect chip inside the far post instead of the blasted, and probably less accurate, shot that looked on.”

Frank Munro also remembered an instance of Danny Hegan’s humour during the match: “Danny had tremendous ability but was also so funny, the funniest bloke I ever met. During the match he kept looking in the pocket of his shorts and saying to Helmut Haller, ‘Helmut, do you fancy a drink?’”

Soon after Hegan’s goal, French referee Michel Kitabdjian booked Dave Wagstaffe, later adding John McAlle and Silvio Longobucco (Waggy’s marker). Wolves’ number 11 recalled losing his patience with the disgraceful treatment being meted out by Longobucco: “I came in for quite a few body checks and shirt-pulling during the game and afterwards my body was a mass of bruises and scratches. Italians always had lots of tricks, you expected it.”

Steve Daley remembers the manager’s warning: “It was just the way they were. Bill McGarry told us that it was going to happen so we had to get used to the fact, just get on with it. He told us: ‘Don’t retaliate, they only want to antagonise you and make you come back at them and do something to get you booked or sent off and miss the next match.’”

Nearly 10 minutes into the second half, Wolves doubled their lead as Derek Dougan deftly flicked home a header from a right wing Wagstaffe corner. This equalled the record of nine European goals in a season by a British player that then rested with Manchester United pair Dennis Viollet and Denis Law. But in a rare second half Juventus attack with six minutes left Frank Munro handled the ball to present Helmut Haller with a penalty that he duly converted.

Suddenly the 1966 West German World Cup star was looking capable of single-handedly turning the tie, as Mike Bailey recalls: “I had seen Haller several times before and had not been terribly impressed, but at Molineux he put on a one-man show with his marvellous skills.” There was an unhappy sequel for Haller. He was traced in the early hours after the match, drinking in a Wolverhampton night club. With the game against city rivals Torino due at the weekend, Juventus were furious. They cut his pay and suspended him until further notice.

Full-time | Wolves 2 (Hegan 34, Dougan 54) Juventus 1 (Haller 84 (p)).

Hugh Jamieson in the Sun commented: “Wolves finished off the Italian league leaders with another impressive performance at Molineux last night. Yet, with away goals counting double (sic), they were made to walk a tightrope for the last five minutes when Juventus were presented with a gift-wrapped chance of pulling one back.”

Home fans were indeed forced to endure a tortuous last six minutes, but Wolves hung on to allow the Express & Star to run the headline, ‘Phew that was close!’ Bill McGarry chipped in: “We did our real work in the away leg and would only have had ourselves to blame had we made a mess of the home match.”

In the final analysis, it was Hegan who earned the praise of colleague Wagstaffe: “If anyone thinks the goal he scored was a fluke I can tell you different because I have seen him do the same in training many times. Yes, Danny is back in the big time where he belongs.” And so the European dream continued as Wolves progressed to a semi-final encounter with Ferencvaros of Hungary.

Player memories

Jim McCalliog | 1969-1974

“There were loads of memorable games with Wolves in the early 70s so it is a really difficult choice (to choose just one) but there was so much happening around that Juventus game. When I went to Leeds United at 15 years of age (1962) I knew that John Charles was coming back. He was re-signed from Juve for £53,000. I had such an admiration for Don Revie and Leeds and I still do. I remember the day when John returned – he was maybe 31 then – the place was mobbed and the next thing we were out training. Big John came out in an all-white strip, 6 feet two and really tanned from all his years in Italy. He was such a god – I’m there with Jimmy Greenhoff and Peter Lorimer, who were on the ground staff with me, looking at this big man and thinking what an impressive guy he was.

“Then comes ten years later with Wolves and what I think was a masterstroke – Bill McGarry got in touch with John Charles and invited him to come with us to Turin. He told nobody but when we arrived at the airport Big John was there, quite amazing. I spoke to him: “You won’t remember me, John, I was 15 and on the ground staff at Leeds United, I’d just come down from Scotland.” He replied: “I do remember you, Jimmy, and well done, your career has gone very well.” I think that was probably one of the biggest compliments I have ever had. Juventus then had a very strong team including the then world-record signing, Pietro Anastasi, 440 grands worth. Also in the team were Capello, Haller and Causio. There had been some big teams in the competition that year – Ferencvaros, Real Madrid, Rapid Bucharest, Spurs, Spartak Moscow, AC Milan. When the quarter-final draw was made we knew what a game this was going to be for us but we were better playing away from home in the first leg and having the decider at our place.

“In Turin we stayed up in the hills. McGarry was always very careful where we stayed – he really controlled everything, even the food we ate and what we had to drink. He knew his football and nobody would kid him. Then there was the game. The teams are out on the pitch and out comes Bill McGarry with John Charles. The place went ballistic with everyone singing “Charlo, Charlo.” It was amazing to see Big John walking down the touchline, waving to the Juventus fans – that was a good thing for us. We were playing very well, everything was going fine but just before half-time they scored, but we fought back. When I got my goal it was from one of those things that I had done throughout my time at Wolves. Whenever the ball went into the box for the Doog or Hughie Curran or young John Richards I would try to read where it would bounce, inside or outside the box.

“This time it came outside the box and I hit it on the volley with my left foot. I never even looked, I knew it was on its way. I started running to the side where I thought the Wolves fans were and I was waving my hands to them. I never even saw it hit the net – you know if it’s gone, it’s gone. I hit it sweetly and the first glimpse of the way it had gone told me. I thought, there’s no way he’s getting that, it’s good. It was a lovely moment for myself. I was a big fan of Italian football because many of the best players in the world then were out there. More especially it was a great moment for the team. With Micky not playing I was captain. I felt that I’d got on with my own game and lent a bit more to the team, setting a good example that way. The ball’s in the back of the net, we’ve got a result, one each, it was fantastic.”

John McAlle | 1965-1981

“We played all of the UEFA Cup games under floodlights. I enjoyed all of them but particularly the Juventus games, home and away. The floodlights seemed to make it more focused and created a great atmosphere.”

Phil Parkes | 1962-1978

The Italians did not take the outcome well, with ‘Lofty’ Parkes facing the full fury of future Real Madrid and England boss Fabio Capello:

“Gerry Taylor played it back to me and I came out to pick it up. Capello just followed through and spat straight in my face, a big green one right down the side of my face as he said, “Wolverhampton! Wolverhampton!” McGarry was so delighted (with the draw) that he allowed the players a few glasses of wine and John Charles was quick to remind them of the magnitude of their achievement: “You know you’ve won. I guarantee half of them won’t come to England now. When they play at home they spit, kick, punch, do anything. If they get a good win, three, four nil, they’ll all go but if they don’t, they won’t.” Big John, God rest his soul, was right. I’ll never forget that night. Me and Frank Munro had to put John Charles to bed.”

Kenny Hibbitt | 1968-1984

“Playing under the lights at Molineux was always special and I think I enjoyed it more under lights than I actually did on a Saturday afternoon. It doesn’t mean that I didn’t enjoy playing on Saturdays but I thought the atmosphere at night matches was so special, especially playing in Europe against the big boys like Ferencvaros and, in particular, Juventus. I also remember scoring a winner against Tottenham under the lights – you remember all the good things that happened. Juventus under lights was unbelievable. I feel that when we beat them the team, the club came of age. Having competed against one of the world’s best sides at the time I think it took a lot of fans back to when they beat Spartak and Honved. That was a special evening for us players too. Although all European matches under the lights at Molineux were an occasion the Juventus one was incredible.”

Mel Eves | 1973-1984

“I was brought up on tales of Billy Wright and Bill Slater and the Wolves team of the 1950s. As a fan, the night games when Wolves got to the final of the UEFA Cup in 1971/72 were the highlights. Those were magical really. Of those the one that really stood out was the quarter-final against Juventus – that was obviously special. It was just awesome watching Juventus coming out in their legendary kit and having watched the majority of their players playing in the World Cup. It’s our team and we’re competing with the likes of teams with world class players and more than matching them. That was brilliant.”

Old Gold