When The Rangers Went To Wolverhampton Town
places, the Clachan of late and any call to have it booming out over
the Ibrox PA system will certainly get this Bear’s support. When I read
a post on the FF Messageboard asking about the background to this song,
it worried me that some of our younger fans may not be quite so well
informed about our past. What follows is my attempt to fill in a few
blanks on one particular chapter of our history.
The invasion of Wolverhampton by 10,000 of us back in 1961 is just part
of the great heritage our forefathers have left to future generations
of Rangers fans. I wasn’t there but I remember the circumstances well,
not least of all because our house became the meeting place for all the
moaning wifies who found that their hubbies had stretched the Wembley
weekend to take in the Wolves v Rangers game. Mammy Bear knew the score and my one abiding memory is of her shaking her head at the indignance of the other 'silly' women.
"Did they really expect them tae come hame, then go a’ the way back
doon again a couple o' days later?" she sighed.
The inaugural European Cup-Winners’ Cup campaign had been a good one
for Rangers. Having seen off Ferencvaros (4-2,1-2) and Borussia
Moenchen-Gladbach (3-0,8-0), the Gers were drawn against Wolves in the
semi-finals. Wolves were a fair side then, having won the League
Championship twice in the previous four years and they were, of course,
holders of the FA Cup so, as you would expect, the feedback from
England was that they would put us in our place.
Well, they didn’t look too clever at Ibrox. Cheered on by a full house
of 80,000, Alex Scott fired Rangers into a first half lead and a late
Ralph Brand strike gave us some breathing space. But still the English
were convinced that Wolves would sort us out in the return game and
their confidence, arrogance even, got a boost on the weekend prior to
the Molineux game when England gave Scotland a 9-3 hammering at Wembley.
Back then, the bulk of the Scotland support was made up of Rangers fans
and it made sense to add a couple of days to the Wembley trip. Some
told their wives – Big Daddy Blue was up-front there! – but others just
headed off to Wembley and, having tended to return from previous trips
in a state of some disrepair, left their women to wait and wonder while
they broke the homeward journey at Wolverhampton.
Now, as you must all surely be aware, the villain of the Wembley
debacle was Sellick goalkeeper Frank Haffey. My old man told me that,
on the morning after that game, whilst having breakfast at their London
hotel, somebody dropped something, there was an almighty clatter,
followed by a few seconds silence, then the chant went up.
That’s how it was over the next few days. At the slightest excuse, the
Bears had a laugh at Dropsy’s expense and, by the time they got to
Wolverhampton, the Haffey chant was part of the repertoire. Of course,
the locals couldn’t understand this. They thought they might take the
piss out of these silly Jocks whom they expected to quietly slip into
town, still red-faced from the weekend events, and they intended to
inflict a further embassassment at Molineux.
Oh what a shock they got. Instead of them wise-cracking about the
Scottish goalkeeper, it was the Rangers fans who were having a laugh
and the locals were amazed to find their town taken over by thousands
who, instead of being somewhat bashful about their roots, sang loud and
proud about who they were and where they came from.
In those good old days (eh?), pubs closed in the afternoon so the
locals enjoyed a matinee serenade from their visitors and, later
bolstered by a huge Anglo-Scottish presence, I’m told the walk from
the town centre to the ground was akin to a carnival procession, with
flutes and accordians ensuring the singing did not get out of tune.
There is an often-told story about a bus driver trying to force his
vehicle through the crowd, only to be joined by a red, white and blue
clad co-pilot. Once inside Molineux, it was just like a home game for
Rangers, with our lot drowning out the Wolves supporters.
For some strange reason, Rangers played in white in both games - don't
let the all-blue numpty know that! The strips seemed to shine under
the floodlights but it was Wolves who were brighter, pinning Rangers
back right from the start. Grabbing a goal back to half the deficit
would really have put us under pressure but the Gers stood firm then,
with a classic counterattack, Alex Scott stretched our lead just before
Wolves promptly hit back and thought they were back in the hunt when
Ron Flowers fired in a tremendous drive. It looked a goal all the way
until the red-shirted Billy Ritchie threw himself across his goal to
push the ball away. It was a brilliant save and it turned out to be the
turning point. A lot of the fire went out of Wolves’ subsequent play
and, even although Broadbent later levelled it on the night, the second
half resembled a Follow Follow karaoke bash.
Towards the end Wolves keeper Finlayson made heavy weather of dealing
with a half-hit shot from Davie Wilson and within seconds the
"Haffey...Haffey..." chant was echoing all around Molineux. I’m told
the singing and dancing continued in the neighbouring pubs and on into
the streets long after closing time.
Having had little to shout about at Wembley, Big Daddy Blue and 10,000
of his pals returned home having sung themselves hoarse. Many years
later, after suffering doing upon doing at Wembley, myself and a few
others were lamenting our experiences, only for the auld yin to stick
his neb in and remind us of how he'd returned from the 9-3 humping with
a big smile on his coupon.
These days, we’ve became a bit blasé about following our team all over
Europe but, back then, England was the big adventure. Pre-season
friendlies at Highbury were regular events, White Hart Lane later
became a frequent port of call, we also went to Stoke, Leicester and
QPR, and there were huge Rangers turn-outs for Fairs Cup ties at Leeds
and Newcastle. By which time I had joined the entourage and I certainly
enjoyed showing the colours to the English…but to his dying day Big
Daddy Blue maintained Wolverhampton was the highpoint of his follow
follow days and the very fact that we are singing about it more than 44
years later is further proof, as if it was needed, that he knew what he
was talking about.
So belt it out, Bears…and lets hear Wolverhampton on the tannoy,
LITTLE BOY BLUE