The two amazing Champions League semi-finals this week have proved football’s incredible capacity for comebacks.
Liverpool’s 4-0 win over Barcelona after being 3-0 down in the first leg will never be forgotten. Their opponents in the Champions League final, Tottenham, have joined them at the pinnacle of club football competition after retrieving a 2-0 deficit on the night against Ajax to triumph 3-2 to set up only the second all-English final.
These moments are now marked indellibly in fans’ memory banks forever.
One such moment in older Wolves supporters’ recall is the 1958 FA Youth Cup final.
Trailing 5-1 from the first leg at Stamford Bridge on Tuesday, April 29, Wolves weren’t given any hope of winning the trophy in the return leg at Molineux two days later.
In fact, during a team meeting held at Molineux on the Wednesday between the two games, it was agreed that the aim was to win the concluding tie, as well as salvage pride to reward the superb support they had received from the fans who had backed them in the hope of seeing the club win the trophy for the first time after losing in successive finals to Manchester United.
Against all the odds, Wolves won the second leg 6-1 to win 7-6 on aggregate, in front of a crowd of 18,000 at Molineux.
Ted Farmer scored once at Stamford Bridge and four times in the first 40 minutes at Molineux to turn the final on its head, before two goals from inside left Cliff Durandt put the gloss on a historic victory before a certain Jimmy Greaves ensured a tense finale with five minutes to go.
“I feel Liverpool’s win was very similar to ours really,” Farmer, now 79, told www.wolvesbite.com “The crowd sensed something and were brilliant and created a superb atmosphere, just like we had.
“I remember catching the number 58 trolley bus from Dudley and as we pulled into Wolverhampton, there was something in the air – it was electric. Walking through the town, you could feel it, I just knew something was going to happen.
“Whether we were going to beat them, I don’t know, but there was something extraordinary that was meant to be.
“Walking through the town, then down Molineux Alley, people were tapping me on the shoulder and saying ‘Dp your best, son, and you never know’. Supporters absolutely loved the FA Youth Cup because it was the one trophy they hadn’t won.
“The Youth Cup was the gem in the crown because they had seen their main rivals, the Busby Babes, beat them twice in the final.
“That crowd at Anfield lifted the Liverpool players – and that was how I felt every time when I ran out at Molineux. I trained well during the week but they lifted me to be the player I wanted to be. They lifted me to another level.
“That night, every five minutes I seemed to score. I scored the first goal and there was a ripple of applause. When the second one went in, there was a bit more of a cheer, when I scored my hat-trick, it seemed like the roof was going to come off and when I got the fourth goal, I think the roof did come off!
“I always remember the great Billy Wright seemed to have this instinct of knowing where the ball was going to be. That night, no matter where I ran, the ball would come to me and I would score. It was magical, like a fairytale.
“When half-time came and we were 4-0 up, grown men were crying. I didn’t want the half to end because I just felt like I could carry on scoring. I don’t remember the detail of each goal but I know two were with my right foot, there was one header and one with my left foot.
“In the dressing room, we were on such a high, there was such emotion. We were all sweating cobs and lads were changing their shirts – we were in complete and utter shock.”
If Wolves were in shock at the break, then Chelsea came out ready to jolt them into life, as Farmer recalled.
“Their manager, Ted Drake, had already come down from the directors box to the trainers bench in the first half, and I think he must have given them a right talking to at half-time,” he added.
“Thankfully we got two more goals to go 7-5 up overall. But when Jimmy Greaves scored, we were hanging on. He was the greatest goalscorer, I call him the Muhammad Ali of football – float like a butterfly, sting like a bee – but we managed to keep them at bay to win the Cup.
“When the final whistle blew, there was a pitch invasion and most of us were carried off the pitch. All around us, supporters were crying tears of joy.”
It was, of course, a completely different story in the first leg. Chelsea had a more experienced line-up, boasting several players, including Greaves and centre half Mel Scott, who were already involved in the first-team squad.
Their centre forward Barry Bridges scored an incredible 24 goals in that Youth Cup run, including one in the first leg of the final, which was watched by 19,621. Greaves, Micky Block and Mike Harrison (2) were the other scorers.
“We didn’t know what hit us at Stamford Bridge,” admitted Farmer. “We actually took the lead after about 10 minutes through Brian Perry. But it seemed like their two wingers, Block and Harrison, were jet propelled and they paralysed our full backs.
“Chelsea went berserk – they scored five but it could have been 10. They out-ran us all over the pitch.
“We thought our chance had gone, but we knew we could beat them and we had a team meeting on the Wednesday and we agreed that the supporters had given us so much, so as long as we could win the tie on the night, we could thank them and hold our heads high.”
Little were they to know how well it would go.