Wheel comes full circle from Molineux to Moscow

May 21, 2008

Giant final ball

I was standing by the side of the M1 in front of my broken-down Morris 1100 on a hot afternoon in May 1972 with only one thought in my mind. And it wasn’t how to get my car fixed.

It was how was I going to get to Molineux, still 75 miles away, for the first leg of the UEFA Cup final between Wolves and Spurs.

Luckily my companion knew a lot more about cars than I did and after a nervous wait, we were on our way again to an historic first — the first European club cup final between two English teams.

For in all the hype surrounding this week’s all-English Champions League final between Manchester United and Chelsea, that first all-English European final has largely been over-looked.

That is no real surprise in today’s world of mega-Champions League hype, but what IS more of a surprise is that there has been no all-English final in any other European club competition since then.

Eventually we made it to Molineux in good time for the first leg of the very first UEFA Cup final which Spurs went on to win 3-2 on aggregate.

Martin Chivers was the┬áhero at Molineux, scoring both goals in Tottenham’s 2-1 win, including a memorable 30-metre thump that almost broke the back of the Wolves net.

Alan Mullery was the Spurs hero in the second leg, knocking himself out as he scored the goal that secured the cup with a 1-1 draw in his final match for the club.

Both Wolves and Spurs occupy a special place in the annals of European club soccer and in a sense the wheel has turned full circle from Molineux to Moscow this week.

In the mid-1950s Wolves were declared “Champions of the World” by the English media after victories over top European sides in floodlit friendlies which included a 4-0 win over Spartak Moscow in November 1954.

That was the catalyst Gabriel Hanot, the editor of L’Equipe, needed to finally act on an idea that had been building for some time: to create a continental cup to find the real champions of Europe. The European Cup was born.

Wolves never won the European Cup and neither did Spurs, but Spurs did become the first English team to win a European trophy when they beat Atletico Madrid 5-1 in the European Cup Winners Cup final in 1963.

English clubs, along with those from Spain, Italy and Germany have gone on to dominate European club soccer over the last four decades and now England have shared the third same-country final following Spain in 2000 and Italy in 2003.

One thing’s for sure though. If you’d have broken down in your Austin 1100 on the M1 on the way to see Chelsea v Manchester United, I’m pretty certain you wouldn’t have made it to Moscow in time for the kickoff this week.

Mike Collett, Moscow

PHOTO: A worker adjusts an outsized Champions League football in front of the Luzhniki stadium in Moscow, May 20, 2008. REUTERS/Pawel Kopczynski


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Wide Circles

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Wide Circles

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