Football: Golden shirts stir old memories of Puskas and the past: Wolves play Honved tonight, recreating a fixture steeped in Molineux history. Jon Culley reports

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The Independent Online
WITH no small thanks to the determination of Sir Jack Hayward to restore Wolverhampton Wanderers to the elite of English football, the first glimpses of a new dawn are visible at Molineux. The germ of a promotion challenge, at least, is developing within the imposing framework of a shining new stadium.

This evening, however, Wolves' past rather than future will be brought to mind when, to mark the completion of a pounds 15m rebuilding plan, the present outfit try to re-enact one of the greatest triumphs of their 1950s forebears. Honved, champions of Hungary, return to the scene at which, on 13 December 1954, in front of 55,000 spectators, the team of Sandor Kocsis and Ferenc Puskas succumbed to a defeat that raised the nation's morale.

Driven by the desire of Stan Cullis, their astute, outspoken manager, to show that his English title-winning side of 1953-54 could match the best on the Continent, Wolves had embarked on a series of prestigious 'friendlies'. But Honved's visit had a special significance for the country as much as for Wolves. The previous year, before a stunned Wembley crowd, Hungary had beaten England 6-3, a humiliation for a national team unbeaten by Continental opposition on home soil. In the return, six months later, England were thrashed 7-1. Yet Cullis, derided by some newspaper writers as the proponent of an unsophisticated long ball game, insisted that he knew where England had gone wrong.

Billy Wright, the captain of Wolves and England, described Hungary's game as 'the finest, most brilliantly applied football' he had ever witnessed. But Cullis, against general opinion, claimed the quality of the long pass was their most potent weapon. At Wembley, the use of a deep-lying centre-forward pulled England's defence apart.

us99 When Wolves and Honved met, the Hungarians went 2-0 ahead inside 15 minutes and it appeared the Wembley story would repeat itself. But Wolves, after reducing the deficit with a penalty five minutes into the second half, fought back.

'We did not know defeat, it was something that Stanley bred into us,' Wright said. 'We were a very fit team. Often we would win a game in the last 20 minutes. It was by swinging the ball from one wing to the other that we undid them.'

Ultimately the Cullis ploy paid off. In the last quarter of an hour, the Wolves centre forward, Roy Swinbourne, scored two goals separated by scarcely 60 seconds. To delirious acclaim, Wolves won 3-2.

There will be another packed house tonight, with all 28,500 tickets sold. Regrettably, only one of Honved's line-up will be present this evening. To the delight of the club, though, it is Puskas, now returned to his homeland after long exile in Spain and Australia to work, at 66, for the national football federation. However, all 11 members of the 1954 Wolves team will parade, led out by Cullis, now 78. Wright, now 69 and a director of the club, will be at Cullis's heels and they shall emerge from the magnificent main grandstand that bears Wright's name.