Football: Old soldiers return to celebrate the future: Jon Culley reports on an emotional night of history and heroes at Molineux

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The Independent Online
FERENC PUSKAS, the Hungarian inside-forward of football legend, cast a still sharp eye over an unfamiliar Molineux as Wolverhampton Wanderers unveiled the future by celebrating past glory at the famous Midlands ground last night.

Now 66, Puskas appeared before a crowd of 28,500 as the most celebrated among a roll- call of honoured guests as Wolves marked the completion of a fine new stadium by recalling one of the greatest occasions of their most successful era.

Last night's match, which ended in a 1-1 draw, sought to re-enact the night of 13 December 1954, when Puskas graced the field wearing the No 10 shirt of Honved (now known as Kispest-Honved) in a match that has become a cherished chapter of Black Country football folklore.

Backed by the resources of the Hungarian military, Honved - literally 'defenders of the nation' - were regarded as the cream of continental Europe and were expected to put the ambitious English club side in their place, arriving here so soon after England's Wembley humiliation against the Hungarian national side, of which five members were present at Molineux.

The outcome was quite different. Stan Cullis, the manager who led Wolves to three First Division championships and two FA Cup triumphs between 1949 and 1960, masterminded a recovery from 2-0 behind to win 3-2.

Almost nothing exists now of the old Molineux, redeveloped at a cost of some pounds 15m. The handsome clock that was once the centrepiece of the Waterloo Road enclosure now sits loftily atop the high roof of the Stan Cullis stand on the site of the old North Bank.

But if Puskas felt a stranger to the stadium there were many familiar faces close by. Each member of the Wolves line-up from the 1954 match was present, as well as a now frail 78-year-old Cullis, and Puskas reacquainted himself with them all on the field before kick-off: Billy Wright, captain of club and country, Johnny Hancocks, the winger whose penalty put Wolves back in the game, and the centre-forward, Roy Swinbourne, whose two goals finally vanquished the Hungarians.

Wolves were English champions six months later, while for Puskas life was soon to change with the Hungarian revolution, from which he fled to exile and Real Madrid. He returned to his homeland a year ago and now works for the Hungarian federation developing youth football.

Last night, as in 1954, the Hungarians scored first, Istvan Vincze capitalising on an easy 29th-minute chance, but full-back Andy Thompson, following up David Kelly's header against a post, provided Wolves with a 59th- minute equaliser.

As the pioneers of floodlit football, Wolves gloriously upheld the town's civic motto: 'Out of darkness cometh light'. It was not without irony, then, that last night's kick-off had to be delayed . . . by a partial floodlight failure.

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