Jack Davies will be inducted into Wolves Hall of Fame at this year’s FPA Annual Dinner on April 28th. As part of a series of extended feature articles looking at the 2023 inductees, here are the words of Steve Gordos, a member of the Hall of Fame committee.
Stan Cullis and Billy Wright, the greatest names in Wolves history, could have been lost to the club were it not for the intervention of Jack Davies.
At Molineux for 58 years, the club’s longest-serving employee, Jack was trainer and No2 to Major Frank Buckley, the manager who put Wolves on the map in the 1930s.
When Cullis threatened to leave after being denied a wage rise, it was Jack, realising the player’s potential, who successfully urged the club to agree to his demands. A few years later Buckley told a young Wright he would not make it as a professional footballer. Again, Jack recognised potential and successfully urged the Major to change his mind.
What would Wolves have been without Cullis and Wright?
Born in Gwersyltt, North Wales, in 1892, Jack worked – inevitably – as a miner, employed as a surface worked tasked with filling the coal trucks. He was a useful amateur boxer as well as playing football and rugby.
World War I saw Jack join the Royal Welch Fusiliers but he was discharged after being gassed at the Battle of Loos in 1915. Bizarrely, it was not by the Germans but through misfortunes on his own side. The wind changed direction, many canisters remained unopened as they had the wrong turning keys and German bombing released the gas behind the Allied lines. In addition, the flannel gas masks given to the Brits were not up to the task.
Discharged in 1917, Jack eventually recovered from the gassing and from being a victim of the Spanish flu pandemic. He was able to start work at the Cammell Laird shipyard in Birkenhead. He developed his physio skills with local football and rugby sides and, after seeing a newspaper ad, successfully applied to be assistant trainer with Wolves in 1920.
There was a new trainer, too, Elijah Morse joining the club from Tottenham Hotspur in July, 1920, a few weeks before Jack arrived. Morse moved on to Fulham within a couple of years and was replaced by former Sunderland and England forward George Holley.
These were eventful times at Molineux as Jack’s first full season saw Wolves reach the 1921 FA Cup final, only to be beaten 1-0 by Spurs at Stamford Bridge. Long-serving secretary/manager Jack Addenbrooke died in 1922 and Wolves were relegated the following year.
Manager George Jobey got Wolves immediately promoted back to the Second Division as Third Division North champions but then walked out on a matter of principle over interference by a director in his running of the club.
The arrival of Major Buckley as manager in 1927 would see an upturn in Wolves’ fortunes and when he guided the club back to the top flight it was with Jack Davies as his right-hand man, Holley having moved to Barnsley in 1931.
Both physiotherapist and coach, Jack was a man listened to by Buckley as he built Wolves into the most exciting team in the land.
Players came and went with alarming frequency under Buckley and one he nearly let go was a man who would become a Molineux legend – Stan Cullis.
After coming down from Ellesmere Port, the young Cullis was paid a wage of £2 10s (£2.50) but after a year asked for a 10s (50p) rise which was turned down. His father told him to return home.
When Jack found Cullis collecting his things and discovered the reason why he went to see Buckley and urged him not to let a talented young player go. So, Cullis was summoned to see the manager and director Ben Matthews. They told him if he went back to Ellesmere Port he would be out of work.
Cullis replied: “I shall not starve. I was living before I came to Wolves and no doubt I shall go on living after I leave Wolves.” It was a touch of bravado by Cullis but he was given his wage increase.
It is tempting to say the rest is history but another intervention by Jack had first to have a vital influence on Cullis’s career. Originally, he was a half-back but when injuries meant a shortage of central defenders for a practice match Jack suggested to the boss that Cullis should be played at centre-half for the reserves against the first team.
The game was played to run the rule over a new signing, Irish centre forward Dave “Boy” Martin. After the game a director asked Buckley what he thought of the new centre-forward but, tellingly, Buckley said he was far more interested in their “new” centre-half.
Cullis went on to become the greatest centre-half of his era, was capped 12 times for England before the war and played 20 times in wartime internationals.
There was more FA Cup disappointment for Jack when he helped Buckley guide Wolves to the 1939 Wembley final. Runners-up in the First Division for successive seasons, red-hot favourites Wolves were beaten 4-1 by Portsmouth.
Helping pack the kit for that trip to Wembley was a youngster called Billy Wright, who, little did he know it, would captain Wolves to FA Cup success ten years later.
Wright would lead the men in gold and black during their glory years in the 1950s when three times they were champions of England. He would become the first man in the world to win a hundred caps – yet he could easily have been lost to Wolves were it not for Jack.
Buckley had decided that the young lad from Ironbridge was too small ever to make it in football and that he would be sending him home to Shropshire. Jack, however, had seen something in the blond-haired 15-year-old and urged Buckley to think again.
Jack was not a lone voice but his opinion was probably the most valued by the manager and so he changed his mind. Wright was allowed to say.
When war broke out, recognised football came to a halt but 1939-40 saw the start of wartime matches. Wright made his first team debut, playing in friendlies against Albion and then Notts County. Played on the wing, he scored twice in the latter game and at 15 is believed to be the youngest scorer in a Wolves first-team game.
With Jack still helping Buckley run things, Wolves won the eight-club Midland League that season and in 1942 Wolves beat Sunderland over two legs to collect the War Cup. But there was a shock for the fans when Buckley in 1944 decided to become manager of Notts County.
Jack found himself working for yet another manager – former Bolton and Wales winger Ted Vizard. When Vizard and the club parted company in 1948, Wolves made his assistant, one Stanley Cullis, the new boss.
Joe Gardiner, Cullis’s old playing colleague, was by then on the training staff and Cullis made him first team trainer. Jack was still a sage voice in the managerial team, though his main responsibility was for the reserves.
Jack made the most of his role as mentor to young men who would go on to figure large in Wolves’ 1950s successes. The reserves won a hat-trick of Central League titles and, more important, produced a steady supply of first team stars – most notable among them Nigel Sims, Ron Flowers, Eddie Clamp, Bill Slater, Peter Broadbent, Colin Booth, Leslie Smith and Norman Deeley.
In his later years Jack took charge of the young players and made sure they stuck to the famous dressing room motto “There’s no substitute for hard work.”
He was a valued figure at Molineux and was still with Wolves in a part-time capacity when he died in 1978.
Jack may have been an un-sung hero but if asked what was his value to Wolves you could answer with just two names – Cullis and Wright.