Statue of Stan Cullis outside Wolves' Molineux Stadium
|Full name||Stanley Cullis|
|Date of birth||25 October 1916|
|Place of birth||Ellesmere Port, England|
|Date of death||28 February 2001(aged 84)|
|Place of death||Malvern, England|
|1930–1933||Ellesmere Port Wednesday|
|1943||→ Gillingham (wartime guest)|
* Senior club appearances and goals counted for the domestic league only.
Stanley "Stan" Cullis (25 October 1916 – 28 February 2001) was a professional footballer and manager, primarily for Wolverhampton Wanderers. During his term as manager between 1948 and 1964, Wolves became one of the strongest teams in the British game, winning the league title on three occasions, and playing a series of high-profile friendly matches against top European sides which acted as a precursor to the European Cup.
Cullis joined Wolverhampton Wanderers as a teenager after a trial at Bolton Wanderers, signing professionally within a week of his arrival. He quickly moved up through the youth and reserve ranks and made his senior debut on 16 February 1935 in a 2–3 defeat at Huddersfield Town. He had to wait until the 1936–37 season though before he became first choice, when he replaced Bill Morris, and swiftly became club captain.
Cullis led the team to become one of the top teams in England, finishing runners-up in the league in 1938 and 1939. In 1939 Wolves had the chance to win The Double, but with only 5 wins in the last 11 matches the team lost the championship by 5 points to Everton, and reaching the FA Cup Final then losing 4–1 to Portsmouth saw Wolves become the third English club to achieve The Double Horror.
When the Second World War started it took away many of the best years of Cullis's career.
He won a call-up to the England team and made his international debut on 23 October 1937 in a 5–1 success against Ireland. Because of the outbreak of the war, he won only 12 full caps (once as captain), although he also played in 20 wartime internationals (10 as captain).
It was claimed that when England played Germany in Berlin on 14 May 1938, Cullis refused to join the rest of his team mates in performing a Nazi salute prior to the match. Cullis, the only player to refuse, was dropped from the team; England won the match 6–3.
During the conflict, he served as a PT instructor in both Britain and Italy, and also managed 34 wartime appearances for Wolves in regional competitions, as well as guesting for Aldershot, Fulham and Liverpool. Shortly after, he also managed briefly Fredrikstad in 1946.
When competitive football resumed in England in 1946–47, Cullis played just one more season for Wolves, in which the club once again narrowly missed out on a first league title. He then announced his retirement as a result of injury and was appointed assistant to manager Ted Vizard, after having made 171 appearances in total for the club.
In June 1948, aged just 31, Cullis became manager of Wolverhampton Wanderers and presided over the most successful era in the club's history. In his first season in charge, he became the youngest manager to win the FA Cup at Wembley as Wolves beat Leicester City to win their first major trophy since 1908. Five years later Wolves overhauled local rivals West Bromwich Albion to win their first league title.
Cullis's team restored some pride to English football after the national team's thrashings at the hands of Hungary when they beat the star-studded Honvéd side in a 1954 friendly, and Cullis's comments that his team were "champions of the world" played a large part in the formation of European club competitions. They also played Moscow Spartak, Dynamo and Real Madrid (1957) in other floodlit friendlies.
Cullis led Wolves to two more league titles, in 1958 and 1959, and they narrowly missed the hat-trick in 1960, losing by one point to Burnley, while also winning the FA Cup again in 1960 to seal their position as one of the dominant teams of the era. The 1960s saw Wolves begin to struggle, and Cullis was surprisingly sacked in September 1964, declaring that he would not work in football again, despite an offer from Juventus.
After a short spell working as a sales representative, he did return to the game as manager of Birmingham City in December 1965, but could not reproduce the success he had enjoyed at Wolves. Cullis retired from football in March 1970, and took up a post with a travel agency in Malvern, his adopted home town.
Tributes to Cullis include the naming of a stand (the Stan Cullis Stand) at Wolves' Molineux Stadium and a statue of him outside it; in 2003 he was inducted into the English Football Hall of Fame in recognition of his impact as a manager.
Bill Shankly tribute
In his 1976 autobiography, Bill Shankly paid high tribute to Cullis, saying: "While Stan [Cullis] was volatile and outrageous in what he said, he never swore. And he could be as soft as mash. He would give you his last penny. Stan was 100 per cent Wolverhampton. His blood must have been of old gold. He would have died for Wolverhampton. Above all, Stan is a very clever man who could have been successful at anything. When he left Wolverhampton, I think his heart was broken and he thought the whole world had come down on top of him. All round, as a player, as a manager, and for general intelligence, it would be difficult to name anyone since the game began who could qualify to be in the same class as Stan Cullis."
Wolverhampton Wanderers (as player and manager)
- First Division
- FA Charity Shield
- FA Youth Cup
- Winners: 1958
- Runners-up: 1953, 1954, 1962
Wolverhampton Wanderers career statistics
|1934–35||Wolverhampton Wanderers||First Division||3||0||0||0||3||0|
|Season||League||FA Cup||FA Charity Shield||Europe|
|1958–59||42||28||5||9||110||49||61||1st||R4||R/U||European Cup R2|
|1959–60||42||24||6||12||106||67||54||2nd||W||W||European Cup QF|
|1960–61||42||25||7||10||103||75||57||3rd||R3||Shared||European Cup Winners' Cup SF|
- Wooldridge, Ian (3 March 2001). "Last time sport was stopped, it almost was the end of the world". Daily Mail (London). Retrieved 22 November 2008.
- Øystein Holt. "Uoffisiell nettside for Fredrikstad Fotballklubb". ffksupporter.net. Retrieved 2012-11-13.
- 01 Mar 2001 (2001-03-01). "Stan Cullis". London: Telegraph. Retrieved 2012-11-13.
- Brian Glanville (1 March 2001). "Obituary: Stan Cullis | Football". London: The Guardian. Retrieved 2012-11-13.
- Longmore, Andrew (2000-10-29). "Back when Stan really was the man - News & Comment - Football". London: The Independent. Retrieved 2012-11-13.