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Wolverhampton Wanderers: a glorious history and promising future

There’s a buzz going round Molineux that hasn’t been felt in a very long time. Wolves sit on top of The Championship after only a dozen games this season yet it feels like something significant is about to emerge. Bigger than their return to The Premiership back in 2009, and larger than the sigh of relief that swept across the fan base after managing to remain in the

Premier League for two seasons

When you’ve had 8 managers in the past 5 years, including Mick McCarthy, Walter Zenga, Dean Saunders and Paul Lambert, being led by a former Valencia and Porto manager in Nuno Espirito Santo is damn near revelatory. Throw in loanees from Atletico Madrid and Porto, £13 million spent on Helder Costa, a further £15 million on Club record signing of Ruben Neves, some exhilarating football, and you begin to see why there is so much optimism breathing life back into this sleeping giant.

A glorious history

Wolves is a name synonymous with the past, a club constantly deemed as waiting to rise back to its feet and return to the glory days, only for it never to occur. Their iconic gold and black jerseys recall the times when the wolf on their chest was hunting down the opposition leading the team to the biggest trophies in English football. In world football there aren’t many clubs who have been around longer, and 2017 marks the 140th year since Wolverhampton Wanderers were founded at St Lukes Church, Blakenhall, in 1877.

There are also only eleven other clubs that can claim to have formed the Football League back in 1888. A world away from the glitz and glamour of today’s Premier League, but none of what we see today would have been possible without it. A year later they moved into their current Molineux home, the first ever purpose built stadium developed for use in the Football League.

The golden years

The club has a proud History in the FA Cup, first lifting the trophy in 1893 after beating Everton 1-0. Further triumphs followed in 1908 defeating Newcastle, a 3-1 victory of Leicester in 1949 and the last time they lifted the grand old cup was in 1960, putting Blackburn to the sword 3-1. In all, they reached the final eight times, a record that perhaps only a dozen or so other clubs have bettered over time.

A golden period followed during the 1950s, picking up three Division One Championships managed by the dogged Stan Cullis, and led on the pitch by club legend and England captain, Billy Wright. The first title was particularly cherished as it saw them beat local rivals West Bromwich Albion back into second spot. Back-to-back titles followed 1958 and 1959 and during this period they gained a reputation for beating some of the world’s greatest teams in friendly floodlit games.

Global influence

The first memorable friendly result was a 1954 victory over Hungary’s indomitable Honvéd, a team led by Puskás. This was within a year of Hungary international team enlightening English fans about the superior ability of teams outside of the UK, twice demolishing England 6-3 and 7-1 respectively. The international side was known as the ‘Mighty Magyars’, and the Honvéd team featured many of the players who had recently lost to West Germany in the 1954 World Cup Final. Despite falling behind to two early goals, Wolves came back to steal a famous 3-2 victory in a game televised live on the BBC. The British press nicknamed Cullis’ team ‘Champions of the World’ and the game played a crucial role in the formation of the European Cup two years later.

A similar 3-2 victory followed over the mighty Real Madrid in 1957. This was a Madrid team that were in the middle of winning 5 consecutive European Cup trophies from 1956 to 1960. A club that featured the artistry of Alfredo Di Stefano. In fact, Wolves remained undefeated over two games against the Madridistas, beating the mighty Madrid 3-2 at home, before travelling to the Bernabeu a few months later to secure a friendly 2-2 draw.

The fallow years

After the rise came the fall during the 1960s. Cullis was sadly sacked in 1964 after 31 years playing for and managing the club, in a season that saw them relegated to the second tier. A statue of the great man now stands outside of Molineux, running his eye across those who have come to pass ever since. They returned in 1967 and reached the heights of the 1971 UEFA Cup Final, beating the likes of Juventus and Hungarian side, Ferencvaros, before succumbing to Tottenham 3-2 in the final.

Their first League Cup was collected in 1974, before relegation saw them disappear from the top division once more. They returned the following year under the guidance of John Barnwell and went on to pick up their last major piece of silverware in 1980, Andy Gray’s (the one-time prince of Sky punditry) goal beating reigning European Champions Nottingham Forest.

From then until now

The 37 years that followed have seen Wolves fall as low as the Fourth Division (now League Two), watch legend Steve Bull score a club record 306 goals (and claim a few England caps and goals along the way), and cherish two brief spells after the turn of the last century in the Premier League.

They remain a club steeped in history, with a committed fan base eager to bask in the glory of winning a major trophy once again, rather than continuing to look back to their history as time ticks by. It is still early days, of course, but the signs are looking good for a return to the top division, back where this giant of the West Midlands belongs.

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Wolverhampton Wanderers: a glorious history and promising future


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