Wolverhampton Wanderers Football Club is a professional football club based in Wolverhampton, in the West Midlands of England. Usually referred to by a shortened version of its name, Wolves, the club is known for its distinctive team colours and long history. The club were founded in 1877 and since 1889 has been based at Molineux Stadium.
Historically, Wolves have been highly successful, being founder members of the Football League, and winning the FA Cup twice before the outbreak of World War I. Wolves really established themselves as a top side under the management of Stan Cullis after the Second World War, going on to win the League three times and the FA Cup twice between 1949 and 1960. It was at this time that the European Cup competition was initiated in the mid-1950s after English newspapers declared Wolves "Champions of the World" following victories against top European sides. Wolves have yet to match the successes of the Stan Cullis era, although they did contest the first UEFA Cup final in 1972 against Tottenham Hotspur, and won the League Cup in 1974 under Bill McGarry and in 1980 under John Barnwell. Since 1984 they have, however, spent just one season in the top division.
The team was founded as St. Luke's in 1877 by John Baynton and John Brodie after a group of pupils at St Luke's school in Blakenhall had been presented with a football by their headmaster Harry Barcroft. Two years later, they merged with local cricket and football club The Wanderers, to form Wolverhampton Wanderers. The club was given the use of two fields - John Harper's Field and Windmill Field - both off Lower Villiers Street in Blakenhall in its early years. From there, they moved to a site on the Dudley Road opposite the Fighting Cocks Inn in 1881. The club became one of the twelve founders of the English Football League in 1888 and finished the inaugural season in a creditable third place, as well as reaching their first ever FA Cup Final, losing 3-0 to the first "Double" winners, Preston North End.
Wolves remained as members of the Football League First Division from 1888 until relegation in 1906, winning the FA Cup for the first time on March 26 1893. They beat Everton 1-0 at Fallowfield Stadium in Manchester. Two years after relegation the team enjoyed another FA Cup win, as a Second Division club, surprisingly beating Newcastle United 3-1 in the final on April 25 1908. After struggling for many years to regain their place in the top division, Wolves suffered relegation again in 1923, dropping into the Third Division North. Wolves' first promotion was won just a year later, narrowly claiming the Third Division North title at the first attempt ahead of Rochdale.
The 1950s were by far the most successful period in the history of Wolverhampton Wanderers. Captained by Billy Wright, Wolves finally claimed the league championship for the first time in 1954, overhauling fierce rivals West Bromwich Albion late in the season. In this period, football played under floodlights was still a novelty. The summer of 1953 saw the first set of lights installed at Molineux, which were first tested in a friendly game against a South African XI. Over the next months, Wolves played a series of "floodlit friendlies" against foreign opposition. Beginning with Racing Club of Argentina, they also played Spartak Moscow of the USSR, before meeting Honvéd of Hungary in a game televised live on the BBC. The Honved team included many of the "Magical Magyars" team who had humbled England twice. Wolves won the game 3-2, beating the Hungarian side despite having been 2-0 down at half time, which led many, including Cullis, to proclaim Wolves "Champions of the World", in spite of Honved's defeat to Red Star Belgrade (then lying seventh in their domestic league) days earlier. This was the final spur for Gabriel Hanot, the editor of L'Équipe, who had long campaigned for a Europe wide club tournament to be played under floodlights.
Before we declare that Wolverhampton are invincible, let them go to Moscow and Budapest. And there are other internationally renowned clubs: A.C. Milan and Real Madrid to name but two. A club world championship, or at least a European one - larger, more meaningful and more prestigious than the Mitropa Cup and more original than a competition for national teams - should be launched.
The UEFA congress of March 1955 saw the proposal raised, with approval given in April of that year, and the kick-off of the first European Cup the following season. Later, Spartak Moscow, Dynamo Moscow and Real Madrid all came to Molineux and were beaten. Wolves were also league champions in 1958 and 1959, and in 1960 became the first team to pass the 100 goal mark for three seasons in succession. Coming agonisingly close to a hat-trick of titles and the first "double" of the twentieth century, Wolves finished just one point behind Burnley and had to make do with a fourth FA Cup win, beating Blackburn Rovers 3-0 in the final.
During the summer of 1967, Wolves played a season in North America as part of a fledgling league called the United Soccer Association. This league imported twelve entire clubs from Europe and South America to play in American and Canadian cities, with each club bearing a local name. Wolverhampton, playing as the "Los Angeles Wolves", won the Western Division and then went on to earn the league title by defeating the Eastern Division champion Washington Whips (Aberdeen of Scotland) in the championship match. (This FIFA-sanctioned league merged the following season with the non-sanctioned National Professional Soccer League, which had also begun in 1967, to form the North American Soccer League.).
Two years later they beat Manchester City to win the League Cup for the first time. Despite relegation again in 1976, Wolves were to bounce back as Second Division champions, and three years later, an Andy Gray goal defeated reigning European champions Nottingham Forest to again bring League Cup glory to Molineux in 1980. Wolves have yet to win another major trophy.
The key player behind the club's resurgence was Steve Bull who had been signed, along with Andy Thompson, from neighbours West Bromwich Albion for a combined fee of £64,000. He had scored 50+ goals in all competitions during both promotion-winning seasons, and while still a Third Division player he was capped by England and took part in the Italia 90 World Cup Finals. Bull scored 306 goals for Wolves (250 of them in league matches) before retiring at the end of the 1998-99 season.
The club's ageing ground was comprehensively rebuilt to meet new government inspired regulations in the early 1990s with the Stan Cullis Stand erected on the site of the North Bank in 1992, and the Billy Wright Stand replacing the Waterloo Road Stand in August 1993. Both of these stands were reportedly funded by the club owner. In December of that year the ground was completed when the Jack Harris Stand replaced the South Bank and the John Ireland Stand (renamed as the Steve Bull Stand in the summer of 2003) was completely refurbished by the owner.
Graham Turner had quit in March 1994 to make way for former England manager Graham Taylor. Wolves looked set for a return to the big time after beating Bolton 2-1 in the first leg of the play-off semi finals, but a 2-0 defeat in the second leg ended their promotion hopes.
Taylor was ousted in October 1995 after Wolves made a slow start to the 1995-96 season. His successor Mark McGhee inspired a brief turnaround in fortunes and as late as March they were just outside the play-off zone. But their dismal form returned and by the end of the season they had finished 20th - just two places above the drop zone and their lowest league finish since they slipped in the Fourth Division a decade earlier.
Wolves were much more confident in 1996-97, but were pipped to the second automatic promotion place by Barnsley and lost to Crystal Palace in the play-off semi-finals. They reached the F.A. Cup semi-finals a year later but McGhee was dismissed in November 1998 with Wolves slipping out of contention for the play-off places. His assistant Colin Lee took over but the club just missed out on the play-offs. A similar disappointment followed in 1999–2000 and Lee was dismissed in December 2000 with Wolves just a few places above the drop zone.
Former Southampton manager Dave Jones was named as Lee's successor and Wolves improved during the second half of the 2000-01 season, but their dismal early season form counted against them and they were unable to achieve anything more than a mid table finish. Wolves returned to their winning ways in 2001-02 and spent much of the season in the top two places. However, end of season slump saw them being pipped to automatic promotion by deadly rivals West Bromwich Albion. Defeat at the hands of Norwich City in the play-off semi-finals finally put paid to their promotion hopes.
With key players Matt Murray & Joleon Lescott out for entire season and several others like Kenny Miller injured from the start of the season, life in the Premiership was hard for Wolves, they did not win until their eighth match. They did manage some decent results, in particular a 1-0 win over Manchester United in January, but failing to win a single away game meant that their relegation battle was ultimately lost. Wolves finished bottom of the table on goal difference, bracketed together on 33 points with the two other relegated teams - Leicester City and Leeds United.
Coach Stuart Gray was put in temporary charge of the first team for a month after Jones's dismissal, before Glenn Hoddle was appointed on a rolling one-year contract. Wolves lost only one of their final 25 league games but drew 15 of their games and finished ninth in the final table - not enough to qualify for the play-offs.
A lack of fortitude in the striking department, a lack of passion and pride on the whole from the team, and ultimately dull, cautious and bizarre tactics from Glenn Hoddle, including the placing of 6ft 4" Carl Cort on the wing, and 5ft 9" Tomasz Frankowski in the middle, saw Wolves finish a disappointing 7th in 2005–2006. It was a gut wrenching season for the Wolves faithful, many of whom had vowed towards the end of the season that they would not be renewing their season ticket as long as Hoddle was in charge. Though the board expressed no displeasure with Hoddle, with Jez Moxey affirming his faith in the under fire manager, the season had been frowned on by both local media, and most importantly, the fan base. However, few had anticipated Hoddle's sudden resignation mere moments before England's World Cup quarter-final clash with Portugal.
Former Republic of Ireland and Sunderland manager Mick McCarthy was confirmed as Glenn Hoddle's replacement as manager on 21 July 2006. Wolves therefore commenced the 2006/07 season with only the bare bones of a first team squad and with the lowest expectations around the club in years. Mick McCarthy acknowledged the challenge, stating to local media "The initials MM on my top stand for Mick McCarthy, not Merlin the Magician".
The manager quickly scraped together a squad, largely from the club's youth ranks, out of contract players and loanees. After an inconsistent first half to the season, an impressive run of form followed and the club eventually made the play-offs, despite earlier expectations. They were paired with local rivals West Bromwich Albion in the semi-finals, where they lost out over two legs, losing 3-2 at Molineux and 1-0 at The Hawthorns. Goalkeeper Matt Murray, voted player of the season by Wolves supporters, broke his shoulder in the final training session, which led to Wayne Hennessey making his Wolves debut in his place.
On 9 August 2007, businessman Steve Morgan finally completed a protracted takeover of the club for £10 in return for a £30million investment into the club, resulting in the departure of Sir Jack Hayward after 17 years as chairman.
After the previous year's surprising play-off finish, hopes were high for the club to go one step further this time. However, an injury suffered by key player Michael Kightly seemed to severely weaken the team's creativity and preceded a dismal Christmas period that saw them pick up just 4 points from a possible 21, leaving them mid-table, and without hopes of an automatic finish. A late rally that saw them lose just twice in their final 15 games, aided by the goalpower of new signing Sylvan Ebanks-Blake, kept them in contention, but the side finished outside the final play-off spot on goal difference, two goals short of Watford.
The season saw the club's strongest start since 1949-50, as a draw away to Plymouth was followed by 7 consecutive wins - scoring 23 goals and conceding only 7 goals in the first 8 games. That streak was ended by a 3-0 home defeat to Reading but they remained at the top of the league at the end of September.
An injury crisis has left the club currently without the attacking talent of Michael Kightly, Sylvan Ebanks-Blake, Matt Jarvis. They had already suffered long term injuries to defenders Jody Craddock and George Elokobi, meaning that transfer deadline day witnessed three new defenders joining the Wolves ranks - George Friend, Matt Hill and Jason Shackell.
Wolverhampton Wanderers play in one of the most famous and recognisable strips in British football. The traditional colours are old gold shirts and black shorts although in the club's early days the team sported various versions of these colours including old gold and black stripes and old gold and black diagonal halves. The traditional away colour of Wolves is all white.
The first badge to be worn on Wolves shirts was the city crest of Wolverhampton which was usually worn on special occasions such as cup finals. In the late 1960s, Wolves introduced their own club badge which consisted of a single leaping wolf which later became three leaping wolves. In 1979, Wolves changed to the now famous wolf-head badge. Its simple and stylised design has made it one of the most recognisable club badges in British football and it is still in use to the present day.
Wolverhampton Wanderers have played at Molineux, Whitmore Reans, since 1889. Their previous home was in the Blakenhall area, and although no signs of the ground remain, a nearby road is called Wanderers Avenue.
The Molineux name originates from Benjamin Molineux, a local merchant who built his home on the grounds. Northampton Brewery, who later owned the site, rented its use to Wolverhampton Wanderers in 1889, who had previously lacked a permanent home. After renovating the site, the first ever league game was staged on 7 September 1889 in a 2-0 victory over Notts County before a crowd of 4,000.
In 1953, the stadium became one of the first to install floodlights, at a cost of around £10,000. The first ever floodlit game was held on 30 September 1953, as Wolves won 3-1 against South Africa. The addition of the floodlights opened the door for Molineux to host a series of midweek friendlies against teams from across the globe. In the days prior to the formation of the European Cup and international club competitions, these games were highly prestigious and gained huge crowds and interest, the BBC often televising such events.
The old South Bank at Molineux is also historically the second largest of all Kop ends closely followed by Aston Villa's Holte End, both of which regularly held crowds in excess of 30,000.
The total seated capacity today is approximately 28,525, making Molineux the twenty-sixth largest in English football, although this was expanded in 2003 by the building of a temporary stand, known as the Graham Hughes Stand, providing capacity for another 900 fans. These temporary seats were removed during the 2006 close season.
Millionaire owner Steve Morgan is keen to 'transform the city centre ground into a venue fit for Premiership football' although the scale and speed of the expansion plans will depend on Wolves being promoted to, and stabilising in, the Premier League. Accordingly, the Steve Bull and Billy Wright Stands would be modified, linking all four stands and expanding both side stands to create a 40-45,000+ capacity, making Molineux one of the top ten stadia in England by capacity.
The Sir Jack Hayward Training Ground, opened in 2005, is a £4.6m, state-of-the-art site located in Compton, Wolverhampton. It stands approximately one mile to the west of the stadium.
The two storey building has five high-quality training pitches, eleven changing rooms, medical and physiotherapy facilities, gymnasium, and a hydrotherapy pool, one of only a handful of English clubs to own one.
Wolverhampton Wanderers have an international support base, with supporters' clubs in Australia, United States, Sweden, Germany, Republic of Ireland, Malta, Iceland and Norway amongst others. They also have supporters' clubs across the United Kingdom.
The Wolves fanzine is called A Load Of Bull (ALOB), in part reference to former legend Steve Bull. The publication was founded in 1989 and is written voluntarily by ordinary Wolves supporters. ALOB is currently edited by long serving editor Charles Ross.
As with all large city teams the club attracted a number of hooligans in the 1960s. During the late 1970s and early 1980s, a group of teenagers calling themselves "The Subway Army" would ambush fans in the subway adjacent to the ground. They attended only selected games and many of the members claimed that they were not actually Wolves fans. Indeed, on visits to several away fixtures, including Leeds, they stood apart from the travelling Wolves supporters, and the vast majority of Wolves supporters have never had any involvement with hooliganism.
The Subway Army were eventually dissolved due to the large number of arrests and were replaced by other groups. Many of this faction were arrested in one of the nationally organised police dawn raids, under code name 'Operation Growth' or Get Rid of Wolverhampton's Troublesome Hooligans.
Please Note Numbers are from training kits and are not actual shirt numbers
The following have either played for or managed Wolves and have been inducted into the English Football Hall of Fame:
Wolverhampton Wanderers are the tenth most successful club in English football history, having won the FA Cup on four occasions and been League Champions three times, Charity Shield winners four times and winning the League Cup twice. Cumulatively, they are the eighth most successful club, behind Chelsea, with 13 wins (see English Football Records). They are the only club to have won titles in five different Football League divisions, and the only club to have won all top national cups (FA Cup, Football League Cup and Football League Trophy).
In 1988, their Fourth Division title glory made them the first team to have been champions of all four professional leagues in English football, although this feat has since been matched by Burnley in 1992 and Preston in 1996.
They are also the first team to score 7,000 league goals.
|Attendance||Gate receipts||Best league win||Worst league loss||Best cup win||Most capped player||League appearances||League goals||Goals in a season|
|61,315: vs Liverpool 11/02/1939 FA Cup Round 5||£525,000: vs West Bromwich Albion 13/05/2007 Championship play-off semi-final||10 - 1: vs Leicester City 15/04/1938 Division 2||1 - 10: vs Newton Heath 15/10/1892 Division 1||14 - 0: vs Cresswell's Brewery 13/11/1886 FA Cup Round 2||Billy Wright: 105 England||Derek Parkin: 501 1967-82||Steve Bull: 250 1986-99||Dennis Westcott: 38 1946/47 Division 1|
Wolves also support WolvesAid, the largest charity in football , supporting both the local community in Wolverhampton, and abroad.