Wolverhampton Wanderers were once dubbed “Champions of the World“. Now they languish in the top half of the Championship, with some prospects of making the playoffs.
Historically, the men in old gold have been influential in the establishment of football, being one of the founding members of the football league. More notably however is their contribution to the formation of the ‘Champions cup’.
Today, the modern game has prevented football from being exciting and unpredictable in contrast to 50 years ago, where a team could win the Old Division one and then be in a relegation dog fight the next season.
The innovation at Molineux led to high-profile friendlies under the famous floodlights for the first time in 1953, with top sides such as Real Madrid suffering defeat to Stan Cullis’ men. Stan Cullis’ era is arguably the most successful era in the club’s history. Wolves won the FA Cup within his first season of being in charge beating Leicester City 3-1 in the final. Wolves then won the League title in 1953, 1958 and 1959. The dominance over this decade spurred many on to challenge the capabilities of Stan Cullis’ Wolves. This included Honvéd, who had thrashed England twice before this match at Molineux and ended up with Wolves coming from behind to win, not only supporting the greatness of the Wolves team but restoring pride to English football.
Along with other European scalps, this led the national media to proclaim Wolves “Champions of the World”. This was the last 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 Wanderers 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”. Gabriel Hanot, editor of L’Équipe.
This was the greatest period in Wolverhampton Wanderers history. However it has to be said that, although Wolves have won the FA Cup 4 times and the league cup twice, last in 1980, they have become some what of a sleeping giant. Wolves have only spent 4 seasons in the Premier League. It could be said that the timing of Wolves’ decline in the 1980’s was definitely damaging for the club due to the transition of football to the modern era.
Even after Sir Jack Hayward’s multi-million pound investment, Wolves failed to achieve the goal of becoming a Premier League regular. However after supporting Wolves since 1994, I believe that the time is now right for Wolverhampton Wanderers to firmly establish themselves in the Premier League and to push on from there.
The last stint in the Premier League ended in despair and continued until relegation to League One. In all my years of supporting Wolves, I have seen us drop no lower than the Championship, yet dropping down to League One is a blessing in disguise.
Once Wolves were relegated to the Championship, the club was unable to YO-YO straight back up, due to the team completely falling apart. Had we have even been able to survive the Championship, I firmly believe Wolves would be in a worse position then they are now. The horrific amount of mistakes made from the board and management meant that, in order to heal the club, it needed stripping from the bottom up. The catalogue of errors made include the decision making of hiring and firing managers, poor transfer judgements and believing in the team that got relegated from the Premier League. With the downfall being drastic and devastating, it has had one silver lining; lessons being learnt.
“And once the storm is over, you won’t remember how you made it through, how you managed to survive. You won’t even be sure, whether the storm is really over. But one thing is certain. When you come out of the storm, you won’t be the same person who walked in. That’s what this storm’s all about.”
― Haruki Murakami
Wolves now have a manager in Kenny Jackett, who is building a strong foundation – a stark contrast to before. Academy players have been able to grow and feature heavily in this new Wolves look with players such as Jack Price quickly becoming a favourite of the fans. Wolves’ academy has produced some high calibre players over the years such as Robbie Keane and Jolean Lescott, but the importance placed on the academy is significant for Wolves to become a consistent team in the Premiership.
Even if Wolves were unable to hold on to star players produced by the Academy, it would only increase the transfer fund and allow Wolves to sign better players. From the lessons learnt, Wolves would now be extremely careful in signing players who are gifted but also team players.
Jamie O’Hara and Roger Johnson provide plenty of evidence to support this, as they were discarded from the team until they were released in the January transfer window. Another error from the last few years was the poor decision making in the hiring and firing of managers. I know the club was hurting after the 5-1 defeat to West Bromwich Albion, but sacking Mick McCarthy and replacing him with Terry Connor was a catastrophic decision. On the other hand, I believe the mistake lies in sacking MM in the first place. Wolves had drawn twice in north London and lost to Chelsea and Villa after some very convincing performances. Had Mick stayed on, I think Wolves would have stayed up another season.
One can not hold on to the mistakes made, but hope the board understand sacking Mick was wrong. Hiring Stobakken and Saunders was even worse. The season, in which Wolves got relegated to League One, was personally the worst in my life time. I watched my beloved team fall from a division I knew so well, to a division I had never known before. In the Premiership, I could cope with losing to top sides, but losing to teams convincingly and regularly in the Championship opened up a whole new level of despair.
This wound, felt deep throughout Wolverhampton Wanderers, would have made the club desperate to make things right, and I am convinced that once we achieve promotion under Kenny Jackett, this year or next, Wolves will not make the same mistake of falling from the countries’ best division.
Yes, once we get there, it will be a case of how much the club spends, but I am 100% sure that the chairman, the board and the manager will realise the key formula to keep Wolves in the Premiership and then stimulate them on to greater things. Yes this is a dream but it is not one out of reach. It may take years to build the club to the strength needed to survive and grow. But now Wolves are building in the right way. Wolverhampton Wanderers have the fan base, the finance and a new foundation to make this successful . One of the most famous sayings of the club is ‘Out of the Darkness Cometh the Light’ – Wolves have hit new lows but now is the time for the light to shine on the Old Gold and Black.
by Amar Bains