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Wolverhampton Wanderers: On a road back to the European days of Yore? 

Varun Nair
ANALYST
Feature
225   //    10 Aug 2018, 23:03 IST

Wolverhampton Wanderers v Villarreal - Pre-Season Friendly
Wolverhampton Wanderers will look to make a mark this season

It is quite hard to believe that the newly promoted Premier League club is, in fact, one of the oldest and historical clubs in the world who pioneered in making the English FA as well as the European competitions.

But for the past 59 years, the Molineux have been silent, yearning for their team to emulate the day captain Billy Wright under the management of the legendary manager Stan Cullis lifted the Football League first division( now the Premier League) trophy at the Molineux Stadium in Wolverhampton.

Since that fateful day in Wolverhampton, the Wolves fans have never seen any of the successors to the team coming close to winning the title with a second place finish in 1959/60 season and a third-place finish in the 1960/61 season the closest they ever got while having been relegated to the second and third tier of English Football.

It is quite hard to believe that one of the founding member of both the European Cup competitions, as well as the FA, are yet to win a major trophy since 1980 when they won the Football League Cup defeating European champions Nottingham Forest. (The EFL Championship, League 1, EFL trophy and League 2 trophies are not considered as major trophies).

History

The story of Wolverhampton Wanderers can be summed up as the story of the once great mighty team's fall from the grace and its tireless efforts in trying to find their journey back to back to their once held perch.

Wolves were the tops dogs of English football during the years under legendary manager Stan Cullis and Billy Wright winning three consecutive English First division championship (their only three till date), two FA Cups and six top-three finishes in the First Division.

Wolverhampton Wanderers V Brighton & Hove Albion- Sky Bet Championship
Wolves were the tops dogs of English football during the years under legendary manager Stan Cullis and Billy Wright

The mid-60s saw the first fall of the great Wolves as Cullis was sacked unexpectedly in September 1964 after a disastrous 1964/65 season that saw the West Midlands side suffering relegation after finishing bottom of the league.

The stay in the second tier though was short lived as Bill McGarry quickly ushered in a relatively successful eight years for the Wolves.

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The years under McGray saw Wolves finishing runners-up in the inaugural UEFA Cup in 1972 losing to English side Tottenham Hotspur 2-1, semifinal appearances in both FA Cup and League Cup before finally ending the 14-year wait for silverware by winning their first ever League Cup in 1974 with a victory over Manchester City at Wembley.

Inconsistency in the League was a hallmark under McGray which finally led to the second relegation in 10 years for the three-time champions as Wolves went down again in the 1975/76 after finishing three points shy of safety at 20th.

Wolves Win League Cup
Wolves finally ended the 14-year wait for silverware by winning the League Cup in 1974 with a victory over Manchester City at Wembley

Yet again the stay in the Second division was short and quick as the four-time FA Cup winners came back to the First Division in their first attempt after finishing runners-up in the Second Division.

The arrival of John Barnwell saw Wolves finishing sixth in the League during the 1979/80 season as well as winning their second league cup in six years as they beat the reigning European champions Nottingham Forest in the final.

Two FA semi-final appearances soon followed but were ultimately relegated back to the second division in 1981/82 season that saw manager John Barnwell resigning from the job after Wolves finished bottom of the table.

The 1980s saw the real downfall of the once mighty Wolves with financial crunches due to the rebuilding of the Molineux Stadium, ineffective replacements of star players and failure to invest sufficiently in the team saw the Wolves suffering relegation from the top of the English Football to the Fourth tier of English Football starting with the 1984/85 relegations from the First Division after gaining promotion in the first season back at the Second tier after suffering relegation in 1981/82 season.

The stay in the first division for the third time in almost 20 years was short and swift as Wolves came down again in the 1983/84 season following it up with yet another relegation to the Third tier of English Football as they finished 22nd in the Second Division.

The fall was far from over as the three-time English champions yet again suffered the heartbreak of relegation as they finished 23rd in the 1984/85 season to record their first-ever relegation in Wolves history to the Fourth tier of English Football.


Steve Bull of Wolverhampton Wanderers
Steve Bull and Graham Turner targeted a quick return to the top-tier for Wolverhampton Wanderers

The 1986 season saw Wolves under receivership after the Wolverhampton Council bought their beloved Football club stadium and surrounding premise after financial crisis gripped the once great team.

It was also the first season for future Wolves legend and their record top goalscorer Steve Bull as well as the first season under manager Graham Turner for the Wolves as they targeted a quick return back to the top tier.

The way back to the top though was not as easy as their fall, losing the final of the playoffs to Aldershot in the first season, Wolves clawed their way into the Third tier in their second attempt as they finished top of the table, becoming one of the first teams in English Football to win the league in all four tiers of English Football.

Promotion to the second tier followed immediately as they finished top of League 1 the table in the Third Division to promote as champions. The eight years under Turner saw Wolves attaining a much-needed stability while also winning their first piece of silverware since the 1980 League Cup.


Wolverhampton Wanderers v Doncaster Rovers
Wolves defeated Sheffield Wednesday to win the 2003 Championship playoff securing their place in Premier League for the first time since its inception

A 14-year barren spell soon followed in the Second Division as Wolves failed to qualify to the Premier League in three playoff attempts before finally securing a spot back in the limelight as they defeated Sheffield Wednesday to win the 2003 Championship playoff securing their place in Premier League for the first time since its inception.

Getting to the top is one thing but maintaining its place among the elite is a whole new challenge as Wolves went down once again, finishing rock bottom of the 2003/04 Premier League season.

Five more seasons at the second tier soon followed for the former First Division champions before going back up once again to the Premier League after winning the 2008/09 EFL Championship.

A three-year stint at the top level soon followed before Wolves went down yet again after finishing rock bottom in the 2011/12 season triggering a mini blip for the Wolverhampton based side as they suffered another relegation in the 2012/13 season to the League 1 after a second successive season at rock bottom, this time in the Championship League only to win back promotion to the EFL Championship the very next season after winning League 1 with a record 103 points with Kenny Jackett at the helm.

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Varun Nair
ANALYST
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