Wolverhampton Wanderers F.C.

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Wolverhampton Wanderers
Wolverhampton Wanderers.svg
Full name Wolverhampton Wanderers Football Club
Nickname(s) Wolves, The Wanderers
Founded 1877; 141 years ago (1877), as St Luke's
Ground Molineux Stadium
Ground Capacity 31,700
Owner Fosun International
Chairman Jeff Shi
Head coach Nuno Espírito Santo
League Premier League
2017–18 Championship, 1st of 24 (promoted)
Website Club website
Current season

Wolverhampton Wanderers Football Club /ˌwʊlvərˈhæmptən/ (About this sound listen), commonly referred to as Wolves, is an English professional football club based in the city of Wolverhampton in the West Midlands. Originally known as St Luke's F.C., the club was formed in 1877 and has played at its home ground, Molineux Stadium, since 1889. The team won the 2017–18 EFL Championship and will compete in the Premier League in 2018–19.

Wolves were one of the founding members of the Football League in 1888 and, apart from six seasons, the team has always played in one of the top two tiers of English football. Wolves spent 33 years in the top division from 1932 to 1965, their longest span at that level. Their longest period outside the top level was 26 years from 1906 to 1932. They have been champions of England three times, all during the 1950s under the management of Stan Cullis, and have been runners-up five times. They have won the FA Cup four times, most recently in 1960, and been runners-up four times. They have won the Football League Cup twice (in 1974 and 1980).

In the 1950s, Wolves was one of the first clubs to install floodlighting and, by taking part in televised "floodlit friendlies" against leading overseas teams, played an instrumental role in the creation of the European Cup. In European competition, the team reached the quarter-final stage of the 1959–60 European Cup, the semi-final stage of the 1960–61 European Cup Winners' Cup and were runners-up in the inaugural UEFA Cup Final in 1972.

The club originally used the St Luke's school colours of red and white. These were soon superseded by Wolves' traditional gold shirts and black shorts. The original club badge was the Wolverhampton city coat of arms. From the 1960s, the club has adopted badges which somehow depict one or more wolves. Wolves have long-standing rivalries with other West Midlands clubs but the main one has always been with West Bromwich Albion, eleven miles distant, against whom Wolves contest the Black Country Derby.

History

In the 2000 edition of "The Rough Guide to English Football", the history section on the Wolves page begins: "The very name Wolves thunders from the pages of English football history".[1] As with several other clubs, Everton for example, Wolves had humble beginnings shaped by the twin influences of cricket and the church. The club was founded in 1877 as St Luke's F.C. by John Baynton and John Brodie, two pupils of St Luke's Church School in Blakenhall, who had been presented with a football by their headmaster Harry Barcroft.[2] The team played its first-ever game on 13 January 1877 against a reserve side from Stafford Road, later merging with the football section of a local cricket club called Blakenhall Wanderers to form Wolverhampton Wanderers in August 1879.[1][2] Having initially played on two different strips of land in the town, they relocated to a more substantial venue on Dudley Road in 1881, before lifting their first trophy in 1884 when they won the Wrekin Cup, during a season in which they played their first-ever FA Cup tie.[2] Having become professional, the club were nominated to become one of the twelve founder members of the Football League in 1888,[3] in which they played the first Football League match ever staged (against Aston Villa).[4] They ended the inaugural season in third place, as well as reaching their first FA Cup Final, losing 0–3 to the first "Double" winners, Preston North End. At the conclusion of the campaign the club relocated for a final time when they moved to Molineux, then a pleasure park known as the Molineux Grounds.[2]

Wolves' 1893 FA Cup-winning team

Wolves lifted the FA Cup for the first time in 1893 when they beat Everton 1–0, and made a third FA Cup Final appearance in 1896. The club added a second FA Cup Final triumph (a 3–1 win against Newcastle United) to their 1893 success in 1908, two years after having dropped into the Second Division for the first time. After struggling during the years either side of the First World War to regain their place in the top division (a period that was punctuated by another FA Cup Final appearance in 1921), the club suffered a further relegation in 1923, entering the Third Division (North), which they won at the first attempt. Eight years after returning to the Second Division, Wolves regained their top-flight status as Second Division Champions under Major Frank Buckley after twenty-six years away. With Buckley at the helm the team became established as one of the leading club sides in England in the years leading up to the Second World War, as they finished runners-up in the league twice in succession (1937–38 & 1938–39), as well as reaching the last pre-war FA Cup Final, in which they suffered a shock defeat to Portsmouth.[5][6][7][8] One of the things Major Buckley and his Wolves side attracted a lot of attention for in the last two full seasons prior to the outbreak of the Second World War was Buckley's insistence that his players be injected with monkey gland extract to enhance their stamina and performance, a practice that the Football League elected not to sanction.[9]

When league football resumed after the Second World War, Wolves suffered yet another final day failure in the First Division. Just as in 1938, victory in their last match would have won the title but a 2–1 loss to title rivals Liverpool gave the championship to the Merseysiders instead.[10] This game had been the last in a Wolves shirt for Stan Cullis, and a year later he became manager of the club. In Cullis's first season in charge, he led Wolves to a first major honour in 41 years as they beat Leicester City to lift the FA Cup, and a year later, only goal average prevented Wolves winning the league title.

The 1950s were by far the most successful period in the club's history.[11] Captained by Billy Wright, Wolves finally claimed the league championship for the first time in 1953–54, overhauling local rivals West Bromwich Albion late in the season. Two further titles were soon won in successive years (1957–58 and 1958–59), as Wolves vied with Manchester United to be acknowledged the premier team in English football at that juncture. Wolves were renowned both for the club's domestic success and for the staging of high-profile "floodlit friendlies" against other top club sides from around the world.[12] Wolves had become one of the first club sides in Britain to invest in floodlighting in 1953 at a cost of £10,000.[13] Perhaps the most famed of these friendlies saw Wolves defeat a Honvéd side including many members of the Hungarian national team that had recently humbled England twice, leading the national media to proclaim Wolves "Champions of the World".[14] This became the final spur for Gabriel Hanot, the editor of L'Équipe, to propose the creation of the European Cup (later rebranded as the UEFA Champions League). Wolves was one of the first British clubs to participate.[14] In the 1957–58 season, Wolves defeated Real Madrid 5–4 (3–2 in Wolverhampton and 2–2 in Madrid) in home and away friendlies.[15]

Chart of yearly performance of Wolves in the English Football League system.

The 1960s began with a fourth FA Cup victory and Wolves almost achieved the first League and FA Cup 'double' of the 20th century in English football. They were pipped to the league title by a point on the final day of the season by Burnley. Despite that bright start to the decade, the 1960s saw Wolves begin to decline. After finishing as league runners-up in 1959–60 and a creditable third-place league finish in Tottenham Hotspur's 'double'-winning season, the team faded and Cullis himself was sacked after sixteen years in post in September 1964 after a disastrous start to the 1964–65 season.[11] Cullis's sacking did not prevent the season ending with relegation and the club's first spell outside the top division in more than 30 years. This exile from the top flight would last only two seasons as Wolves were promoted in 1967 as Second Division runners-up.

During the close season in 1967, Wolves played a mini season in North America as part of the fledgling United Soccer Association league which imported clubs from Europe and South America. Playing as the "Los Angeles Wolves", they won the Western Division and ultimately the championship by defeating the Eastern Division champions Washington Whips in a final decider.[16]

The club's return to the English top flight in 1967 heralded another period of relative success under Bill McGarry, with a fourth place league finish in 1971 qualifying Wolves for the newly created UEFA Cup. En route to the UEFA Cup final, they defeated the likes of Juventus and Ferencváros before losing to their countrymen Tottenham Hotspur 3–2 on aggregate; a 2–1 home defeat in the first leg proving decisive. Wolves lifted silverware two years later when they won the League Cup for the first time by beating Manchester City 2–1 in the final. Despite relegation again in 1976, Wolves bounced back at the first attempt as Second Division champions and, under manager John Barnwell, the turn of the decade saw them finish in the top six in the league and win the 1980 League Cup, when then-record signing Andy Gray scored the only goal of the final to defeat the reigning European champions and League Cup holders Nottingham Forest.

The multi-million pound rebuilding of the Molineux Street Stand in 1979 was to be the catalyst for the club's near-financial ruin during the next decade as difficulties in repaying the loans taken out to fund it led to receivership and relegation in 1982. The club was "saved" from liquidation at the last minute when it was purchased by a consortium fronted by former player Derek Dougan.[17] Initially this takeover, financed by two Saudi brothers, Mahmud and Mohammad Bhatti of the company Allied Properties,[18] brought immediate promotion back to the First Division under manager Graham Hawkins, but the Bhattis' failure to invest sufficiently in the club soon saw things unravel as the team suffered three consecutive relegations through the football divisions under different managers,[19] as well as the almost-constant threat of the club being wound-up.[20][21]

In 1986, with the club again in receivership, a deal saw Wolverhampton City Council purchase the stadium and surrounding land, while a local developer paid off the club's outstanding debts in return for planning permission to develop the land adjacent to the stadium.[22] The 1987–88 season saw Wolves' first-ever campaign in the Fourth Division, where, with the guidance of new manager Graham Turner and the goals of Steve Bull, who would ultimately score a club record 306 goals,[23] the team reached the final of the inaugural play-offs but were denied promotion by Aldershot. Building on that, the team achieved both the Fourth and Third Division championships in the next two seasons and won the 1988 Football League Trophy Final at Wembley.

Celebrating the Championship title in 2009.

Lifelong fan Jack Hayward purchased the club in 1990 and immediately funded the extensive redevelopment of dilapidated Molineux into a modern all-seater stadium.[24] With work completed in 1993, Hayward redirected his investment onto the playing side in an attempt to win promotion to the newly formed Premier League. Despite substantial spending, neither Graham Taylor nor Mark McGhee could fulfil this, both managers leading the team to play-off defeats at the semi-final stages in 1995 and 1997 respectively. It was not until 2003 that Wolves were promoted, when they defeated Sheffield United 3–0 in the play-off final under Dave Jones to end a 19-year absence from the top level.[25] Their stay proved short-lived as they were immediately relegated back to the newly retitled EFL Championship.

After former England manager Glenn Hoddle failed to bring a swift return, the rebuilding of the squad by Mick McCarthy rejuvenated the club with an unexpected play-off finish.[26] The club was bought by Steve Morgan in 2007[27] and two years later the team returned to the Premier League as 2008–09 Football League Championship title winners.[28] Wolves successfully battled relegation for two seasons before McCarthy's dismissal in the 2011–12 season,[29] which precipitated relegation under his assistant Terry Connor.[30] Following relegation, Norwegian Ståle Solbakken became the club's first overseas manager[31] but his tenure lasted only six months before a poor run of results saw him replaced by Dean Saunders in January 2013.[32][33] Saunders failed to bring any upturn, culminating in both the club's relegation to EFL League One and his own dismissal.[34][35] Following this, Kenny Jackett was appointed in May 2013 in the retitled position of head coach,[36] and led the team back to the EFL Championship in his first season, setting a new club record points total of 103 which is also an all-time record for the most points accumulated by any team during a Tier 3 season.

On 21 July 2016, it was confirmed that the Chinese investment group Fosun International had bought the club's parent company, W.W. (1990) Ltd, from Steve Morgan and his own company Bridgemere Group, for an undisclosed amount, with Jez Moxey stepping down from his role as a CEO (he was replaced by managing director Laurie Dalrymple).[37][38] Days later, the new regime announced that Kenny Jackett's contract with the club had been terminated[39] and former Italian international Walter Zenga was appointed.[40] Zenga was sacked after just 14 league games and Paul Lambert appointed as his successor in November 2016 but, at the conclusion of the season, Lambert too was dismissed,[41] with former FC Porto boss Nuno Espirito Santo replacing him.[42] On 10 June 2017, Jeff Shi, one of the executive directors of the club, as well as one of the two directors of W.W. (1990), was nominated as the executive chairman of the board.[43] He moved from China to Wolverhampton in the summer 2017.[44] The Fosun Group investment has paid dividends with the club's 2017–18 EFL Championship title success, which ensures a return to the Premier League after a six-year absence.

Colours and badge

Original colours.

The club's traditional colours of gold and black allude to the city council's motto "out of darkness cometh light" with the two colours representing light and darkness respectively.[45] Although the team's original colours upon formation were red and white, adopted from the school colours of St Lukes, for much of their history their home colours have been their distinctive old gold shirts with black shorts.[46]

In the early decades of the club a variety of shirt designs using these colours were created, including stripes and diagonal halves, until the continual usage of a plain shirt design since the 1930s.[47] Before the 1960s a darker shade of gold was used,[48] known as "old gold", which is still often cited in the media as the club's colour.[49][50][51]

City coat of arms.

Like most English teams, their earliest shirts usually only featured a badge on special occasions such as cup finals.[47] The first such badge to be worn on Wolves shirts was the coat of arms of Wolverhampton City Council.[47] In the late 1960s, Wolves introduced their own club badge that appeared on their shirts consisting of a single leaping wolf, which later became three leaping wolves in the mid-1970s. Since 1979 the badge has consisted of a single "wolf head" design; the current badge was last redesigned in 2002.[47]

Wolves' traditional away colours have been all-white, but recent decades have seen a variety of colours used;[47] the current away kit is black with an old gold line pattern down the players left hand side. A third kit in a light blue colour is also used by Wolves.

Stadium

Former grounds

When first founded the club used a field on Goldthorn Hill in the Blakenhall area as its home, which could accommodate some 2,000 spectators.[2] In 1879 they relocated to John Harper's Field on Lower Villiers Street where they remained for two years before a short move to Dudley Road, with the new ground situated opposite the Fighting Cocks Inn.[2] It was here that they played their first ever FA Cup tie in 1883 and their first ever Football League fixture in September 1888. Although the site could only hold 2,500 spectators at first it was eventually developed to be capable of 10,000.[2]

Molineux

Molineux
Molineux Ground, Wolverhampton.jpg
Capacity 31,700[52]
Construction
Opened 1889
Renovated 1924–34; 1978–79; 1991–93
Expanded 2011–12
Architect Alan Cotterell
(Billy Wright & Sir Jack Hayward stands)[53]
AFL (Stan Cullis stand)
Atherden & Rutter (Steve Bull stand)[54]
Main contractors Current design – Alfred McAlpine
Redevelopment – Buckingham Group
Tenants
Wolverhampton Wanderers F.C. (1889–present)

In the summer of 1889 the club moved to its permanent home ever since, Molineux, in the Whitmore Reans area of the city. The stadium name originates from the Molineux House built in the area by Benjamin Molineux, a local merchant, in the 18th century and whose grounds were later developed to include numerous public leisure facilities. When the Northampton Brewery Company purchased these grounds in 1889, they rented their use to the city's football club, who were seeking to find a home more befitting a Football League member.[2] After renovating the site, the first ever official game was staged on 7 September 1889 before a crowd of 4,000.[2] The ground was capable of hosting 20,000 spectators, although English football crowds rarely reached that number in the 19th century.[2]

Wolves bought the freehold in 1923 and soon began a series of ground improvements, beginning with the construction of a major grandstand on the Waterloo Road side.[55] In 1932, the club also built a new stand on the Molineux Street side and followed this by adding a roof to the South Bank two years later; this South Bank was historically the second largest of all Kop ends in the country and regularly held crowds in excess of 30,000.[56] The stadium finally now had four complete stands that would form its basis for the next half century.

In the days before seating regulations, the ground could hold more than 60,000 spectators, with the record attendance being 61,315 for a First Division match against Liverpool on 11 February 1939.[2] The 1940s and 1950s saw average attendances for seasons regularly exceed 40,000, coinciding with the club's peak on the field.[2] During this time Molineux became one of the first British grounds to install floodlights, enabling it to host a series of midweek friendlies against teams from across the globe.[55] 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 with the BBC often televising such events.[12][57]

When the Molineux Street Stand failed to meet new safety legislation, the club began building a new replacement stand behind the existing one on land where housing had been demolished. This new all-seater stand – named the John Ireland Stand after the then-club president – was completed in 1979 and was the first stage of a plan to rebuild the entire stadium.[55] The cost of the Ireland Stand escalated to over £2 million and plunged the club into a financial crisis. As a result, it was forced to enter receivership in 1982.[55] By the time the team dropped into the Fourth Division in 1986, only the John Ireland Stand and the South Bank terrace remained in use. New safety laws were implemented following the Bradford City stadium fire and these forced the closure of both the now-dilapidated North Bank and Waterloo Road Stand. The club did not have the funds necessary to rebuild them.[55]

Following the takeover of the club by Sir Jack Hayward in 1990, £8.5 million of funding was made available to redevelop Molineux comprehensively.[2] Between August 1991 and December 1993 three sides of the stadium were completely rebuilt to form a 28,525 capacity all-seater stadium that complied with the Taylor Report: the Waterloo Road Stand was replaced by the Billy Wright Stand, the North Bank terrace by the Stan Cullis Stand, and the South Bank terrace by the Sir Jack Hayward Stand (named the Jack Harris Stand until 2015).[2] Aside from the addition of a temporary seating area in the southwest corner used during Wolves' seasons in the Premier League;[58] this redevelopment formed the stadium for almost twenty years.

In 2010 plans were unveiled of an extensive redevelopment programme to enlarge the capacity and develop the facilities.[59] The first stage of this saw a new two-tier Stan Cullis Stand become fully operational for the 2012–13 season, raising the current official capacity to 31,700.[52][60] The proposed second stage planned to see the rebuilding of the oldest stand at the stadium (built in 1979 and renamed the Steve Bull Stand in 2003) to increase capacity to around 36,000, but this proposal was shelved when it became likely that the club would be relegated from the Premier League in 2012.[61]

The club announced in March 2018 that preliminary discussions for the enlargement of the South Bank (the Sir Jack Hayward Stand) had taken place, together with proposals for the Steve Bull Stand.[62]

Players

First team squad

As of 7 March 2018[63]

Note: Flags indicate national team as defined under FIFA eligibility rules. Players may hold more than one non-FIFA nationality.

No. Position Player
1 Nigeria GK Carl Ikeme
2 Republic of Ireland DF Matt Doherty
3 Scotland DF Barry Douglas
4 Senegal MF Alfred N'Diaye (on loan from Villarreal)
5 England DF Ryan Bennett
6 England DF Danny Batth (Captain)
7 Portugal FW Ivan Cavaleiro
8 Portugal MF Rúben Neves
9 Spain FW Rafa Mir
11 England MF Jordan Graham
15 France DF Willy Boly (on loan from Porto)
16 England DF Conor Coady
17 Portugal FW Hélder Costa
18 Portugal FW Diogo Jota (on loan from Atlético Madrid)
No. Position Player
19 Democratic Republic of the Congo FW Benik Afobe (on loan from Bournemouth)
21 England GK John Ruddy
23 Ghana DF Phil Ofosu-Ayeh
24 England MF Morgan Gibbs-White
25 Portugal DF Roderick Miranda
26 Nigeria FW Bright Enobakhare
27 Morocco MF Romain Saïss
29 Portugal DF Rúben Vinagre (on loan from Monaco)
30 England DF Kortney Hause
31 England GK Will Norris
33 Brazil FW Léo Bonatini (on loan from Al-Hilal)
34 Portugal MF Pedro Gonçalves
38 Denmark DF Oskar Buur Rasmussen

Out on loan

No. Position Player Nation
10 Forward Mason, JoeJoe Mason (on loan to Colorado Rapids until December 2018)  Ireland
12 Midfielder Marshall, BenBen Marshall (on loan to Millwall until the end of the season)  England
14 Midfielder Żyro, MichałMichał Żyro (on loan to Charlton Athletic until the end of the season)  Poland
20 Midfielder Ronan, ConnorConnor Ronan (on loan to Portsmouth until the end of the season)  Ireland
32 Defender Deslandes, SylvainSylvain Deslandes (on loan to Portsmouth until the end of the season)  France
35 Forward Wilson, DonovanDonovan Wilson (on loan to Port Vale until the end of the season)  England
36 Defender Johnson, ConnorConnor Johnson (on loan to Telford United until the end of the season)  England
37 Midfielder Armstrong, DanielDaniel Armstrong (on loan to Dunfermline Athletic until the end of the season)  Scotland
Goalkeeper Ruddy, JackJack Ruddy (on loan to Ayr United until the end of the season)  Scotland
Defender Ebanks-Landell, EthanEthan Ebanks-Landell (on loan to Milton Keynes Dons until the end of the season)  England
Defender Hayden, AaronAaron Hayden (on loan to Stourbridge until the end of the season)  England
Defender Iorfa, DominicDominic Iorfa (on loan to Ipswich Town until the end of the season)  England
Defender Leak, RyanRyan Leak (on loan to Telford United until the end of the season)  Wales
Defender Simpson, AaronAaron Simpson (on loan to Kilmarnock until the end of the season)  England
Midfielder Carnat, NicolaeNicolae Carnat (on loan to Stourbridge until the end of the season)  Romania
Midfielder Giles, RyanRyan Giles (on loan to Telford United until the end of the season)  England
Midfielder Herc, ChristianChristian Herc (on loan to FC DAC 1904 until the end of the season)  Slovakia
Midfielder McKenna, DanielDaniel McKenna (on loan to Bray Wanderers until August 2018)  Ireland
Midfielder Oniangué, PrincePrince Oniangué (on loan to Angers SCO until the end of the season)  Congo
Midfielder Sealey-Harris, AndrewAndrew Sealey-Harris (on loan to Farnborough until the end of the season)  England
Midfielder Stevenson, BenBen Stevenson (on loan to Colchester United until the end of the season)  England
Forward Collins, AaronAaron Collins (on loan to Newport County until the end of the season)  Wales
Forward Gladon, PaulPaul Gladon (on loan to Heracles Almelo until the end of the season)  Netherlands
Forward Nazon, DuckensDuckens Nazon (on loan to Oldham Athletic until the end of the season)  Haiti

Academy

Wolverhampton Wanderers Academy is a Category 1 status facility and has produced several high-profile graduates including internationals Robbie Keane and Joleon Lescott.[64] Many other players have gone on to play first team football at Molineux, including current players Danny Batth and Carl Ikeme. The academy is managed by Gareth Prosser and is based at the club's Sir Jack Hayward Training Ground.[65]

Other teams

Wolverhampton Wanderers Under-23s compete in the newly created Division 2 of the Premier League 2. The club qualify as an entrant in the competition by virtue of their academy holding Category 1 status.[66] Although the league is designed for players aged 23 and below, three overage players may also feature.[66] Home games are primarily staged at AFC Telford United's New Bucks Head home.

Wolves Women became the club's official women's team in 2008. They currently play at the third level of women's football, the FA Women's Premier League Northern Division. Their home games are played at Hednesford Town's Keys Park stadium.[67]

Club officials

Former players and managers

Statue of Billy Wright outside Molineux Stadium

Notable players

For details on all former players, see List of Wolverhampton Wanderers F.C. players

The club has been represented by numerous high-profile players over the years, most notably Billy Wright, who captained England a record 90 times and was the first player to win a century of international caps,[71] as well as earning the Footballer of the Year Award,[72] an accolade also won by Wolves half-back Bill Slater in 1960.[73] In total, 34 players have won full England caps during their time with Wolves, including the club's record goalscorer Steve Bull, the last of the club's England internationals to appear at a major tournament.[74][75]

Andy Gray, Emlyn Hughes, Paul Ince and Denis Irwin are all previous League Championship medal winners who have also represented Wolves. Joleon Lescott went on to play for England 26 times scoring once. Robbie Keane went on to become Ireland's all-time leading goalscorer with 68 goals in 146 appearances.

The Wolverhampton Wanderers Hall of Fame has inducted the following former players:[76]

Managerial history

Statue of Stan Cullis outside Molineux.

Wolves can be identified as having had 27 different (permanently appointed) managers during the club's existence.[77] The very first manager, George Worrall, was identified by the title of "club secretary", a post that continued until the appointment of a full-time manager in the modern sense was made in 1922.

The club's most successful manager is Stan Cullis, whose 16-year tenure brought all three of Wolves' league championships as well as two FA Cup triumphs.[78] Two other managers have been inducted into the Club Hall of Fame: Major Frank Buckley and Graham Turner.[79][80] Bill McGarry and John Barnwell both won major trophies in the post-war period.[77] In the 21st century, Dave Jones, Mick McCarthy and Nuno Espírito Santo have led the club into the Premier League. Kenny Jackett took Wolves to a record EFL League One (Tier 3) points haul of 103 as they won the divisional championship in the 2013–14 season. Wolves have been managed by two former England national team managers in Graham Taylor and Glenn Hoddle.[77]

Support

As well as having numerous supporters' clubs across the United Kingdom,[81][82][83][84][85][86] Wolverhampton Wanderers also have an international support base, with supporters' clubs in Australia,[87] United States,[88] Sweden,[89] Spain, Germany,[90] Republic of Ireland,[91] Malta,[92] Iceland and Norway[93] amongst others. They have a particularly sizeable Scandinavian fanbase, due to the area's television coverage of Midlands football in the 1970s when the club were a regular top-flight team; the first-ever English match shown live in both Sweden and Norway involved Wolves (Wolverhampton Wanderers 1 Sunderland 0, Football League Division One, Saturday 29 November 1969).[94][95]

Rivalries

Wolves' longest-established and strongest rivalry is with West Bromwich Albion, against whom the club contest the Black Country Derby. The two clubs, separated by eleven miles, have faced each other 159 times;[96] their first competitive clash being an FA Cup tie in 1886.[96] A national survey by the football pools found the rivalry to be the strongest in English football.[97] Both clubs are founder members of the Football League and the two once contested the league title in 1953–54, with Wolves finishing as champions.[98]

Wolves also share rivalries with the two Birmingham clubs, Aston Villa and Birmingham City, though they are much further away than West Bromwich. Wolves have played both Villa and Birmingham numerous times dating back to the 19th century.[99][100] Wolves' closest geographic rival is actually Walsall but, as they have rarely competed at the same level,[101] it is of less significance. As Wolverhampton historically sat in Staffordshire, a Staffordshire derby between them and Stoke City was once recognised.

Hopes that three of these rivalries would resume at Premier League level in 2018–19 have been thwarted. Wolves have been promoted but Aston Villa must succeed in the EFL Championship play-off final before being able to join them in the top flight. Meanwhile, West Bromwich Albion and Stoke City have both been relegated from the Premier League.

Fan culture

During the club's peak during the 1950s, the home crowd's signature song was "The Happy Wanderer". In more recent times, "Hi Ho Silver Lining" – a 1967 rock song by Jeff Beck with its chorus modified to "Hi Ho Wolverhampton!" – has become a staple feature of home games.[102] "The Liquidator" instrumental by the Harry J. Allstars was also popularly used in the stadium until a request from the West Midlands Police to cease due to concerns that the obscene lyrics used by some fans during the chorus[103] could incite trouble.[104][105]

As with all large city football teams the club attracted a number of hooligans in the 1960s. During the late 1970s and early 1980s, a hooligan firm named "The Subway Army" would often ambush fans in the subway adjacent to the ground. The group was gradually broken up and virtually ceased to exist due to a large number of arrests – many as part of the police's nationwide "Operation GROWTH" (or "Get Rid of Wolverhampton's Troublesome Hooligans") in the late 1980s.[106]

The club invites interaction with its supporters, and held a Fans' Parliament, usually attended by then-CEO Jez Moxey, which invited independently selected candidates to attend meetings at Molineux every two months up to the acquisition of the club by Fosun in July 2016[107] An independent fanzine named "A Load of Bull" (ALOB), in part a reference to leading goalscorer Steve Bull, published supporters' views between 1989 and 2012.[108][109]

Ownership and finances

The club is owned by the Chinese conglomerate group Fosun International, which purchased the parent company of the club, W.W. (1990) Ltd., on 21 July 2016 for a reported £45 million from previous owner Steve Morgan and his company Bridgemere Group.[110][111] Fosun International acquired "W.W. (1990)" via a wholly owned subsidiary, Prestige Century Holdings Limited.[112][113]

Wolves' group parent company, which wholly owns both the "football club company" and the company holding its properties (including its stadium and training facilities), has net assets valued at almost £50 million.[114] In their last published accounts (covering the 2015–16 season), the club achieved a final pre-tax profit of £5.8 million.[115] Turnover rose to £27.25 million, with the club receiving its final year of "parachute payments" from the Premier League.[116] Like most football clubs, significant commercial income is generated from shirt sponsorship deals:[117] Its current affiliation, with the payday lender The Money Shop, is due to run until at least the end of the 2018–19 season.[118]

Fosun bought Wolves from Steve Morgan, who had taken ownership in August 2007 for a nominal sum of £10 with the proviso that £30 million was injected into the club,[27] ending an almost four-year search for a new buyer.[119] Morgan oversaw nine full seasons, but placed the club on the market for new owners in September 2015.[120] Morgan had bought the club from Sir Jack Hayward, a lifelong fan of the club, who had himself purchased it in 1990 for £2.1 million.[24][121] During his tenure he invested an estimated £50 million of his personal wealth to rebuild the club's stadium and fund new players, but the team only achieved one season in the top flight during his 17 years at the helm despite this increased spending power.[121][122]

Hayward's takeover greatly improved the club's financial health, after a turbulent 1980s in which the club twice was declared bankrupt.[17][22] In 1982 the club was "saved" from liquidation when it was purchased by two Saudi brothers, Mahmud and Mohammad Bhatti, as part of their company Allied Properties.[17] However, their failure to sufficiently invest in the club saw it face several winding-up orders as well as successive relegations through the football divisions.[19][20][21] In 1986 the official receiver was again called in and a deal eventually brokered for Wolverhampton City Council to purchase the club's stadium for £1.12 million, along with the surrounding land, while a local developer, Gallagher Estates, in conjunction with the Asda supermarket chain, agreed to pay off the club's outstanding debts in return for the building of an Asda superstore on land adjacent to the stadium.[2][22][55]

Honours

In the all-time table since the league's inception in 1888, Wolves sit fifth in terms of points gathered in all divisions.[123]

Footnotes

  1. ^ The direct parent company of the club was W.W. (1990) Limited, which was acquired by Prestige Century Holdings Limited; Prestige Century was a subsidiary of Fosun Management Holdings Limited; Fosun Management Holdings was a subsidiary of Fosun International; Fosun International, a listed company of Hong Kong, is a subsidiary of Fosun International Holdings, which was majority owned by Guo Guangchang, Liang Xinjun and Wang Qunbin

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External links

  • Official Wolverhampton Wanderers F.C. site
  • BBC Sport, Wolves
  • Wolves at Soccerbase
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