Wolverhampton Wanderers F.C.

Wolverhampton Wanderers Football Club /ˌwʊlvərˈhæmptən/ (listen), commonly known as Wolves, is an English professional football club in Wolverhampton, West Midlands. Formed as St Luke's F.C. in 1877, they have played at Molineux Stadium since 1889 and compete in the Premier League, the top division of English football, after winning the 2017–18 EFL Championship. Wolves compete in the 2019–20 UEFA Europa League, the first time the club has qualified for a European tournament for 39 years, by virtue of finishing in seventh place in the 2018–19 Premier League in their first season back in the top tier.

Wolverhampton Wanderers
Full nameWolverhampton Wanderers Football Club
Nickname(s)Wolves, The Wanderers
Founded1877 (1877), as St Luke's F.C.
GroundMolineux Stadium
OwnerFosun International
ChairmanJeff Shi[2]
ManagerNuno Espírito Santo
LeaguePremier League
2018–19Premier League, 7th of 20
WebsiteClub website

Wolves were one of the founding members of the Football League in 1888. The club in 2019–20 is enjoying its 65th season of top flight football; Wolves's longest continuous period in the top tier was 26 consecutive seasons in the 33 years between 1932 and 1965 (n.b. there was no league football between 1939 and 1946 due to World War II). In the 1950s, Wolves were English League champions three times (1953–54, 1957–58 and 1958–59), under the management of Stan Cullis. Wolves have also finished League runners-up on five occasions, most recently in 1959–60.

Wolves have won the FA Cup four times, most recently in 1960, and finished runners-up on a further four occasions. The club has also won the Football League Cup twice, in 1974 and 1980.

In 1953, Wolves was one of the first British clubs to install floodlights,[3] taking part in televised "floodlit friendlies" against leading overseas club sides between 1953 and 1956 in the run-up to the creation of the European Cup in 1955 and the first participation of an English club side in that competition in 1956.[4] Wolves reached the quarter-finals of the 1959–60 European Cup and the semi-finals of the 1960–61 European Cup Winners' Cup, and were runners-up to Tottenham Hotspur in the inaugural UEFA Cup Final in 1972.

Wolves' traditional kit consists of old gold shirts and socks, black shorts and the club's "Wolf's Head" badge. Wolves have long-standing rivalries with other West Midlands clubs, the main one being with West Bromwich Albion, against whom they contest the Black Country derby, although the two clubs have not met in a League fixture since 2011–12, the last season they competed in the same division.


Formation and the Football League (1879–1893)

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".[5] 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.[6] 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.[5][6] 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.[6] Having become professional, the club were nominated to become one of the twelve founder members of the Football League in 1888,[7] in which they played the first Football League match ever staged (against Aston Villa).[8] 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.[6]

FA Cup success and world war years (1893–1950)

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.[9][10][11] In 1937–38 Wolves came within a whisker of winning the club's first English league title: a win in the side's last game away to Sunderland would have clinched things, but in the event Wolves lost 0–1 and thus ended the campaign one point behind the eventual champions, Arsenal.[12] 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.[13]

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.[14] 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 Stan Cullis era (1950–1960)

The 1950s were by far the most successful period in the club's history.[15] 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.[16] Wolves had become one of the first club sides in Britain to invest in floodlighting in 1953 at a cost of £10,000[17] (£274,000 at 2018 prices[18]). 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".[19] 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.[19] 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.[20]

Cup success in the 60s and 70s (1960–1980)

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.[15] Cullis's sacking did not prevent the season ending with relegation (the first time Wolves had known relegation since 1922–23) and the club's first spell outside the top division since 1932. Exile from the top flight lasted only two seasons however, 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.[21]

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 Juventus and Ferencváros before losing to 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 under manager Sammy Chung, and then 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.

Financial Crisis, decline and rebuild (1980–1990)

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. Plunging match attendances in the early-1980s,[22] at least partly due to recession in both the national and local economies, and consequent difficulties in repaying the loans taken out to fund the new John Ireland Stand, led the club 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.[23] Initially this takeover, financed by two Saudi brothers, Mahmud and Mohammad Bhatti of the company Allied Properties,[24] 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,[25] as well as the almost-constant threat of the club being wound-up.[26][27]

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.[28] The 1986–87 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,[29] 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.

The Hayward years (1990–2007)

Lifelong fan Jack Hayward purchased the club in 1990 and immediately funded the extensive redevelopment of dilapidated Molineux into a modern all-seater stadium.[30] 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.[31] Their stay proved short-lived as they were immediately relegated back to the newly retitled EFL Championship.

Promotion, relegations and turbulent times (2007–2016)

After former England manager Glenn Hoddle failed to bring a swift return to the Premier League, the rebuilding of the squad by Mick McCarthy rejuvenated the club with an unexpected play-off finish.[32] The club was bought from Sir Jack Hayward by Steve Morgan in 2007[33] and two years later the team returned to the Premier League as 2008–09 Football League Championship title winners.[34] Wolves successfully battled relegation for two seasons before McCarthy's dismissal in the 2011–12 season,[35] which precipitated relegation under his assistant Terry Connor.[36]

Following relegation, Norwegian Ståle Solbakken became the club's first overseas manager[37] but his tenure lasted only six months before a poor run of results saw him replaced by Dean Saunders in January 2013.[38][39] Saunders failed to bring any upturn, culminating in both the club's relegation to EFL League One and his own dismissal.[40][41] Following this, Kenny Jackett was appointed in May 2013 in the retitled position of head coach,[42] 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.

Fosun: Return to the Premier League and European football (2016–present)

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 (replaced by managing director Laurie Dalrymple).[43][44] Days later, the new regime announced that Kenny Jackett's contract with the club had been terminated[45] and former Italian international Walter Zenga was appointed head coach.[46] 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,[47] with former FC Porto boss Nuno Espírito Santo replacing him.[48] Under Nuno, Wolves went on to clinch the 2017–18 Championship title, to return to the Premier League after a 6-year absence.

Their return to the Premier League brought a seventh-place finish, their highest placing in the top division since finishing sixth in 1979–80.[49] This position also earned them a place in the Europa League and their first European campaign since 1980–81. They won 5-3 on aggregate against Torino in the play-off round in August 2019 and advanced to the Group Stage. Wolves will play Slovan Bratislava, Braga and Beşiktaş in the Group Stage (September 2019-December 2019).[50]

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.[51] 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.[52]

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.[53] Before the 1960s a darker shade of gold was used,[54] known as "old gold", which is still often cited in the media as the club's colour.[55][56]

Like most English teams, their earliest shirts usually only featured a badge on special occasions such as cup finals.[53] The first such badge to be worn on Wolves shirts was the coat of arms of Wolverhampton City Council.[53] 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.[53][57]

In May 2019, the club won a legal challenge by Peter Davies, a 71 year old retired building industry manager, who claimed he drew the wolf head motif as a schoolboy in the 1960s and entered it in an art competition. Mr Davies said he came up with the angular design after a teacher asked him to demonstrate an understanding of Blaise Pascal's Hexagrammum Mysticum Theorem, and entered it in an art competition advertised in the Express and Star newspaper. Mr Davies had made a copyright claim and wanted compensation. Mr Davies lost his copyright infringement claim and now faces legal fees and costs estimated to be about £450,000.[58]

Wolves' traditional away colours have been all-white, but recent decades have seen a variety of colours used, including black, blue, teal and purple.;[53] The current away kit, made by Adidas, is black with 3 gold stripes on the shoulders, the outside of the shorts, changing to black on the top of the gold socks.


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.[6] 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.[6] 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.[6]


Molineux Stadium, Wolverhampton, 2018
Renovated1924–34; 1978–79; 1991–93
ArchitectAlan Cotterell
(Billy Wright & Sir Jack Hayward stands)[59]
AFL (Stan Cullis stand)
Atherden & Rutter (Steve Bull stand)[60]
Main contractorsAlfred McAlpine (3 stands)
Buckingham Group (Stan Cullis stand)
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.[6] After renovating the site, the first ever official game was staged on 7 September 1889 before a crowd of 4,000.[6] The ground was capable of hosting 20,000 spectators, although English football crowds rarely reached that number in the 19th century.[6]

Wolves bought the freehold in 1923 and soon began a series of ground improvements under the auspices of Archibald Leitch,[61] beginning with the construction of a major grandstand on the Waterloo Road side.[62] 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.[63] 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.[6] The 1940s and 1950s saw average attendances for seasons regularly exceed 40,000, coinciding with the club's peak on the field.[6] 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 around the globe.[62] 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.[16][64]

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.[62] 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.[62] 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.[62]

Following the takeover of the club by Sir Jack Hayward in 1990, £8.5 million of funding was made available to redevelop Molineux comprehensively.[6] 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).[6] Aside from the addition of a temporary seating area in the southwest corner used during Wolves' seasons in the Premier League;[65] this redevelopment formed the stadium for almost twenty years.

In 2010, plans were unveiled for an extensive redevelopment programme to enlarge the capacity and develop the facilities.[66] 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.[67] The proposed second stage concerned 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 and any further work was shelved when it became likely that the club would be relegated from the Premier League in 2012.[68]

Ground redevelopments have once again been placed on the agenda following the club's acquisition by Fosun in 2016. In contrast to previously mooted plans,[69] it was publicly revealed in February 2019 that future plans consisted of the rebuild of the Steve Bull Stand, potentially beginning in summer 2020 with an increase from 9,500 seats to 11,000, followed by the redevelopment of the Sir Jack Hayward Stand, potentially in 2022, to raise the stadium capacity to 45-46,000.[70]


First team squad

As of 12 December 2019[71]

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

No. Position Player
2 DF Matt Doherty
4 DF Jesús Vallejo (on loan from Real Madrid)
5 DF Ryan Bennett (3rd captain)
6 MF Bruno Jordão
7 MF Pedro Neto
8 MF Rúben Neves (vice-captain)
9 FW Raúl Jiménez
10 FW Patrick Cutrone
11 GK Rui Patrício
15 DF Willy Boly
16 DF Conor Coady (captain)
17 MF Morgan Gibbs-White
18 FW Diogo Jota
19 DF Jonny
21 GK John Ruddy
23 DF Dion Sanderson
No. Position Player
26 MF Taylor Perry
27 MF Romain Saïss
28 MF João Moutinho
29 DF Rúben Vinagre
32 MF Leander Dendoncker
39 MF Terry Taylor
37 MF Adama Traoré
49 DF Max Kilman
54 MF Owen Otasowie
56 FW Benny Ashley-Seal
57 MF Meritan Shabani
59 DF Oskar Buur
66 MF Flávio Cristóvão
68 MF Luke Cundle
77 MF Chem Campbell


Wolverhampton Wanderers Academy is a Category 1 status facility and has produced several high-profile graduates including internationals Robbie Keane and Joleon Lescott.[72] Many other players have gone on to play first team football. The academy is managed by Scott Sellars and is based at the club's Sir Jack Hayward Training Ground.[73]

Other teams

Wolverhampton Wanderers Under-23s compete in the Premier League 2 Division 1 for the 2019–20 season, having won promotion from the recently created Division 2 of the Premier League 2 as Champions in the 2018–19 season.[74]U23 side are also participating in Premier League International Cup 2019-20.

The club qualify as an entrant in Premier League 2 by virtue of their academy holding Category 1 status.[75] Although the league is designed for players aged 23 and below, three overage players may also feature.[75] 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 fourth level of women's football, the FA Women's National League Division 1 Midlands. Their home games are played at Bilston Town Football Club's Queen Street stadium.[76]

Club officials

Football staff[77]
  • Head Coach: Nuno Espírito Santo
  • Assistant Head Coach: Rui Pedro Silva
  • First Team Coach: Julio Aibar
  • First Team Coach: Ian Cathro
  • Goalkeeping Coach: Rui Barbosa
  • Head of Recruitment: John Marshall
  • Head of Academy: Scott Sellars
  • Under-23 Head Coach: Mark Kennedy (Caretaker manager)
  • Fitness Coach: Antonio Dias
  • Head of Analysis: Andrew Findlay
  • First Team Analyst: John Boston
  • First Team Analyst: Matt Pearson
  • Academy U-18 Analyst: Daniel Simpson
  • Technical Recruitment Officer: Russell West
Medical staff
  • Head of Medical Department: Phil Hayward
  • First Team Physiotherapist: Ollie Leaper
  • First Team Sports Therapist: Danny Fishwick
  • First Team Therapist: Rui Fuste
  • Soft Tissue Therapist: Matt Wignall
  • Rehabilitation Coach: João Lapa
  • Club doctor: Matthew Perry

Former players and managers

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,[80] as well as earning the Footballer of the Year Award (in 1952),[81] an accolade also won by Wolves half-back Bill Slater in 1960.[82] 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.[83][84]

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:[85]

Managerial history

Wolves can be identified as having had 27 different (permanently appointed) managers during the club's existence.[86] 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.[87] Two other managers have been inducted into the Club Hall of Fame: Major Frank Buckley and Graham Turner.[88][89] Turner oversaw two successive divisional championship wins in the late-1980s, winning the Fourth Division title in 1987-88 and the Third Division title the following season. Bill McGarry and John Barnwell both won the League Cup for Wolves in the 1970s and 1980s.[86]

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 this division in 2013–14.

Wolves have also been managed by two former England national team managers in Graham Taylor and Glenn Hoddle.[86]


As well as having numerous supporters' clubs across the United Kingdom,[90][91][92][93][94][95][96] Wolverhampton Wanderers also have an international support base, with supporters' clubs in Australia,[97] United States,[98] Sweden,[99] Spain, Germany,[100] Republic of Ireland,[101] Malta,[102] Iceland and Norway[103] 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 First Division, Saturday 29 November 1969).[104][105]


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;[106] their first competitive clash being an FA Cup tie in 1886.[106] A national survey by the football pools found the rivalry to be the strongest in English football.[107] 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.[108]

Wolves also share rivalries with the other two Birmingham clubs, Aston Villa and Birmingham City. Wolves have played both Villa and Birmingham numerous times dating back to the 19th century.[109][110] Wolves' closest geographic rival is actually Walsall but, as they have rarely competed at the same level,[111] it is of less significance. As Wolverhampton historically sat within the boundaries of Staffordshire, a Staffordshire derby between Wolves and Stoke City is also recognised. Wanderers also share a rivalry with Coventry City, Walsall and Shropshire-based Shrewsbury Town. Due to the league gap and therefore the two sides rarely meeting, the Shrewsbury rivalry is also of less significance. However, meetings between the two sides are often heated and sometimes end in violence between the two sets of supporters.[112]

Wolves were the only West Midlands team in the English top flight during the 2018–19 season – the first time they had been this region's sole top flight representative since the formation of the leagues. Following Aston Villa's promotion, there will be two West Midlands clubs in the Premier League in the 2019–20 season.[113]

Fan culture

During the club's peak in the 1950s, the home crowd's signature song was "The Happy Wanderer", which was a chart hit in the U.K. in 1954 when Wolves first won the league title.[114] 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.[115] "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 could incite trouble.[116][117]

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.[118]

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.[119] 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.[120][121]

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.[122][123] In the last published accounts of Wolves' group parent company (covering the 2017–18 promotion season), a pre-tax loss of £57.2 million was recorded, with £50.7 million being spent on staff wages and costs. Club turnover lay at £26.4 million.[124][125]

Like most football clubs, significant commercial income is generated from shirt sponsorship deals.[126] Past shirt sponsorship deals were as follows: Tatung (1982–86), Benjamin Perry (1986), Staw Distribution (1986–88), Manders Paint & Ink (1988–90), Goodyear (1990–2002), Doritos (2002–04), Chaucer Consulting (2004–09), Sportingbet (2009–13), What House? (2013–15), Silverbug (2015–16), The Money Shop (2016–18) and W88 (2018–19).[127] The club's current affiliation is with the betting website ManBetX, who signed a "long term" sponsorship deal in June 2019.[128]

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,[33] ending an almost four-year search for a new buyer.[129] Morgan oversaw nine full seasons, but placed the club on the market for new owners in September 2015.[130] 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.[30][131] During his tenure Sir Jack 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.[131][132]

Hayward's takeover greatly improved the club's financial health, after a turbulent 1980s in which the club twice was declared bankrupt.[23][28] 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.[23] 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.[25][26][27] 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.[6][28][62]


In the all-time table since the league's inception in 1888, Wolves sit fourth in terms of points gathered in all divisions at the end of the 2018–19 season.[133] Only Manchester United, Liverpool and Arsenal have more all-time points. With 7,780 league goals scored over 120 seasons (as of the end of 2018–19 season), Wolves have the third highest total of all-time league goals: only Manchester United and Liverpool have more.

League history

Wolverhampton Wanderers was a founder member of the Football League in 1888. The 2019–20 season is Wolves' 121st in the Football League system. Wolves has spent 115 of their 121 seasons to date within the top two tiers of English football. Wolves played in the third tier on four separate occasions, each occasion lasting just one season; three of these seasons ended with promotion back to the second tier as Champions, and one ended in relegation to the fourth tier. The club has played two seasons in England's fourth tier (in the 1980s).

  • Seasons spent at Tier 1 of the football league system: 65 (incl. 2019–20)
  • Seasons spent at Tier 2 of the football league system: 50
  • Seasons spent at Tier 3 of the football league system: 4
  • Seasons spent at Tier 4 of the football league system: 2
  • Longest continuous run of seasons spent in Tier 1: 26 (1932–1965; league football suspended 1939-46 due to World War II)
  • Longest continuous run of seasons spent in Tier 2: 14 (1989–2003)
  • Longest continuous run of seasons spent in Tier 3: 1 (1923–24; 1985–86; 1988–89; 2013–14)
  • Longest continuous run of seasons spent in Tier 4: 2 (1986–1988)


  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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