Wolverhampton Wanderers Football Club - History & Notable Players

Wolverhampton Wanderers

Wolverhampton Wanderers logo


  • Name: Wolverhampton Wanderers Football Club

  • Nickname: Wolves

  • Founded: 1877

  • Ground: Molineux Stadium

  • Ground capacity: 32,050

Molineux Stadium

picture of Molineux Stadium
  • Wolverhampton Wanderers F.C. (1889–present)
  • Capacity: 32,050 - Opened: 1889

Molineux Stadium consists of four stands.
The Steve Bull Stand (formerly the John Ireland Stand), the Sir Jack Hayward Stand (formerly the Jack Harris Stand), the Stan Cullis Stand and the Billy Wright Stand.

Both the Billy Wright and Stan Cullis Stands feature statues of each man in front of them and on 14 June 2018, a statue of Sir Jack Hayward was also unveiled near to the stand bearing his name.

The total seated capacity of the stands is approximately 31,500, with a temporary seating area lifting the present official capacity to 32,050. The current stadium design stems from the early 1990s when it was extensively redeveloped to become a modern all-seater venue in accordance with the Taylor Report, which required British football stadia to provide seating for all those attending.

In the days before seating regulations, the ground could hold more than 60,000 spectators; the record attendance for a match at the ground is 61,315 for a Football League First Division game against Liverpool on 11 February 1939. The 1940s and 1950s saw average attendances for seasons regularly exceed 40,000, coinciding with the club's peak on the field.

Molineux has hosted England internationals. The first was a 6–1 win over Ireland on 7 March 1891. England again beat Ireland, this time 4–0, on 14 February 1903 and lost to Wales 2–1 on 5 February 1936. The last was a 5–2 defeat of Denmark in a 1958 World Cup qualifier on 5 December 1956. It has also hosted four England under-21 internationals (in 1996, 2008, 2014 and 2018) and, in 2005, hosted some European Youth Championship qualifying matches.

Up until May 2011, the ground had a capacity of 29,400.
However the 5,500 Stan Cullis Stand was knocked down for redevelopment and 230 seats in the lower tier of the Steve Bull Stand were taken out as part of the process taking temporary capacity down to 23,670. The lower tier of the new North Bank (holding 4,000) was opened for use in September 2011 for the team's second home game of the season, which took the stadium capacity up to 27,670.

The upper tier on the new stand (3,700 seats) was completed by the start of the 2012–13 season, taking the overall capacity of the stadium up to 31,700. However the club have delayed the second phase of the redevelopment in rebuilding the Steve Bull Stand. Following relegation from the top flight in 2012, the South-West Corner was dismantled until regaining promotion six years later.

The Molineux name originates from Benjamin Molineux, a successful local merchant (and a distant relative of the now extinct Earls of Sefton) who, in 1744, purchased land on which he built Molineux House (later converted to the Molineux Hotel) and on which the stadium would eventually be built. The estate was purchased in 1860 by O.E. McGregor, who converted the land into a pleasure park open to the public. Molineux Grounds, as it was titled, included a wide range of facilities including an ice rink, a cycling track, a boating lake and, most crucially, an area for football.

The grounds were sold to the Northampton Brewery in 1889, who rented its use to Wolverhampton Wanderers, who had previously played at Dudley Road. 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.

Wolves bought the freehold in 1923 for £5,607 (£303,338.70 in 2018 prices) and soon set about constructing a major grandstand on the Waterloo Road side (designed by Archibald Leitch). In 1932, the club also built a new stand on the Molineux Street side and followed this with adding a roof to the South Bank two years later. The stadium finally now had four stands, which formed Molineux for the next half century. The South Bank Stand terraces was one of the largest goal stands in Britain.

Further redevelopment and decline
In 1958, plans were unveiled to rebuild Molineux into a 70,000 capacity stadium during the early 1960s, but these were rejected by the local council and there were no major changes at the stadium for another 20 years.

The Molineux Street Stand (by now all-seater) failed to meet the standards of the 1975 Safety of Sports Grounds Act. The club set about building a new stand behind the existing one, on land where housing had been demolished. The new stand, designed by architects Atherden and Rutter, had a 9,348 capacity, equipped with 42 executive boxes, although sporting red seats in contrast to the club's traditional colours. When the construction was complete, the old stand lying in front was demolished, leaving the stand some 100 ft from the touchline.

This new stand, named the John Ireland Stand (after the then-club president), was opened on 25 August 1979 at the start of a First Division game against Ipswich Town. This was intended as the first phase of a complete reconstruction of the ground, which would have given it a 40,000 capacity by 1984 and made it the first completely rebuilt stadium in postwar league football. However, the John Ireland Stand was the only phase of this project which would become reality. Further redevelopment was still a decade away.

The John Ireland Stand (renamed as The Steve Bull Stand in 2003), completed in 1979, had cost £2.5 million (£13,675,000 in 2018 prices) and had been one of the most expensive developments at any football ground in the U.K. The cost of the stand's construction plunged Wolves deep into debt and the club narrowly avoided liquidation in 1982, when it was taken over by a group fronted by former player Derek Dougan.

By the time Wolves slid into the Football League Fourth Division in 1986, the John Ireland Stand and the South Bank terrace were the only sections of the ground in use, after new safety laws implemented following the Bradford City stadium fire forced the closure of the North Bank and Waterloo Road Stand, which had become very dilapidated. Additionally, attendances had fallen due to the club's on-the-field decline.

The club's perilous financial situation meant the stadium fell into ruin, with no funding either for repairs or to move the pitch. The club was saved from folding in August 1986 when Wolverhampton Council bought the ground for £1,120,000 (£3,236,800 in 2018 prices), along with the surrounding land, while Gallagher Estates, in conjunction with the Asda Superstore chain, agreed to pay off the outstanding debt – subject to building and planning permission for a superstore being granted. Although the stadium continued in use, the disused sections were never reopened.

Present day stadium
The takeover of the club and stadium by Sir Jack Hayward in 1990 paved the way for redevelopment, which was further prompted by legislation following the Taylor Report that outlawed terraces which affected Premier League and Division One stadiums from the 1993–94 season. The North Bank terrace was demolished in October 1991 and the new Stan Cullis Stand was completed in August 1992, in time for the 1992–93 season. Next came the demolition of the Waterloo Road Stand, with the new Billy Wright Stand opening in August 1993. The final phase of the redevelopment came in December 1993, when the new Jack Harris Stand was opened on the site of the South Bank terrace.

The newly renovated stadium was officially opened on 7 December 1993, in a friendly with Honvéd, the Hungarian team who had been beaten in one of Molineux's most famous original floodlit friendlies.

Steve Bull stand, Molineux Stadium, 28 April 2018
In 2003, the John Ireland Stand was renamed the Steve Bull Stand (in honour of the club's record goalscorer) and, at the same time, the south-west corner of the ground was filled with 900 temporary seats, known as the Graham Hughes Stand, which, until their removal in the summer of 2006, raised the Molineux capacity to 29,400. This seating area – now officially named the Wolves Community Trust Stand – was again added on the club's return to the top flight in 2009, which lifted the capacity to 29,195 before the club began its redevelopment of the stadium in summer 2011. In August 2015, the Jack Harris Stand was renamed the Sir Jack Hayward Stand in honour of Steve Morgan's predecessor as the club's owner, who had died earlier that year.

The record attendance for the stadium in its current configuration is 31,436, which was achieved on Wednesday 24 April 2019 against Arsenal in the Premier League.

Gary O'Neil

picture of Gary O'Neil

The Facts

Wolverhampton Wanderers FC, commonly referred to as simply 'Wolves', were formed as St Luke's F.C. in 1877, and have played at Molineux Stadium since 1889.

They recently won the 2017–18 EFL Championship.

Wolves were one of the founding members of the Football League in 1888.

In the 1950s, Wolves were English League champions three times (1953–54, 1957–58 and 1958–59), under the management of Stan Cullis. Wolves 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 were one of the first British clubs to install floodlights, 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.

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 1972 UEFA Cup Final.

Their traditional kit consists of gold shirts and black shorts and the club badge one or more wolves.

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 they last competed in the same division in 2011-12.

For further information check out their Official website

Notable Players

picture of Billy Wright

Billy Wright - 1939 to 1959

picture of Stan Cullis

Stan Cullis - 1934 to 1947

picture of Steve Bull

Steve Bull - 1986 to 1999


picture of

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". 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. 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.

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

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.

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. 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.

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. 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. 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. Wolves had become one of the first club sides in Britain to invest in floodlighting in 1953 at a cost of £10,000 (£274,000 at 2018 prices). 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". 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. 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.

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. 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.

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, 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. Initially this takeover, financed by two Saudi brothers, Mahmud and Mohammad Bhatti of the company Allied Properties, 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, as well as the almost-constant threat of the club being wound-up.

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. 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, 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. 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. 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. The club was bought from Sir Jack Hayward by Steve Morgan in 2007 and two years later the team returned to the Premier League as 2008–09 Football League Championship title winners. Wolves successfully battled relegation for two seasons before McCarthy's dismissal in the 2011–12 season, which precipitated relegation under his assistant Terry Connor.

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

Under new ownership: return to the Premier League and UEFA 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 (he was replaced by managing director Laurie Dalrymple). Days later, the new regime announced that Kenny Jackett's contract with the club had been terminated and former Italian international Walter Zenga was appointed. 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, with former FC Porto boss Nuno Espírito Santo replacing him. Under Nuno, and with the addition of significant new playing personnel in Rúben Neves, Willy Boly and Diogo Jota (the latter on loan), Wolves went on to clinch the 2017–18 Championship title, to return to the Premier League after a 6-year absence.

Wolves's return to the Premier League after 6 years saw further enhancement of the playing squad with news signings such as Rui Patrício, João Moutinho and Raúl Jiménez (the latter on loan). The season saw a seventh-place finish which not only represented Wolves's highest placing in the Premier League in five attempts, it was also Wolves's highest placing in the top division since finishing sixth in 1979–80. Wolves were also awarded a place in the 2019–20 UEFA Europa League by virtue of their seventh place league finish.
>br> After 4 seasons at the club, Nuno Espírito Santo, despite only signing a three-year contract extension to 2023 in September 2020, stepped down as manager, after the 2020-21 season saw the team finish in 13th place. Former Benfica manager Bruno Lage was appointed on 9th June 2021. However, on 2nd October 2022, the club confirmed they had parted company, after a poor start to the season.

On 5th November 2022, Wolves announced that they had secured the services of new Head Coach Julen Lopetegui, with the Spaniard officially taking charge of the men’s first-team squad on 14th November 2022. Hower, on Tuesday 8th August 2023, Wolves and Julen Lopetegui reached an agreement to part ways, ending the Spaniard’s nine-month reign as head coach at the club. he following day, on Wednesday 11th, Wolves announced that Gary O’Neil had been appointed the new head coach, signing a 3 year deal.

picture of wikipedia logo