Wolverhampton Wanderers is one of the oldest football clubs in Britain, having been founded in 1877 as St. Luke’s FC. The men from the Midlands were one of the 12 founding members of the Football League in 1888.
While domestic success has eluded the team from the Midlands in recent decades, the men in the gold shirts were once the dominant force of the English game.
Wolves have yet to win the Premier League title. However, as we all know, the game existed before the 1992 establishment of the Premier League. Wolves have in the past been English champions on three occasions.
The early years
Although league success eluded them in their early years, Wolves enjoyed the early years of the FA Cup. As well as taking part in the first Football League campaign in 1888/89, Wolves also reached the FA Cup final in the same season, suffering a 3-0 defeat to double winners Preston North End.
Wolves won the FA Cup for the first time in 1893 when they defeated Everton 1-0. Three years later, they made it to the FA Cup final once against, only to suffer a 2-1 defeat against the Wednesday (now Sheffield Wednesday).
Wolves suffered relegation to the Second Division for the first time in 1906. However, two years later, they won the FA Cup for a second time, beating Newcastle United 3-1 in the final. They suffered yet another FA Cup final defeat in 1921 when they went down 1-0 at the hands of Tottenham.
While Wolves seemed to have an affinity to the FA Cup, their league form suffered, and the men from the Midlands suffered relegation to the Third Division in 1923. Their stay in the third tier didn’t last long, though, as they won promotion as champions in their first season in the third tier.
Wolves spent eight years in the second tier before winning promotion back to the First Division under Major Frank Buckley. They had now not featured in England’s top-flight for 26 years.
Under Buckley, Wolves became a fine side pre-Second World War, finishing as First Division runners-up on two occasions in seasons 1937–38 & 1938–39. They also reached the FA Cup final once more in 1939, only to suffer a 4-1 defeat against Portsmouth at Wembley.
When the First Division returned after the end of the Second World War, Wolves once again came close to becoming English champions for the first time. They went into the last day of the season knowing that a win over title rivals Liverpool would see them crowned as English champions for the first time. Unfortunately, for the men from the Midlands, they suffered a 2-1 defeat, and Liverpool won the First Division title.
Former player Stan Cullis brings success
The following season, Wolves claimed their first silverware in 41 years. Former playing star Stan Cullis was in his first season in charge of the club, as they defeated Midlands rivals Leicester City 3-1 in the FA Cup final.
Incredibly, the following season saw Wolves denied their first English top-flight title by virtue of an inferior goal difference to Portsmouth.
Cullis led Wanderers to their most successful period in the 1950s. Captained by the great Billy Wright, Wolves finally became English champions for the first time in season 1953–54. They finished four points above local rivals West Brom. An 18-game unbeaten run played a crucial role in their first title success.
The team from the Midlands went from strength to strength, winning the league title again in seasons 1957–58 and 1958–59. In 1958 Wolves won the league title by four points and in 1959 by six points finishing ahead of what was a greatly revered but weakened Manchester United team due to the Munich air disaster.
That period saw Wolves become one of the first English clubs to participate in the then-newly-formed European Cup.
Cup successes and relegation
Wolves kicked off the 1960s with mixed fortunes. Wolves lost out on claiming their fourth title on the final day, finishing just a point behind league champions Burnley. However, they won the FA Cup by defeating Blackburn Rovers 3-0 in the final at Wembley.
Cullis ended his 16-year spell as Wolves boss in 1964 after a poor start to season 1964/65. Unfortunately for Wolves, they suffered relegation to the Second Division that season. It was their first relegation since 1923.
Wolves took just two seasons to return to the top flight, as in 1967, they won promotion as Second Division runners-up. They qualified for the UEFA Cup for the 1971/72 season and finished as runners-up in the competition, losing a two-legged final 3-2 against Tottenham.
They claimed their next silverware in 1980, as Wanderers recorded a 1-0 win over the mighty Nottingham Forest in the League Cup final.
End of silverware and financial problems
The League Cup victory was their last major silverware to date, as the club experienced financial struggles, which led to some tough times on the pitch. At one point, Wolves even found themselves in the fourth tier of English football.
The club from the Midlands steadied the ship and, in 2003, won promotion back to the Premier League, 19 years after they last featured in the English top flight. Their stay in the top flight lasted just a season before relegation.
In 2013, Wolves once again suffered relegation, this time to League One. However, Kenny Jackett led the club from the Midlands back to the Championship in 2014. In season 2017/18, they returned to the English top flight after six years of absence.
A historic club
Wolves’ golden years may be a distant memory. Still, they will also be a club that is important in the history of English football, especially as they were one of the 12 original members of the Football League.
One day they may return to the top of the English football tree. However, even if they don’t, as a club, they will always have those successful seasons in the 1950s to look back at with pride and wonder.