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.
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. 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 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, 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.
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.
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 the post in September 1964 after a disastrous start to the 1964–65 season. 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 lasted only two seasons as Wolves were promoted in 1967 as Second Division runners-up.
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 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.
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.
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.
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. The club was bought 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.
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. 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 Espirito Santo replacing him.
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. He moved from China to Wolverhampton in the summer 2017. The Fosun Group investment has paid dividends with the club's 2017–18 EFL Championship title success, which ensured a return to the Premier League after a six-year absence.
** – 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. 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.
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. Before the 1960s a darker shade of gold was used, known as "old gold", which is still often cited in the media as the club's colour.
Like most English teams, their earliest shirts usually only featured a badge on special occasions such as cup finals. The first such badge to be worn on Wolves shirts was the coat of arms of Wolverhampton City Council. 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.
Wolves' traditional away colours have been all-white, but recent decades have seen a variety of colours used, including black, blue, teal and purple.; The current away kit made by Adidas is all-white with 3 black stripes on the shoulders, the outside of the shorts and top of the socks.
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. After renovating the site, the first ever official game was staged on 7 September 1889 before a crowd of 4,000. The ground was capable of hosting 20,000 spectators, although English football crowds rarely reached that number in the 19th century.
Wolves bought the freehold in 1923 and soon began a series of ground improvements under the auspices of Archibald Leitch, beginning with the construction of a major grandstand on the Waterloo Road side. 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. The stadium finally now had four complete stands that would form it's 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. The 1940s and 1950s saw average attendances for seasons regularly exceed 40,000, coinciding with the club's peak on the field. 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. 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.
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. 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. 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.
Following the takeover of the club by Sir Jack Hayward in 1990, £8.5 million of funding was made available to redevelop Molineux comprehensively. 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). Aside from the addition of a temporary seating area in the southwest corner used during Wolves' seasons in the Premier League; 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. 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. 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. 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.
** – Molineux – **
Wheelchair disabled supporters can be located in the Billy Wright family area and the Stan Cullis stand. Ambulant disabled supporters can be located in all other stands. To apply for a seasonal disabled season ticket, application forms must be completed and submitted to the ticket office along with the relevant evidence. To be eligible you must be in receipt of one of the following: 1) medium or higher rate care or mobility component of Disability Living Allowance 2) PIP with a score of 16 or above 3) Mobility supplement of a war pension 4) Registered blind.
If applying for a free helper’s ticket then a letter will be require from the doctor confirming that assistance is needed for the full 90 minutes of the football. A doctors letter is not required if the disabled supporter is under 17. If you are not eligible for a free helper’s season ticket then you can apply for a Disabled Fans Friend (DFF) which is priced at the senior concession price for the relevant stand. No supporting evidence is required for a DFF and the DFF must be allocated seating adjacent to the Disabled season ticket holder.
Their designated disabled areas are the Billy Wright family area, the first 5 rows (A-E) in the Stan Cullis lower tier and the platforms in the upper and lower Stan Cullis. If you are attending Molineux on a match by match basis, then evidence will be required as above on a seasonal basis.
Ambulant supporters (including people with learning disabilities, mental health impairments, visual and hearing impairments) can choose to sit anywhere in the stadium, subject to safety. Some areas will be more suitable than others and they would recommend speaking to a Ticket Office representative for their advice on choosing the most suitable area before buying your tickets.
Wheelchair/scooter users who are unable to transfer to a stand seat will be accommodated at a pitch-level position in the home area stands. These areas are exposed to the elements so come prepared for all weathers, they also have plastic raincoats available from the stewards.
Guide and Assistance Dogs are welcome at Molineux Stadium and supporters are asked to contact the Ticket Office in advance of the game to let them know and enable them to make suitable arrangements.
Rachael Heyhoe Flint Paycare Disabled Lounge.
Their Disabled supporters are welcome to join them in the recently re-named Rachael Heyhoe Flint Paycare Disabled Lounge in the Stan Cullis Stand. The facility provides a complimentary drink in a dedicated room and is available to all disabled supporters. If you'd like to visit please ask the Steward when entering the Stadium.
Stewards are available to assist with:
Ticket office advisors are available during the week to meet the needs of disabled supporters and can be contacted on 0371 222 1877 or by emailing firstname.lastname@example.org
An Assistant should always be able to support the needs of a disabled supporter in an emergency. If you consider you would still require the help of a steward in an emergency situation or your Assistant is under the age of 16 please notify a steward as you enter the stadium. Stewards are there to help whether you have an Assistant or otherwise. If you are located in one of the upper tiers you or your Assistant should identify yourself to the Stewards' Supervisor as you enter the area in which you are located.
On Sundays you can enjoy a behind-the-scenes tour of Molineux Stadium as well as a trip around the fantastic Wolves Museum. Tours will depart at 11 am from reception in the Stan Cullis Stand and last for approximately 2 hours.
The Wolves Museum is a fun-packed football experience for all the family, young or old. You don't have to be a part of the Molineux faithful to enjoy the only dedicated football museum in the Midlands. This unique visitor attraction is based on four specially designed zones: An interactive Games Zone, History Zone, Club Zone and the Club's very special Hall of Fame.
If that wasn't enough there is a specially produced cinema show; the opportunity to see how Sports Science has impacted the whole of football and a number of state-of-the-art interactive games, including the chance to experience a TV interview from the legendary football commentator, John Motson.
Kids of all ages can be kept amused for hours taking a penalty against one of Wolves' legendary keepers, before themselves going between the sticks to face some of Wolves' top past and present marksmen. Travel through the good and dark times, experiencing a very special football story and learn how Wolves have shaped modern football, both at home an across the world.
Location : Molineux Stadium, Waterloo Rd, Wolverhampton WV1 4QR
Transport: Wolverhampton (National) 12 minute walk or bus. Bus Routes: 3, 4, 5, 5A, 62, 62A, 877 and 878 stop at the stadium.
Capacity : 32,050.
Stadium Tours: see above for tickets and times.
Museum Open Times: Non Match Day - Fridays 12:00 – 17:00; Saturdays 11:00 – 16:30; Sundays 11:00 – 15:30
Museum Open Times: Match Day. Mon./Tues 15:00; Wed. - Fri. 12:00; Saturday 9:00; Sunday 10:00; Close 90 mins. before kick-off.
Museum Tickets: Adults £7.00; Concessions £4.50; Family (2 adults & 2 concessions) £18.
Tel: 0371 222 1877