Hitting The Road And The Right Standard
It is three years ago this week since the passing-away of Jim Heath, a big friend and contributor to us at Wolves Heroes.
In tribute to his successful 2011 Wolves In 20/20 Vision book, we adopt the same theme here by spotlighting 20 memorable first-day away days as a way of boosting confidence levels before Saturday’s Championship kick-off against Blackburn at Ewood Park.
So, in a sort of order of merit, rather than chronologically, here we go…..relive and smile.
1. Arsenal 1 Wolves 3 (1963-64): What we would give for this sort of result now, with Wolves as a top-flight club! Chris Crowe, Jimmy Murray and Alan Hinton scored to get Stan Cullis’s last full season at Molineux off to a winning start against the club managed by Billy Wright.
2. Grimsby 1 Wolves 3 (1996-97): Same scoreline, different division……a Steve Bull hat-trick while wearing a teal-coloured change kit had Wolves off to a flier in Mark McGhee’s first full season in charge. Blundell Park in August was a new and enjoyable experience.
3. Norwich 0 Wolves 2 (1997-98): Robbie Keane was the talk of the town following two wonderful goals that elevated him sensationally on to the first-team stage having just turned 17. He was the special K in a duo of Wolves debutants made up by Dariusz Kubicki.
4. Bristol City 2 Wolves 3 (1977-78): A helter-skelter all-action start to life back in the First Division…..Wolves score one penalty (through skipper Willie Carr) and miss another. Bristol also have two penalties and are defeated by Martin Patching’s late shot. All this in the week Elvis died.
5. Newcastle 2 Wolves 4 (1898-1899): Wolves found St James’ Park a difficult opening-day venue in the 1970s and, curiously, followed up this goal-filled late 19th century win with blanks in their next four matches. It was also the first time in the ten-year-old Football League that they had won away on the first day.
6. Fulham 1 Wolves 2 (1967-68): It was in South London against Crystal Palace 14 weeks earlier that Wolves had blown their hopes of lifting the Second Division title. Back in the capital, they started Division One life on a happier note thanks to goals from skipper Mike Bailey and Derek Dougan.
7. Nottingham Forest 3 Wolves 4 (1930-31): An own goal was needed to help Wolves over the finishing line in this entertaining East Midlands v West Midlands meeting. The side had conceded five at Forest the previous March but got it right here, with Billy Hartill (2) and Wilf Lowton also on target.
8. Blackburn 1 Wolves 2 (2011-12): Wolves have played Blackburn a few times on opening day and they despatched them well enough four years ago in the Premier League. Steven Fletcher and Stephen Ward were the scorers, the latter a minute after fellow Irishman Kevin Doyle had seen a penalty saved by Paul Robinson.
9. Watford 0 Wolves 2 (1991-92): Wolves had a new man in the centre of their defence in debutant Lawrie Madden but it was the old striking firm of Andy Mutch and Steve Bull who struck the second-half goals to end the club’s nine-year wait for an opening-day victory.
10. Brentford 0 Wolves 2 (1992-93): A repeat success 12 months later…..Mike Stowell saved a penalty for the first of two consecutive games and the match-winning goals came from Steve Bull and Robbbie Dennison on the day Paul Blades made his Wolves debut.
11. Manchester City 0 Wolves 1 (1999-2000): Robbie Keane was less than two weeks away from his Molineux farewell when he bludgeoned in a first-half winner at Maine Road in a Sunday game shown live on TV – the third time in three years he had scored in the opening game.
12. Derby 0 Wolves 1 (1979-80): Wolves’ planned home start was cancelled because of building work on the new John Ireland Stand. Instead, they went to the Baseball Ground and prevailed over Colin Addison’s Derby thanks to a Wayne Clarke goal.
13. Birmingham 0 Wolves 1 (1959-60): Surprisingly, this was the first time for ten years that Wolves had recorded an away victory on the opening day of the League season. It was the last time they went into a campaign as top-flight champions and they looked the part as they won through Bobby Mason’s shot.
14. Port Vale 1 Wolves 3 (1924-25): Newly promoted Wolves didn’t just have higher company to cope with in this Second Division clash. They also had a new manager in Albert Hoskins. But they adapted well to win 3-1 with goals by Tommy Bowen, Harry Lees and Evan Edwards.
15. Port Vale 1 Wolves 4 (1928-29): Vale were the victims again four years later, by a heavier margin, at the start of a season of Wanderers struggle early in the reign of Major Frank Buckley. Against opponents who would crash 4-0 at Molineux in December, Harry Marshall (2), Reg Weaver and Wilf Chadwick scored.
16. Burnley 1 Wolves 2 (1974-75): Wembley match-winner John Richards needed only six minutes of the following season to strike in another 2-1 win. On the day of John Farley’s debut, this victory was sealed by a lob from Geoff Palmer against a club he would later join.
17. Plymouth 2 Wolves 2 (2008-09): Only a draw this time but it was the point that got Mick McCarthy’s side up and running on the trail that would lead to promotion. It came courtesy of a goal by Sam Vokes 12 minutes from time and only 60 seconds after he had gone on as a substitute.
18. Fulham 1 Wolves 2 (1949-50): Not for 19 years had Wolves won away on the first day of a season until they won 2-1 at Craven Cottage under Stan Cullis. Wing wonders Johnny Hancocks and Jimmy Mullen scored in the club’s victorious first return to London since their FA Cup final win over Leicester.
19. Leicester 1 Wolves 2 (1919-20): Wolves had thrashed Leicester Fosse 7-0 and 3-0 the previous season and used the first day of the following campaign to overcome the club by now known as Leicester City. Billy Harrison and debutant Billy Bate were the scorers in front of a 10,000 crowd.
20. Blackburn 0 Wolves 3 (2015-16): Kenny Jackett’s side were given a standing ovation off Ewood Park after a goal direct from a corner by Conor Coady, a stunning 40-yard free-kick by Kevin McDonald and a goal of the season contender by Benik Afobe had proved they can more than make up for the absence of Bakary Sako. Well, we can hope, can’t we?