Next Stop Europe
Gateway To The Continent Is Open
Having suffered FA Cup semi-final heartbreak at Watford’s hands a month and a half ago, Wolves have had their slice of Wembley happiness after all.
The latest victory in Manchester City’s quite astonishing end to a treble-winning season means Nuno’s men will follow up their outstanding first year back in the Premier League by playing in the Europa League in 2019-20.
And to celebrate the fact that Wolves are returning to feature in major European cup competition for the first time in 39 seasons, we look back through the club’s history to provide these reminders:
*Wolves’ first Euro tie, after many of those famous floodlit friendlies, was against Schalke at Molineux on Wednesday, November 12, 1958. Peter Broadbent scored both home goals in a 2-2 draw.
*That surprise European Cup elimination, sealed by a 2-1 defeat in the second leg in West Germany, briefly looked like it might be repeated when Stan Cullis’s side – with another League Championship won – were beaten by the same score away to Vorwaerts in a preliminary tie in the autumn of 1959. But they recovered to win the return 2-0.
*Wolves played in the European Cup Winners Cup for the first time when, as FA Cup holders, they faced FK Austria on October 12, 1960. Only ten teams entered and England’s only representatives again needed to come from behind, turning round a 2-0 away deficit by prevailing 5-0 at Molineux before going out to Glasgow Rangers.
*Given all the success of the 1940s and 1950s, it apparently seemed like an age when Wolves went 11 seasons without European football. By way of preparing for their imminent return, though, they won the Texaco Cup in 1970-71.
*Maybe it was the success Bill McGarry’s squad enjoyed in those two-leg ties against Scottish and Northern Irish opponents that set them up to do so well in the following season’s UEFA Cup. They were a breath of fresh air in going against the trend of the era by attacking even in the away legs and winning on their travels against Academica Coimbra (4-1), Den Haag (3-1) and Carl Zeiss Jena (1-0) before drawing away to Juventus (1-1), Ferencvaros (2-2) and Tottenham (1-1).
*Various Wolves players have spoken about the anti-climax of playing another English club in the 1972 UEFA final after visiting Portugal, Holland, East Germany, Italy and Hungary in the earlier rounds. Somehow the public seemed to share the view – the crowd of 38,362 for the home first leg against Spurs was around 15,000 below that for the title decider against Leeds five days later. Maybe the gold and black masses would have been more turned on had AC Milan beaten Spurs in their semi-final.
*Three of the four Wolves goals in the home return against Den Haag were scored by defenders in the Dutch club’s ranks, Weimar, Mansveld and Van Den Burch.
*Wolves’ opening UEFA Cup opponents in 1973-74, Portuguese club Belenenses, had a goalkeeper bearing a surname that became extremely famous some decades later, Mourinho. This was the father of the super manager that first came to the attention of British eyes at Chelsea.
*In successive UEFA Cup ties, McGarry’s men came up agonisingly short. They beat Lokomotiv Leipzig 4-1 in 1973-74 at Molineux, only to go out on the away goals rule after losing the away game 3-0, then followed a 4-1 defeat in Porto ten months later by roaring to the brink of a wonderful rescue act with a 3-1 success in the return.
*Hopefully, at some time in the next few months, we will no longer have to describe Mel Eves as the scorer of Wolves’ last goal in major European competition. That has been the case for almost four full decades as a result of his second-leg winner at home to PSV Eindhoven in 1980 – and it’s quite long enough!
*Still undecided whether you are glad Wolves are in the Europa League? Graham Taylor was enthusiastic when his side at Molineux qualified in 1994 for the much lesser Anglo Italian Cup, so how chuffed will Nuno be feeling tonight?