Shades Of The 50s? No Way!
Wolves’ Ups And Downs Just Part Of The Rich Tapestry
No club’s fortunes have been as extreme as those of Wolverhampton Wanderers; victory over Real Madrid and capitulation against Chorley are just the tip of it.
More significant than such spectacular stand-out days and nights are the more enduring memories of how they won three League titles in a decade and yet were in the bottom half of the Fourth Division within 30 years and almost extinct.
In the 1990s, they found bewildering, different ways of making promotion to the Premier League appear like the impossible dream. Then, under Nuno and Fuson, they cruised to the Championship title in 2017-18 in style and comfort and soon marched on to a couple of seventh-place Premier League finishes and the advanced stages of major European competition. Sport is built on such dramatic transformations.
Get it right, you fly sky-high as heroes. Cock it up and you take a fall before planning to come again. It has always been like this – and always must be.
Richards, Hibbitt, Parkin and the rest remember competing in a top division without Manchester United. Tottenham also fell from the elite grade for a season later in the 1970s and Chelsea were promoted with Wolves in 1977, only to be relegated again a few years later. It happens. Or rather, it happened.
Money sees to it anyway that the playing field is rarely level but the long-established conventions and rules of sporting competition mean that even the mighty can sink. Owners, please take note.
Well done to Wolves’ power-brokers for recognising such principles in the statement they published yesterday amid the farce that was the proposed European Super League breakaway. Some, somewhere, do still have that common community touch.
What must supporters of Arsenal and Manchester United be thinking today? Hats off also to Jordan Henderson and James Milner for being so quick to stick their heads above the parapet and condemn the action of their employers at Liverpool. Credit, too, to Pep Guardiola for speaking out against the cosy bubble ‘Abu Dhabi Manchester City’ were heading towards.
But there was a lot of silence at the other clubs before City and Chelsea developed cold feet and the rest folded behind them like a pack of cards.
Time was when Wolves were very much in the European elite. Indeed, they were hailed as Champions of the World after famously beating Honved.
But, in their role as floodlit and jet-setting pioneers, they still went to Bury, Bristol City and Hull for friendlies. They fielded several teams, developed their own lads, many of them local. They didn’t forget their roots or turn their back on their smaller brethren.
They even flirted with a possible takeover from across the Atlantic in the late 1960s after Toronto-born sports mogul and franchise president Jack Kent Cooke was so smitten with their efforts in winning a lengthy summer tournament playing out of Los Angeles.
The atrocious plan that has surfaced in this still alarming football week would, if it had come to fruition, have driven a massive wedge through the game; one coated in greed, self-interest and with total regard for what we used to call the average fan.
It has gone away for now but beware for the future. We have an even clearer picture now about those running clubs at the very top of our game.
As the sport counts down the days to when grounds fill up again this summer, those who jumped on this soulless bandwagon must be dreading the day they have to be around fans again. And, even after John Henry’s grovelling apology, that is how it should be.