We tend not to be so hot on Wolves’ more recent anniversaries on this website – particularly those from the 21st century – but thought we would make an exception as it is 13 years today since the club’s only triumph in the play-offs.
May 26, 2003, was the day Wolves finally got it right both in reaching the Premier League and mastering the end-of-season overtime that will occupy our TV screens this coming weekend.
‘Too close to call’ and ‘Anybody’s game’ were among the tags accompanying previews of the final meeting with a Sheffield United side who had won well at Molineux in the autumn of that season and then hosted a 3-3 draw in the return at Bramall Lane a couple of weeks before the First Division play-offs kicked off.
Neil Warnock, who we revealed in February to have been interviewed by a manager-seeking Steve Morgan and Jez Moxey a few years ago, was in the Blades dug-out and already had a reputation as a serial promotion winner.
But all that counted for little as Dave Jones’s Wolves turned on the style in a first half that left their supporters in dreamland on the back of a 3-0 lead established by goals from Mark Kennedy, Nathan Blake and Kenny Miller.
The second half was still a bit scary on occasions and who knows what sort of agonies we may have endured had Matt Murray not taken off to his left to save Michael Brown’s penalty as the highlight of a man-of-the-match performance?
Sheffield had plenty of the ball but the feeling that this was Wolves’ day was confirmed by the most famous thumbs-up in football – delivered by a rosette-clad and beaming Sir Jack Hayward.
“Why would you not smile for those in old gold,” said commentator Peter Drury as the cameras panned on to the travelling masses during the post-match celebrations. “They have carried the weight of history which has now been lifted from their shoulders.”
It was 29 years ago yesterday that Wolves featured in their only other play-off final appearance – the second leg of the Fourth Division showdown at Molineux, where unfancied Aldershot defied the odds and completed a 3-0 aggregate victory.
The crowd at the Millennium Stadium was some 65,000 higher than for the first clash at the Recreation Ground in 1987 and we thought we would mark this anniversary with a few reminders of the things that might have been forgotten with the passing of the years:
* Mark Rankine was in the beaten Blades side, albeit only for the first half.
* Marc Edworthy was among the unused Wolves substitutes.
* Steve Bennett was the referee.
* Sheffield had finished third in the table, two places above Wolves.
* The Blades beat Nottingham Forest by the odd goal in the semi-final while Wolves overcame Reading 3-1 on aggregate.