Wolves “The Ground Hoppers of the 1980s”

An ‘off topic’ piece written by Peter Crump.

The 1980s is without doubt the most turbulent period of our entire history. The 1980s is also a very interesting period to look at from a statistical point of view.

All four divisions (and back)

During the 1980s Wolves played in all 4 Divisions of the Football League. We also competed in the UEFA Cup, FA Cup, League Cup, The Associate Members Cup (Freight Rover Trophy/Sherpa Van Trophy) & the Division 4 Play Offs. We also squeezed in our first appearance in the Zenith Data Systems Cup in November 1989. In fact, in the FA Cup alone during the 1980s we played in every single round of the FA Cup Proper with the exception of the Final itself. We were of course very unlucky not to make the final in 1981 at Hillsborough.

Of course, Geoff Zico Palmer played at least 1 game in most of those tournaments as well as all 4 Divisions during his 2 spells. Palmer did not play in the Zenith Data Systems Cup however. Paul Pee Wee Dougherty also featured in atleast 1 game for the Wolves in all of the above baring the UEFA Cup & Zenith Data Systems. We of course spent 4 of only 6 seasons we have ever spent out of the top two Divisions in the 1980s.

Going down…

Wolves suffered 4 relegations in the 1980s. 3 of these from 1983/1984 to the end of 1985/1986 were of course back-to-back. Wolves becoming the second club to achieve this consecutive relegation from the top tier to the bottom (1 to 4) since Bristol City between 1978/1979 to 1981/1982. We were also relegated in 1981/1982. We also experienced 3 promotions. 2 of those were also back-to-back in 1987/1988 and 1988/1989 as Champions. We were also promoted in 1982/1983 as Runners Up. This meant that in every season of the 1980s we got promoted or relegated with the exception of 2. The only two seasons Wolves did not move a division was 1980/1981 however that year we got to the FA Cup Semi Final and we were in a relegation battle. The other was in 1986/1987. That year was not dull either. It was the season where we got going again and we also got to the Play Offs with an amazing end of season run. We of course unlimitedly lost to Aldershot. This season also included the famous Chorley games too.

The League Cup

In the cups we won the League Cup in 1980. Throughout the rest of the decade, we went out at the first hurdle with the exception of 1984/1985 and 1987/1988. In the FA Cup we also got to the Semi in 1981. After that we went out at the first hurdle on 6 occasions. The only time we progressed past the first hurdle was in 1983 and 1988. The last one impressive for the time as we began in the 1st round and made it to Round 3. We of course had the awful defeat in November 1985 to Rotherham when we lost 6.0 at Millmoor and according to many Wolves fans that day Scott Barratt was man of the match. Yes, that is Scott Barratt our keeper.

Chorley not

We also of course lost to Chorley the year after in November 1986 as mentioned. I genuinely believe from historic research that the Chorley game however was not our all-time low. I fully respect we lost to a non-league team in Chorley. Chorley were in the Multipart League which is effectively now the National League North. This means they were two leagues below us. Is it really that much of a shock for a team of that level to knock a Fourth Division team out the FA Cup? I believe it is regarded the way it is for two reasons. Firstly, it was because the tie lasted 3 games and it ended up in a mini drama. The second is our name Wolverhampton Wanderers.

The long road back

We were then however not the Wolverhampton Wanderers of 1980, the 1970s and certainly not the 1950s. We were Wolves who had found themselves in the 4th Division. We were however starting to turn our fortunes around. Our League form was reasonable at this time. Our home form still needed some surgery to be fair. It was only 6 weeks before this game that some sections of the Wolves Supporters were not happy we had sacked Brian Little and if we are being honest by the looks of it, they did have a point at the time. Little was doing atleast OK in tough circumstances. I am not saying it wasn’t bad of course it was. Would it be remembered as much however if we had simply lost 1.0 in the first game. I don’t believe it would have been. I do however respect anyone who does believe it is the all-time low. I’m just playing devil’s advocate with this one. Although they were in the same league as us the result from the year before against Rotherham in my view was just as bad. We had beaten Rotherham away that season only 5 weeks before. To lose 6 was poor. We were also at that point on the way down too. We were making our way to the bottom tier.

There was around the time of the Chorley games some light at the end of the tunnel begging to appear is my point. We of course had a much better record in the Associate Members Cup (Freight Rover/Sherpa Van). We didn’t start in that however in the first two seasons that well.

The Wembley Experience

During the 1980s we also appeared at Wembley on 3 separate occasion. Of course, we won the League Cup in 1980. We returned to Wembley twice in 1988. The first was of course for the Football Centenary and then the Sherpa Van. We were also not far away from going again in the Sherpa Van in 1989 too. Wolves were supposed to begin the decade at White Hart Lane on New Year’s Day 1980 however this was called off. Our first away game of the 1980s was a trip to Meadow Lane in the FA Cup. Where did Wolves play and where did we miss between New Year’s Day 1980 to New Year’s Eve 1989 however is the big question. We of course saw Wolves in the 1980s compete in all 4 Divisions of the Football League. This meant that Wolves played at pretty much every single ground in the football league at some point. In fact, after research there were only a few football grounds that I believe were active in the football league during the decade that Wolves did not play at. The first 3 are rather easy to identify.

The ones we missed out on…

Odsall Stadium is more famous as the home of the Bradford Bulls Rugby League. It was also the home of the now defunct Bradford Dukes Speedway team as well as being the home of The Speedway World Championship in 1985 and 1990. Bradford City played some of their home games at Odsall from September 1985 to December 1986 due to Valley Parade being out of use after the Bradford Fire. They also played some games at Leeds Road (Huddersfield) and Elland Road (Leeds). Wolves did feature however at Valley Parade in the FA Cup 3rd Round in 1988, our only trip there in the 1980s. Wolves did not play at Odsall. There is picture in today’s shots of Bradford playing there kindly provided to me by Paul Town. Paul you may have seen on Facebook and elsewhere with his outstanding paintings of football grounds and other football related topics.

Another one we missed in the 1980s was Glanford Park home of Scunthorpe United. Glanford Park was opened on Saturday 27th August 1988 in Scunthorpe’s 4th Division fixture against Hereford United. We had of course played at Scunthorpe United in 1987/1988 however this was at their Old Showground. We were only one season off Glanford Park as we won Divisions 4 at the end of 1987/1988 which was Scunthorpe’s last season at their old ground. We have of course played at Glanford Park since. Our first and only first team trip so far to Glanford Park was on 19th January 2008. This game saw a first ever goal for Sylvan Ebanks Blake. The Under 23s did play there in the Football League Trophy in September 2018. Scunthorpe United however were in the Central League Division 2 with us in 1989/1989. The away game however was not until February 1990.Another football league ground we did not play at that was active in the 1980s was Watling Street home of Dartford Football Club. This was also the home of Maidstone United when they were in the Football League from 1989 to 1992. Maidstone United won the Conference in 1989. They were the third team to be automatically promoted from the conference when this was in introduced in 1987. They followed Scarborough in 1987 and Lincoln who made an immediate return to the Football League in 1988. This ground of course was only active in the 1980s for a matter of 5 months.

Wolves also did not appear at Hulls Boothferry Park in the 1980s. We played there in October 1976 and again in April 1990. We did not feature there at all in the decade in a 1st team fixture. In the early 1980s Hull were in Division 3 and 4. They got promoted in 1984/1985 to Division 2 and we of course went the other way. They were then in Division 2 for the rest of the decade. If only we had played Hull away first in 1989/1990 instead of at home. Hull City were however in Central League Division 2 with us in 1984/1985 so the reserves played there.

Another ground we missed in the decade in a competitive fixture was also the Old Den. We did play at the Old Den however on Saturday 5th August 1989 in a pre-season friendly. This game saw a rare Steve Bull penalty. Millwall were also in the lower leagues in the early 80s. They were also promoted with Hull in 1984/1985 to Division 2 when we dropped to 3. By the end of the 1980s Millwall were in Division 1 when of course they had Teddy Sheringham and Tony Cascarino.

We of course do have to mention that before the automatic promotion from the Conference to the Football League was introduced at the end of 1986/1987 the teams that did finished in the so-called relegation places in Division 4 were of course put forward for re-election. This was usually the bottom 4 sides. Between 1979/1980 to the end of 1985/1986 all of the clubs that finished in the bottom 4 were re-elected. Scarborough were promoted in 1987 and they replaced Lincoln City. Lincoln then immediately returned in 1988 replacing Newport County. Finally, in the decade Maidstone United won promotion in 1989 when they replaced Darlington. Of course, the point being no new teams with new grounds did come in at the bottom other than Scarborough and Maidstone. Altrincham, Enfield, Runcorn and Wealdstone all missed out through the election process in the 1980s after winning the Conference, Maidstone United also suffered this fate in 1984. Of course, during the 1990s Barnet, Wycombe Wanderers and Cheltenham Town all became Football League clubs for the first time. Sadly, Macclesfield Town and Kidderminster Harriers missed out due to their grounds not being at the required standard for the Football league at that time. We made our inaugural trips to many of these grounds in the 1980s or certainly first trips for a very long time. Some of the 3rd and 4th Division grounds we had not played at since 1923/1924 or at all. We also squeezed in a trip to another new ground to appear in the Football League in the 1980s, namely Twerton Park in Bath which of course Bristol Rovers used after they had been thrown out of Eastville in 1986. They finally moved out of Twerton Park a decade later in 1996 when they moved back to Bristol to play at the Memorial Ground. We played at Twerton Park on Boxing Day 1988. We also squeeze in Eastville in March 1986 a matter of months before Bristol Rovers vacated it. We also played at Bootham Crescent (York City) in January 1986 and Original Plough Lane (Wimbledon) in April 1985 in our only ever visit to these two grounds. Of course, we will never play at these two again.

Never to return again…

We also visited some other grounds for the final time too in the 1980s, certainly in competitive fixtures. Sealand Road (Chester), Fellows Park (Walsall), Northampton (County Ground), The Dell (Southampton), Springfield Park (Wigan Athletic), Somerton Park (Newport), Scunthorpe (Old Showground), Northampton (County Ground) to name a few. We also have not visited some of the grounds that are still active since certainly in competitive fixtures such as Plainmoor Torquay, St James’s Park Exeter and the Recreation Ground in Aldershot are 3 examples. Add to this we also made trips abroad. PSV in 1980 in the UEFA Cup and friendly’s or tours in Athens, Bilbao, Jacksonville, Kuwait, Malta, Isle of Man, Sweden, trips over the Irish Sea to Linfield, Dundalk, Drogheda, Bohemians, Athlone. We also made trips in friendly’s to Wales to face Cardiff and Newport on a few occasions. We also travelled to Aberystwyth and Anglesey. Also add to the list Telford, Willenhall, Hednesford, Chasetown, Dudley Town, Bridgnorth Town, Bilston, Cradley Town, Moor Green, Kidderminster, Worcester, Halesowen. Stafford Rangers, Lye Town, Rushall and Stourbridge. We also travelled slightly further afield domestically to Runcorn, Chipping Norton, Forest Green, Aylesbury, Matlock, Ilkeston and more. Wolves literally played everywhere during the 1980s. There were of course Wolves fans who will at some point in the decade have done the 92. We have below a league table of all the grounds Wolves played at in competitive 1st team fixtures in the decade. I have also included the trip to the Old Den in the Friendly as this was the 1st team too. Also included are the 3 trips to Wembley. The top 3 are very interesting. Meadow Lane in Nottingham leads the way. Ironically this is where the decade started on the road. Remember we played them in the league, the league cup and the Sherpa Van. They were relegated with us from Division 1 in 1983/1984 also. Villa Park is number 2 again we played them in numerous competitions. Burnden Park also makes the top 3. We of course and topical for this week have to add the fact that we played Chorley their twice. Have you got your breath back yet?

No place like home…

We of course played at Molineux too. Both a 4 sided and a 2 sided ground. Unreal isn’t it where we went to in this decade.

Author: Mark M

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