On the 4th May 2013- Wolverhampton Wanderers are relegated for a second successive time after losing to Brighton on the last day of the season, dropping into the third tier of English football for the first time in 24 years. 16th March 2019- Wolves stun United to book their place in the FA Cup Semi-Finals (only their second appearance at Wembley in 31 years) sit 7th in the Premier League, and have a squad jam-packed with exciting European talent.
Wolves have managed to transform themselves from a team going nowhere fast, to a trailblazing side looking towards Europe and a cup final appearance, from the dark days of League One to where they are now its quite staggering.
At the time a season in League One wasn’t a particular disaster after the pain and suffering of back to back relegations. Being the big fish in a small pond suited Wolves, and they still regularly attracted 25,000+ crowds as they stormed to the title, breaking the 100 point barrier and only losing five league games all year.
On their return to the Championship Kenny Jackett steered them to an agonisingly close 7th place finish, missing out on the playoffs by just four goals. However a disappointing 14th place finish in 15/16 brought an end to Jackett’s tenure, just as the Fosun International group had bought the club.
The new Chinese owners first act was to appoint their own man in the shape of Walter Zenga, who would only last till October with the team sat 18th in the table. Paul Lambert was brought in to steady the ship, and that he did, managing to achieve a respectable if not mind blowing 15th place finish and upset Liverpool in the FA Cup 2-1.
With these two drab seasons in the rear view mirror fans had a reason to be optimistic in the summer of 2017, and that was for one reason and one reason only. Jorge Mendes. The super agent had been involved in the Fosun takeover the previous summer, and had slowly started to gain increasing influence in his advisory role. Summer signings included European wonderkid Ruben Neves, strong centre half Willy Boly, skillful playmaker Diogo Jota as well as more homegrown talents Ryan Bennett and John Ruddy, and Mendes was thought to be behind most of these deals.
Manager Nuno Espirito Santo was appointed (another Mendes client) and what followed was a brilliant transformation of the club. With a strong defence, a brilliant midfield and pace in attack Wolves were unstoppable, cruising to the title and a return to the Premier League, with central midfielder Ruben Neves looking like a bargain at just £15 million, his price surely quadrupling as he adapted to English football seamlessly.
This summer saw experienced Portuguese internationals Joao Moutinho and Rui Patricio join the club, as well as Adama Traore, Jonny and Ruben Vinagre all represented by Mendes, further improving an already strong squad. This has shown out on the pitch, as they have been a team capable of troubling the big boys, beating the likes of Chelsea and Tottenham while drawing with champions Manchester City, and look very much to be “the best of the rest”. While breaking into the top six may be beyond their powers this season, they have made an incredible return to the top flight and look very likely to be playing European football next term, weather that be through their league position or cup exploits remains to be seen.
All in all with a manager they adore and players they idolise, it really seems like Wolverhampton are well on their way back.