Maybe I’m a sentimentalist, but watching a former top flight stalwart fight for promotion holds an undeniable appeal. Former league giants Leeds United nearly made it back to the top flight in 2006, and I found this notion exciting. Leeds repaid my interest with a disastrous season the following year and relegation in the spring of 2007.
Now, Wolverhampton Wanderers sit atop the Championship table, five points clear of Birmingham City.
The once mighty Wolves, who won three top tier titles in the 50s (and were a mere point away from winning a fourth in 1960), sunk as low as the fourth division in the mid 80′s until they were saved from an untimely death by an ownership change in 1986.
Eventually, Sir Jack Haywood bought the club in 1990 and invested in making Molineux Stadium into “one of the most modern in the country.”¹
Wolves made it to the playoff semi-finals in 1995, 1997 and 2002. They finally enjoyed promotion to the top in 2003, but were relegated again at the end of the season.
In the summer of 2007, Cheshire businessman Steve Morgan bought the Wanderers. “I remember the days when Wolves were the greatest club in the land,” said Morgan after taking over the club.² “And, although times have changed, we are going to do our best to take Wolves back to where they were.”
Now, Morgan’s Wolves may have a great chance at making the leap back to the top flight.
Wolves certainly have a fight in them. Their goal differential of 24+ is second only to Reading, who sit third. And they have one of the most exciting strikers in the Championship in 23-year-old Sylvan Ebanks-Blake who was named FourFourTwo Championship Player of the Year and also won Mitre Goal of the Year for a stunning individual goal against Charlton Athletic in 2008.
Nine points clear of the playoff zone, Wolves still have to face Birmingham, Southampton, Derby County, Queens Park Rangers and Barnsley. Wolves have a strong away record (11, 3, 6) and are unbeaten against the sides they still have to play away. Birmingham, who held Wolves to a draw when they visited Molineux, will likely be the biggest challenge as they too are fighting for promotion. Southampton who currently sit in the relegation zone will also have the motivation to cause problems for Wolverhampton as three points and some goals could deliver them to safety.
Wolves hit a five match rut in February, earning two points from five matches, but seem to be back on the right path lately, enjoying four wins and a draw since their slump.
A lot can still happen and who knows how Wolves will fare if they do win promotion, but this remains one of the most exciting times for Wolverhampton in years. The dream is in sight. If only the side can remain focused.