Wolverhampton Wanderers are one of the oldest football clubs in England and boast a lengthy list of legends from throughout their history. The Molineux natives have endured their ups and downs over the years. But heroes would emerge out of their decorated decades and their more troubled times.
Legends have materialised at Molineux who live long in the hearts of Wolves’ fanbase. So, Molineux News has taken a look at the top 10 icons of this historic club. From Billy Wright and Steve Bull, who is Wolves’ record goalscorer, to the West Midlands natives’ record appearance holder, Derek Parkin.
|Managers:||Frank Buckley (1938-44), Ted Vizard (1944-48), Stan Cullis (1948-59)|
|Years at Wolves:||1938-1959|
Wolves’ legendary former manager Frank Buckley almost pushed Wright out of Molineux having felt the defender was too small to make it after joining as a trainee. Yet the centre-half would go to be a true club icon and the definition of a one-club man during a 21-year career that began as a full-back.
Wright’s intuition ensured he grasped the responsibilities of a central defensive role having expertly read the game. His skills also saw the Ironbridge native take a place in footballing history as the first player to reach 100 international caps. He only missed three England games in 13 years after WWII.
England managers even awarded Wright the captaincy for 90 games, while his form at the club level helped toward the most successful periods in Wolves’ trophy history. The centre-back skippered his club to an FA Cup crown in 1948/49, whilst lifting three First Division titles before he retired in 1959.
Such is Wright’s legend at Wolves that the West Midlands natives erected a statue of him outside of Molineux. While only Real Madrid icon Alfredo Di Stefano edged Wright for the Ballon d’Or in 1957.
|Managers:||Graham Turney (1986-94), Graham Taylor (1994-95), Mark McGhee (1995-98), Colin Lee (1998-99)|
|Years at Wolves:||1986-1999|
Wolves were mired in the depths of the Fourth Division when Graham Turner raided their local rivals West Bromwich Albion to sign Bull and Andy Thompson in a combined deal worth £65k. It would be not only a stroke of utter genius but a defining act as Bull went on to score 306 goals in 561 fixtures.
No player has yet matched Bull’s goal-record tally at Wolves, while his efforts at Molineux helped to their recovery. The centre-forward’s prolific performances secured the club a fourth and third-tier title. He also became the only player to bag 50 goals in successive seasons in England.
Bull always gave everything he could to work his way into Wolves fans’ hearts and become a legend at Molineux. While the striker would score almost any type of goal and fired home an astounding 18 hat-tricks. But his persistent knee injury would, unfortunately, later force Bull to retire in July 1999.
The injury brought the curtain down on the career of one of the true cult heroes. Bull had also given back to Wolves during his legendary career having rejected a £1.5m transfer to Coventry City in 1995 ‘because of the fans’. While the marauding attacker also never played a game in the Premier League.
|Managers:||Ted Vizard (1945-48), Stan Cullis 1948-57)|
|Years at Wolves:||1945-1957|
Ted Vizard signed Bert Williams from Walsall in 1945 and secured the signature of a goalkeeper who would become a legend of Wolves. The following 12 years saw the shot-stopper breakthrough as an England regular and earn the nickname ‘the cat’ owing to the Bradley-born star’s incredible reflexes.
Italian media christened Williams Il Gattone following his Three Lions bow against the Azzurri, his debut came after the goalkeeper had helped Wolves win the FA Cup in 1949. A top-flight honour also followed for the shot-stopper at Molineux during 1953/54 as Wolves sealed their first league crown.
Williams’ efforts between the posts continually secured him international acclaim as one of the best in the business. His daring and athletic exploits were integral to Wolves’ First Division championship, as well. As was the £400k arrival’s quick and accurate passing out from the back to kickstart attacks.
|Managers:||Frank Buckley (1934-1944), Ted Vizard (1944-48)|
|Years at Wolves:||1934-1947, 1948-1964|
Cullis is an undisputed Wolves legend with a statue outside of Molineux and a stand named after the Englishman. The Black Country natives recognised his importance on their history twice having been a centre-half at the club before returning as a manager and atoning for his near-misses on the pitch.
Buckley brought Cullis to Molineux from Ellesmere Port Wednesday during his youth and even soon handed the defender the captaincy. Cullis was a born leader and took over the armband at just 19. He even took over the captaincy for England two days before the Ellesmere Port native turned 23.
Cullis was a dominant defender in his day with excellent skill on the ball to dribble his way out of any danger. While his performances also helped Wolves finish as the runners-up in the First Division title race in 1937/38 and 1938/39. The West Midlands club also lost the 1939 FA Cup final to Portsmouth.
Another near-miss followed in 1946/47 as Cullis helped Wolves to a third-place finish after WWII. Yet the trials and tribulations helped form the man who would replace Vizard at the helm in 1948. Cullis enjoyed a 16-year spell at Molineux that returned their three First Division crowns and two FA Cups.
|Managers:||Bill McGarry (1969-76), Sammy Chung (1976-78), John Barnwell (1978-82), Ian Greaves (1982), Graham Hawkins (1982-83)|
|Years at Wolves:||1969-1983|
Before Bull charged about Molineux, John Richards owned the record as Wolves’ top scorer with 194 goals in 485 games. The forward was a natural goalscorer with true striker’s instincts to find the back of the net. Yet he only got one chance to show his might with England having played out of position.
But Wolves revelled in what Richards delivered to see supporters hail their talisman as King John. He also gave their fans further reason to cheer in 1974 as the Warrington native scored the winning goal in the EFL Cup final at Wembley. He would also go on to win a second EFL Cup and a second-tier title.
Richards’ legend at Wolves continued off the pitch once his iconic playing career came to an end, as well. The Molineux natives hired their heroic attacker as a director and later managing director. But the prolific forward would not help Wolves to return to the UEFA Cup final like he had achieved in 1972.
|Managers:||Ronnie Allen (1967-68), Bill McGarry (1968-75)|
|Years at Wolves:||1967-1975|
Leicester City sold Derek Dougan to Wolves after two years in 1967 and he would go on to become a club legend at Molineux. The forward fashioned 123 goals in 323 games during the next eight years. He also recorded 18 appearances in European competitions, which still remains a club record today.
Dougan got his career with Wolves off to a dream start with a hat-trick on his debut against Hull City. The Northern Ireland attacker would go on to establish a prolific partnership with Richards, as well.
His efforts in front of the goal would further help Wolves qualify for the UEFA Cup and go all the way to the final in 1972. Tottenham Hotspur would ultimately edge an all-English affair 3-1 on aggregate. But Wolves and Dougan soon responded to clinch their first of two EFL Cup titles to date during 1973/74.
Molineux often revelled in Dougan’s flamboyant charm before the Belfast native saw out his career with Kettering Town. And even once the curtain fell on his playing days, Dougan had a big impact on the English game. He served as chairman of the PFA before returning to Wolves as chief executive.
|Managers:||Stan Cullis (1952-63)|
|Years at Wolves:||1952-1963|
Bill Slater had started to forge a career for himself as a versatile left-sided operator after emerging at Blackpool before joining Brentford. But it was his move to Molineux in 1952 that started a legendary period in the Englishman’s career. It also returned 25 goals in 339 games in the gold and black jersey.
Before joining Wolves, Slater was just an amateur having also had an academic career. Yet he helped Blackpool to the FA Cup final in 1951 before joining Brentford. His move to Molineux then saw Slater switch role as he fell down the flank to occupy the wing-back role in their 1953/54 title-winning side.
Further First Division honours followed in 1957/58 and 1958/59 before Slater headed infield to be a centre-half. His efforts in the core of their backline even saw Cullis hand the defender their captaincy before winning the 1960 FA Cup. While Slater also anchored England’s squad at the 1958 World Cup.
|Managers:||Stan Cullis (1951-64), Andy Beattie (1964-65), Ronnie Allen (1965-68)|
|Years at Wolves:||1951-1967|
Ron Flowers was vital to Wolves’ dominant era in the 1950s and a product of the club’s nursery club, Wath Wanderers. His robust presence and eye for creating chances set the tone for how Cullis’ sides operated. The midfielder, who first moved to Molineux as a trainee, was also consistently at his best.
Famous fixtures in Wolves’ history held under the Molineux floodlights against Spartak Moscow and Budapest Honved in 1954 plus Real Madrid in 1957 had Flowers’ trademark stamped firmly on them.
He later moved into a more defensive role near the end of Flowers’ spell in the West Midlands. But the 15 decorated years that he enjoyed at Molineux established the playmaker very firmly as a legend of Wolves. He also enjoyed 49 caps for England, including having a run of 40 consecutive appearances.
|Managers:||Ronnie Allen (1968), Bill McGarry (1968-76), Sammy Chung (1976-78), John Barnwell (1978-82), Ian Greaves (1982), Graham Hawkins (1982-84)|
|Years at Wolves:||1968-1984|
Ronnie Allen delivered Wolves a parting gift in 1968 by snapping up Kenny Hibbitt as his final signing at Molineux. The midfielder left cash-strapped Bradford Park Avenue as a teenager but would go on to be a Wolves legend. His 16 years in the West Midlands would yield 574 appearances for the club.
Hibbitt only ever represented England once but was a true icon of Wolves with a real tenacity to his game. His passing and clinical hit rate from the penalty spot was also far better than his international recognition suggested. Particularly in 1974/75, the midfielder fired nine goals from the 12-yard spot.
Important goals followed Hibbitt at Wolves during 1974, as well, after he opened the scoring in their EFL Cup final win over Manchester City. The midfielder was also still in the side that won the EFL Cup in 1980. He also returned to Molineux as an assistant coach for Bristol Rovers to a standing ovation.
|Managers:||Ronnie Allen (1968), Bill McGarry (1968-76), Sammy Chung (1976-78), John Barnwell (1978-82), Ian Greaves (1982)|
|Years at Wolves:||1968-1982|
Valentine’s Day 1968 saw Allen sign Parkin from Huddersfield Town and make the defender the most expensive full-back around. The next 14 years proved to be a true love story between the Newcastle upon Tyne native and Molineux natives. He joined Stoke City for the 1982/83 season before retiring.
Molineux bared witness to a true Wolves legend in Parkin, who remains their all-time record holder with 609 appearances. The defender, who earned the nickname ‘squeak’, also started in 607 of his outings as one of the club’s most important players and a guarantee on the teamsheet whenever fit.
Yet his career may have been very different when Parkin was admitted to hospital in 1972 with heart trouble. It ended his run of 233 consecutive league games, including 173 with Wolves. The pacey ace did not return from the career-threatening issue before he passed extensive tests in February 1973.
Parkin would make his return against his hometown club, Newcastle United, and also went on to win two EFL Cups. He further featured in 50 or more competitive fixtures in a single season five times for Wolves. It will take some doing for a future Wolves legend to surpass Parkin’s tally of appearances.