Dean Saunders, the Wolves manager, said after his team's descent to League One was confirmed that they would have needed "a minor miracle" yesterday to have avoided a second relegation in successive seasons. He was wrong. It would have required a major one, and miracles have been in short supply at Molineux recently.
Wolves needed to beat fourth-placed Brighton and hope for the right results elsewhere, but they failed to fulfil their side of the bargain. A fight for survival never materialised and they were 2-0 down before mounting a half-hearted attempt at a recovery.
It will be no consolation that their total of 51 points would have left them safe last season. When Wolves were last demoted to the third tier, in 1985 – also thanks to a defeat at Brighton – things got worse before they got better as the team dropped to the old Fourth Division.
Saunders, appointed in January, believes that he is the man to stop any repeat of such a slide. "When the [final] whistle went I started rebuilding the club," he said. "We've got to put it behind us and start moving forward. Sometimes out of crisis you get opportunity – because we're at rock bottom – to change things drastically.
"It's happened before to clubs as big as this. Brighton are an example to everybody. I played for them 20 years ago; they went bankrupt, ended up playing miles away from Brighton, then in a stadium that wasn't theirs. The owners have done brilliantly, built a stadium like this, got out of League One, hit the ground running, and with their momentum they might get into the Premier League.
"We've got to do that. We've got to get players in who think like I'm thinking, who want to win – fresh minds, no damage done to them, no confidence issues. The supporters were brilliant today. They've had three years of pain, crap weekends, and I'll be determined to change it for them, because they deserve it."
Those long-suffering fans were stunned after only five minutes when Kazenga LuaLua cut inside three defenders before shooting low past Dorus De Vries. When LuaLua doubled the lead, the unimpressed Wolves fans chanted: "That's why we're going down".
Their team improved after the introduction of Stephen Hunt, but not enough to threaten Brighton, who face old rivals Crystal Palace in the play-off semi-finals. "Today's game sums our season up," Saunders said. "We've not been good enough in the opposition's box or in our own box. It's been going on three years.
"I think everyone's got to take a bit of blame. Over the last few years decisions have been made that end up in this. Eventually the mentality is not right in a club and you have to be ruthless and start again.."
The club chairman, Steve Morgan, was apologetic afterwards, saying: "We have failed our supporters and the city, and for that I am truly sorry. Clearly a lot of mistakes have been made over the past two seasons. Although every decision has been with the club's best interests at heart, we have clearly got some of those decisions wrong. I understand the fans' pain, anger and resentment towards me, the board and the players."
Brighton & Hove Albion (4-1-2-3): Kuszczak; David, Greer, Upson, Painter (Hammond, 78); Bridcutt; Vicente (Barker, 88), Crofts; Barnes, Ulloa, LuaLua (El-Abd, 70).
Wolves (4-4-1-1): De Vries; Doherty (Sigurdarson, 61), Johnson, Gorkss, Elokobi (Ward, 72); Dicko, Henry, O'Hara, Sako (Hunt, h-t); Doumbia; Doyle.
Referee Simon Hooper.Reuse content