There will be a 1980s reunion at Molineux today as Wolverhampton Wanderers mark the 25th anniversary of their Wembley victory over Burnley in the final of the Football League Trophy – or Sherpa Van Trophy as it was then known.
Yet, it is the threat of a different kind of eighties revival that will be playing on worried minds inside Molineux. Wolves risk becoming the first team to have dropped twice from the top division into the third in successive seasons – a fate they first suffered in 1985.
They sit third-bottom of the Championship with two games left – Burnley at home today, then Brighton away next Saturday – and as their manager, Dean Saunders, admitted, halting a club’s downward slide is not easy. “It won’t be the first time it has happened. [Look at] Southampton, Leeds. It is like stopping a runaway train.”
The view of Mel Eves, the former Wolves striker, is that they are paying the price for “mismanagement as far as the football side of the business is concerned. They’ve just made what have proved to be poor decisions.” For which the blame lies principally with the club’s owner, Steve Morgan.
Saunders, who suffered relegation from the Championship with Doncaster last season, suggested that “you need a certain formula to do well in this league”, and explained that rather than footballers with a taste for the Premier League, “you need good Championship players who are happy to be in the league, know what they need to do to win”.
Wolves have clearly got the formula wrong: Mick McCarthy’s old guard have toiled, while of successor Stale Solbakken’s seven signings, only the £3m Frenchman Bakary Sako has been an unqualified success. “They’ve got the second highest budget in the league and are in the bottom three and could get relegated,” added Eves.” Yet, he stresses, if relegation does happen, “it is not a 1985 situation”. Then Wolves were in the ruinous hands of the Bhatti brothers. Now they are debt free and due a further parachute payment from the Premier League.
Football League: Ups and downs
Cardiff are champions. Brighton & Hove Albion can confirm a play-off place alongside Watford with a win over Wolves. Crystal Palace, Bolton, Leicester or Nottingham Forest could join them.
Bournemouth are up, while Doncaster visit Brentford where the victors will be promoted; a draw will also take Doncaster up. At the bottom, Scunthorpe need to beat Swindon by two goals and hope Carlisle beat Colchester.
Port Vale need a point at Wycombe to join Gillingham in going up, while Rotherham must better Cheltenham’s result to be sure of promotion. At the bottom, Aldershot need to win to have any hope of staying up, Wimbledon require a victory to be safe. Five other teams – Barnet, Dagenham, York, Plymouth and Torquay – remain in danger.