Express & Star

How Wolves plunged to the lower leagues and nearly ceased to exist - Part 10: The Doc can't save the club

In more detail than ever before, the Express & Star tells the full Bhatti brothers story – a troubled era that saw Wolves plunge to depths of the lower leagues and face financial oblivion. In Part 10, a bright start to the 1984-5 season falls away to a dismal relegation and the firing of The Doc.

Last updated
Tommy Docherty was given a hero's welcome by fans when he arrived in June1984

Tommy Docherty's harsh words about Alan Dodd did not appear to have had an impact on his performance on the opening day of the 1984-5 season.

The want-away defender gave Wolves the lead over Sheffield United in front of 14,908 fans at Molineux, with Tommy Langley doubling the advantage a minute later.

But the Blades had little trouble carving open the Wolves defence after the break, and the game finished 2-2.

If nothing else, it was a pun-writer's dream, with references to the 'Doc's tonic' and the Blades 'all cut up'. It was a tough debut for teenager Tim Flowers, who found himself in goal after the club failed to find a replacement for Burridge.

He could not be faulted for either of the goals, but it demonstrated the responsibility that would fall on his young shoulders behind Wolves' shaky defence.

A 3-2 defeat away to Leeds United the following Saturday was a disappointment, but home wins over Manchester City and Charlton Athletic propelled them up the table, and it looked like Docherty's new-look Wolves would be in with a shout of promotion at the end of the season.

A point away to Middlesbrough was followed by five league defeats in a row, with a 5-1 defeat away to Barnsley on live television being a particular humiliation.

A mini-revival at the end of October and start of November gave a brief glimmer of hope, with Wolves picking up 10 points from a four-game unbeaten run. But this was ended by another 5-1 drubbing away to Grimsby Town. The Doc's medicine did not appear to be working, and it looked like major surgery would be needed.

At the start of the season, Wolves director John Starkey described relegation as "a temporary setback rather than a disaster".

But it wasn't the only one.

As fans grew restless about the lack of money for new players, patience was also wearing thin about the lack of progress on the ground development.

Two years earlier, Mike Rowland had unveiled his bold four-year programme to redevelop Molineux into a 35,000-capacity stadium, trade centre, science park, leisure centre, boys' club and offices.