Express & Star

How Wolves plunged to the lower leagues and nearly ceased to exist - Part 8: Wolves say goodbye to top flight football

In more detail than ever before, the Express & Star tells the full Bhatti brothers story - a troubled era which saw Wolves plunge to depths of the lower leagues and face financial oblivion. In part 8, Wolves bid farewell to top flight football

Protesters demand the hated Bhatti brothers quit Wolves

The problems behind the scenes had not caused too much concern during the 1982-83, season, as fans cheered the team on to promotion.

But now with a team hopelessly unable to compete in top flight in 1983-84, it was obvious that the bad old days would be back with a vengeance unless manager Graham Hawkins found some new players and fast.

With redevelopment plans stalled, and no money in the kitty for new players, the future looked bleak

In an attempt to calm the growing mutiny, chairman Derek Dougan wrote a column in the Express & Star on October 7, 1983, explaining the situation.

"I have suffered in silence over the last 14 months and listened to the sceptics and fickle people who have leapt at every opportunity to criticise, decry and question the efforts we have made to assure the future of Wolves," he wrote.

"The name of the game we are playing at Molineux nowadays is called sanity. To put it simply, it means creating a situation where our income exceeds our expenditure."

Wolverhampton Wanderers 1983/84 squad: (back row, l-r) Peter Daniel, Alan Dodd, John Humphrey, Paul Bradshaw, John Burridge, John Pender, Hugh Atkinson, Mick Bennett (middle row, l-r) Dale Rudge, Tony Towner, Mel Eves, Billy Kellock, Andy Gray, Kenny Hibbitt, Wayne Clarke, Mick Matthews (front row, l-r) manager Graham Hawkins, Bob Coy, Paul Butler, Geoff Palmer, Ian Cartwright, Billy Livingstone, Gordon Smith, assistant manager Jim Barron.

He said the state of the finances when he took over in August 1982 were “10 times worse” than he originally feared.

"At the time of the takeover we had no scouting system and no physio – the players were having to treat themselves – and there was insecurity everywhere we looked among the staff."

Dougan said any transfers would have to be paid for with funds generated by the club, and suggested that this would only be possible if a deal could be struck with the council and the Government for the redevelopment of Molineux.

It seemed that Wolves' transfer policy was now in the hands of council planners and government officials.

Mel Eves, whose goals had propelled Wolves back into the First Division, recalls how the joy of promotion quickly turned to despair as it became obvious the club was in serious difficulty.

"The 1983-84 season was absolutely horrendous," he says.

"I hadn't got a clue about the ground plans – all I could see was everything falling apart.

"It was terrible, they would constantly be calling players into the boardroom telling them they had got to go to save money.

"They let Andy Gray go to Everton for £250,000, after paying £1.5 million for him. That must have been the steal of the century for Everton. For me his most productive years were in the 1980s.

"John Richards went to Portugal, they sent me out on loan to Huddersfield to save money.

"It wasn't anything to do with how I was playing, it was just to save money, and I wasn't on big money.

"When I went on loan to Huddersfield, I scored four goals in seven games.

"Wolves were always struggling to score goals, so towards the end of my loan period, after Jim Barron had taken over from Graham Hawkins, he called me back to Wolves.

"We were playing down at Watford, and after 10 minutes I ruptured my Achilles. My contract was up, and they offered me worse terms than I was on.