Molineux’s new museum opens with a simple sentence to begin such an epic story.
“In 1877, St Luke’s School in Blakenhall started a football team . . .”
Some 25,000 words later, the tale of Wolverhampton Wanderers is brought bang up to date – but that doesn’t even begin to cover the experience in between for visitors to the new museum unveiled by the club last night.
About 600 square metres of the rebuilt Stan Cullis stand have been utilised to house what can only be described as a homage to the club’s rich and eventful story since that simplistic origin at St Luke’s.
Within the dimensions, ancients artefacts are glass-cased alongside up-to-the-minute touch-screen technology, all of it devoted to the story of the city’s most famous institution. As if to drive home the point, entrance is with a computerised ticket – but through an old, clanking turnstile that will bring the memories flooding back for generations of fans.
The museum has been the baby of owner Steve Morgan and as former players, including Ron Flowers, Steve Bull, Derek Parkin and Jim McCalliog – all the way from Ayrshire no less – revelled in the memories it provoked last night, he looked on with paternal pride.
“When I came to here, I knew the story of Wolves was a proud one, that the club had so much history,” he explained. “But when I took over, there was nothing for the fans to see it or feel it.
“That’s what I hope we have changed with this museum. I think we have.”
It was difficult to disagree because this is a football museum which can proudly stand its ground with any of the others the club researched – from Hampden to Real Madrid via Liverpool and Arsenal – as it fought to bring the owner’s vision to a £1m reality.
Mr Morgan was committed to providing a display which would captivate across the generations, “from eight to 88-year-olds,” he said.
As a result, more than 25,000 pieces of memorabilia have been archived on the museum’s computer data base although there is capacity to triple that upload. The museum has also had access to hundreds of photographs from the Express & Star archive.
Want to take a look at that 1938 match day programme? Want to revisit the news reels of the 1960 FA Cup triumph? Want to see newspapers, films, letters, documents from key moments in the club’s history? Touch a screen and watch them come to life.
And while you’re doing that, the kids can be busy playing the interactive games available.
“I’ve just beaten Bert Williams from the penalty spot,” laughed former striker Mel Eves after taking his turn in the digital games corner. “Bert will be disappointed he didn’t reach it - mind you, he is 93 now!”
Mums and dads meanwhile can gaze in awe at some of the stand-out exhibits such as Ron Flowers’s World Cup winners medal, finally struck and presented to him a couple of years ago.
He’s handed it over to the Museum for safe keeping: “Well, it would only be at home with me to see it.”
There’s a diary kept by a Wolves footballer – his identity is unclear – from a 1938 overseas tour which proves that players have always been players which means young bucks likely to get into trouble. Read about the night Denis Westcott and pals finished up in jail after what we can presume were some high jinks.
Or perhaps your eye will be taken by arguably the greatest letter in the history of Wolverhampton Wanderers FC, addressed on the club’s headed notepaper to a Mr N D Simpson, of Senior School, Madeley, Salop on June 30, 1938.
“Dear Mr Simpson,” writes the secretary-manager Major Frank Buckley, “Thanks very much for your letter of the 28th. Would you please arrange for the lad Wright to be at the above address on the morning of July Monday July 11 ready to start on the grounds. “Again, thank you for the interest you have taken in this matter....”
You can gaze in wonder at that one item, recalling the career of William Ambrose Wright which it launched, for what seems an eternity. In reality, this is no “pop-in and take a quick look round” tour.
Wolves have been irritated by critics who have chipped away at the decision to charge £7 admission. “Wait until they see it,” was the club’s silence response - and no-one last night felt it would fail the VFM test. Fans could get lost in here for hours.
Visitors will be able to follow the story chronologically or break off to consider some fascinating focal points – the Molineuxs that were never built, the Hall of Fame or perhaps watch in the 30-seat cinema the specially-commissioned film telling the club’s story.
New manager Stale Solbakken attended the champagne reception as he broke off from what has become a difficult first season as the man charged with the task of bringing back Premier League football.
Perhaps there will be times ahead when some fans question their devotion to Wolves. A visit to the Museum is guaranteed to rid them of any such doubts.