Golden moments from 50 years of supporting Wolves

Wolves correspondent Tim Spiers takes a train ride with a diehard group of fans celebrating a special anniversary.

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Members of London Wolves outside Wolverhampton Railway Station ahead of Wolves' recent game versus Norwich

One of their members has missed only one home game in 40 years, they used to run out of the players' tunnel at Molineux to supporters chanting their name, and they've travelled to matches with players, Sir Jack Hayward and a famous pop star.

Welcome to London Wolves.

The club's longest-running supporters' club – and one of the oldest of its kind in the country – is about to turn 50.

They've experienced dizzying highs and endured devastating lows over the past five decades – and that's before you even get started on the football.

It all began, though, in a very different era.

Stuart Earl, who was there from day one and is the club's chairman, takes up the story as we travel from London to Wolverhampton ahead of the Wolves v Norwich game.

"Me and Dave (Slape, current secretary) met on the 9.15 out of Paddington," he said. "We saw each other every week and just thought there had to be a cheaper way of doing it, so we set about organising coach travel and it took off from there.

"It struck me at Wolves away games in London that there were a lot of Wolves fans around the ground.

"We put a couple of adverts in Football Monthly, Soccer Star and wrote to all the London clubs asking if they'd put something in their programme, which Fulham and Arsenal did. We got a few phonecalls and that was that."

Dave added: "I was on the first trip. Two weeks earlier we met Jack Howley, the Wolves secretary, with about 12 people saying we wanted to form a club. The first trip was Plymouth (October 22, 1966, a 2-1 home win)."

Football worked very differently back then. London Wolves would be let in to Molineux matches for free, with chairman John Ireland believing fans who travelled so far to get to games shouldn't have to pay.

They would board a coach from Victoria station (they switched to train travel after a couple of years) and have a corner of the North Bank allocated to them.

Stuart added: "We used to come out of the players' tunnel and the North Bank would chant 'London Wolves' and point at us!

"The commissionaire used to salute us. We'd go outside at quarter to three and all go into the stand together.

"It was quite embarrassing."

The club's numbers soon grew. At their peak, in the late 1970s and early 1980s, they had almost 400 members, with the 1981 FA Cup semi final against Spurs at Hillsborough attracted a record booking of 108 fans.

Just a few years later, with Wolves' rapid decline in full flow, things were very different.

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London Wolves present their annual player of the year award to Steve Bull in 1996

Travel secretary Peter Woodifield has been with the club since its formation and still kept attending in the dark days of the 1980s. Yes, he even went to all three Chorley FA Cup games.

"In the Bhatti era you had to be a bit more dedicated!" he said. "The Third Division, when we were still on our way down, it was a real effort to go to those games."

Mark Feehan had joined in 1976, aged 12, after spotting an advert in a Millwall programme.

"You hear people complain today about bad games, but you really had to be a diehard in the 1980s," he said. "You didn't even know if they would put a team out some days.

"We even had the conversations about what we'd do if the worst happened and Wolves no longer existed."

But London Wolves, like the club, survived – and thrived.

Sir Jack Hayward used to travel with them for midweek games (even taking part in Dave's 'guess the score' competition), as did a host of former players.

Dexys Midnight Runners singer Kevin Rowland is a former member, as is BBC presenter Jacqui Oatley.

John Richards is the club's honorary president and the likes of Carl Ikeme, David Edwards and Karl Henry have travelled back to London with them after matches in recent years.

"We have interaction with the players, especially some of the older ones," Mark added.

"You bump into someone like Mel Eves, or John De Wolf, and they'll always chat to us. And some of the current players too – Richard Stearman was still in touch with us the entire time he was at Fulham."

That's not to say that travelling from London to every game hasn't been without its pitfalls.

There have been several mishaps, delays and breakdowns over the years, even as recently as last season when horrendous motorway traffic on the way to Middlesbrough forced the group, who travelled to that particular game by coach, to abandon in Sheffield and watch the match in a pub.

Peter, who sorts out the club's bookings and match tickets, added: "Travelling to Blackpool in 1985 we got as far as Reading. Some of us went to a game in Aldershot or somewhere.

"There was one at Huddersfield in the 1960s when the coach broke down just on the outskirts of Huddersfield and we ended up pushing it up a hill! I'll never forget that. We missed the first 25 minutes of that one.

"After the game we were playing football in the Huddersfield car park and one of their directors invited us into the boardroom. He paid for everyone who couldn't afford it to get the train back home.

"We also played Darlington in the FA Cup (in 1998) and we got all the way up there and the game had been postponed, purely on a bad weather forecast that never materialised. We got a 4-0 win in the rearranged game though."

And then of course there's the story that the majority of Wolves fans seem to have heard of - that of London Wolves member Peter Abbott, who missed his first home game for 37 years due to his stepdaughter's wedding being scheduled on the same day as the clash versus Coventry in 2013.

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Andy Thompson and Steve Bull presented Peter Abbott with a framed picture after he missed his first home game for 37 years in 2013

These days the group have around two dozen or so travelling to most games, with some of the older fans converting their sons and daughters to create the next generation of London Wolves.

Chairman Stuart said that without his dear old friends Dave and Peter Woodifield the club would struggle to keep going.

"It's down to Dave and Peter, the work they do," he said. "They're conscientious and honest as the day is long.

"I don't know what we'd do without them. Nothing is too much trouble. They spend the whole day up and down the train doing raffles, or competitions, or collecting ticket money bookings. People give their time for absolutely nothing to make sure the club keeps going."

The 50th year was marked in style with a golden anniversary dinner at Charlton's ground, The Valley, in July, attended by a host of ex-players and then-boss Kenny Jackett.

A special reception will be held in Molineux's WV1 bar on the day of the Leeds game on October 22, marking 50 years to the day since that first ever trip.

And whether it's an early 12.30pm kick off at home to Derby next month, or a Tuesday night trip to Cardiff in December - games that will involve unspeakably early starts or unfathomably late nights - this likeable, hardy bunch of fiercely loyal supporters will be there, cheering on their boys in gold and black, like they have done for the past five decades.

"I think the reason we all enjoy it so much is the social side of it and the camaraderie," Mark said.

"We have a lot of away fans travelling with us too. Brentford brought a bag of Chinese fortune cookies with them the other week to share out.

"Everyone knows everyone and we're all friends."

Stuart added: "My mother thought I'd grow out of it, but 50 years later I'm still here."

Let's hope that in another 50 years, London Wolves will still be here too. Football – and Wolves – would be a poorer place without them.

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Comments for: "Golden moments from 50 years of supporting Wolves"

bobsterman

Well done lads keep it up . How are you Stefan haven't seen you in mayo for awhile.

paul

Always had good support and does anyone remember the flag on the coach which said Wolves Supporters Club" Peking Branch," used to make me chuckle every time i drove past.

chris h

Top fans. I have been going 53 years and I can barely remember a time when you were not mindful of London Wolves taking the train up to the wilds of the West Midlands. It seemed to me during the worst part of the Bhatti years, a fair portion of the 3000 or so that kept going, came from outside the immediate Wolverhampton area .

rimmerp

best of the best saved me some 40years ago at millwall that tunnel four cockney guys follow us mate they saved my beacon god bless them

maltawolves

Great article but 1 mistake,London Wolves are NOT the clubs oldest supporters club.This honour goes to the Malta Wolves supporters club who in fact were founded in April 1960. I believe that the club currently has around 200 supporters Maltese and expats alike who attend matches at the Molineaux usually once or twice a year.

maltawolves

Sorry Tim but i think that you will find that the Malta Wolves supporters club founded in April 1960 is infact the clubs oldest supporters club.

Faagen-Bazs

Alright, don't bang on about it.

NewYorkWolves

Great article Tim. London Wolves have 50 years of stories for the next Steve Gordos book. How about it Steve?

blazindata

Excellent article, great supporters and almost makes me wish I still had my season ticket....almost.

Cape Wolf

Great story by the E&S for a change. These guys have displayed incredible loyalty down the years. I was a member of London Wolves in the late 70's when living in Hertfordshire and remember Dave Slade, Stuart and Terry Peachy very well. I used to go to the meetings in a club in Soho - don't get smutty - and there were some wonderful end of season dinners at The Oval Cricket Club. I lost touch after I moved to Northants and now Cape Town.

Just wanted to say well done and respect to all the London Boys still making the pilgrimage to The Golden Palace and also the trips to Bolton and Barnsley for a midweek fixture in January!

PS I thought we took more to the Arsenal semi final in '79 than the Spurs game in '81?

Bazwolf

These guys are the best. There no better nor loyal WW fans than these London Wolves . Can you imagine the hours these guys get home after away games upNorth on cold Winter evenings. I have the pleasure of knowing many of them. All have agreat story to tell as to how come they are WW fans. Alos they have the most wonderful of relationships with many of our old heroes from the 70 and 80s. Take a bow London Wolves - top folks the lot of you

Baz

oldergold

Outstanding support for the Wolves, met Colin on Holiday in Corfu , top bloke ,dedicated fan, great bloke UTW

CAROLINA WOLF

Fantastic. I would be part of them if i lived in London. Keep it up folks. Loyalty is hard to find these days.

UTW's

BondiWolf

Well done, true supporters.

Solentwolves

I am in awe of these guys. What fantastic camaraderie they must have. I do hope as age catches up that there are younger members ready to take on the batons carried by those who organise, co-ordinate, etc. London Wolves must indeed go on for another fifty years plus - following Wolves who will soon be ascending the heights of English football.

Dudleywolf

I've known Dave Slape and some of the others for Years and the time that I realised how dedicated (Mad) they were, was at Chester city 's Sealand road on a July Tuesday evening pre-season friendly with Wolves having just been relegated to the fourth division and they march onto the terraces. I said I know I am mad to be here but you lot, Why ? cut them and they will bleed Gold & Black, Honoured to know them !

Ye Olde South Bank

I can't add anything to the above comments, so I'll simply say: "Much respect, lads".