Express & Star

How Wolves plunged to the lower leagues and nearly ceased to exist - Part 1: Calm before the storm

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 1, we look at the calm before the storm - how the bold ambitions of the football club's former chairman Harry Marshall plunged the League Cup winning side into crisis.

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"King Andy makes Wolves £1m pay-off", screamed the headline on the front of the Sporting Star. Five months after signing for Wolves in a deal that broke the English transfer record, Andy Gray appeared to have paid off a big chunk of that fee with a goal that won Wolves the League Cup.

Manager John Barnwell said that while the win had secured Wolves a place in the UEFA Cup, his sights were now set higher than that.

"Now that we are in Europe, we can look forward to the ultimate, the European Cup, just like Nottingham Forest did after Clough and Taylor arrived there," he said.

Wolves Collection: March 1980 - Wolves manager John Barnwell shows off the League Cup to fans in Wolverhampton. Copyright Express and Star.

Wolves skipper Emlyn Hughes was equally ebullient. He said there was no reason why the club couldn't dominate English football in the 1980s in the same way that his old club, Liverpool had done in the 1970s.

Wolves striker Mel Eves, who had been with the club since 1975, remembers how it seemed the club was on the brink of another golden era.

Wolves captain Emlyn Hughes raises the league cup trophy in 1980

"We had signed Emlyn Hughes, and then Andy Gray from Aston Villa for £1.5 million, more or less. We thought we could win something which we did, and we thought we would then bring another two or three players in, and really go for it."

It wasn't hard to see why there was so much optimism around. The signing of Gray from Villa at the start of the 1979-80 season demonstrated that Wolves had the ambition to outbid any club in the country in pursuit of the best players. And the completion of the new state-of-the-art Molineux Stand was supposed to mark the start of a bold new era for the club.

Let's just say things didn't quite pan out that way.

Enter the Bhatti Brothers.

The mysterious Bhatti brothers became figures of hate