Express & Star

How Wolves plunged to the lower leagues and nearly ceased to exist - Part 29: Hooliganism shame and FA Cup shocker

In more detail than ever before, the Express & Star tells the full Bhatti brothers story – a troubled era that saw Wolves plunge to the depths of the lower leagues and face financial oblivion. In Part 29, hooliganism shame and an FA Cup shocker.

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The Chorley defeat would become an infamous low point in Wolves history

If Graham Turner had been expecting a warm welcome for his first game in charge, he was in for a rude awakening. The vitriolic reception he got from furious home supporters almost overshadowed the fact that his team actually beat Frank Worthington's Tranmere Rovers 2-1, making it three wins on the spin.

Not even a second-minute lead courtesy of Matt Forman was able to pacify the dissent. The anger didn't quite reach 'Bhattis Out' proportions, but fans were clearly unhappy.

Andy Mutch doubled the lead on 32 minutes, and although Steve Vickers pulled one back for Rovers just before the break, the result was never really in doubt. With Wolves in total control by the closing stages, the South Bank fans gradually turned their attention away from the manager, and finished up chanting "We're gonna win the league."

Turner responded to his hot reception by saying: "I would prefer to be an unpopular winner.

"I have nothing to say against the past regime here, but the club have dropped from the First Division to the Fourth. At the end of the day the only way to answer any sort of criticism is to get a winning side."

The win took Wolves into sixth place only two points behind second-placed Preston.

Graham Turner

If Turner had got off on the wrong foot with Wolves fans in his first game in charge, two defeats in four games were hardly going to help the cause.

The first, a narrow 1-0 loss to high-flying Swansea, was just about bearable, particularly as Wolves matched their opponents for most of the game. But the 2-1 defeat at home to lowly Halifax, who went into the game without an away point to their name, had the 4,380 who turned out for the Tuesday night game wondering whether the bad old days were back.

A 3-1 win over Orient calmed nerves a little, but was followed by a 3-0 defeat to Colchester United. Inconsistency appeared to be the one thing Wolves supporters could depend on.

A 2-1 win over Torquay United on November 8 should have been cause to celebrate. Former Shrewsbury Town man Gerry Nardiello put the home side ahead in the 16th minute, but Matt Forman – who was proving to be one of the big finds of the season – cancelled his goal out in the 68th minute. Ten minutes later, Jon Purdie wrapped up the points for Wolves.

Unfortunately, the victory was overshadowed by disgraceful scenes among the travelling Wolves supporters, who brought '24 hours of violence and mayhem' to the seaside town.

Police were overwhelmed as they tried to contain the mobs who tore through the resort, terrifying shopkeepers and residents.

The match was marred by pitch invasions and missiles being thrown by the crowd.

What caused trouble to flare up during that game is unknown, but the kick-off took place in the evening – then unusual for a Saturday game – and the free afternoon, coupled with a trip to the seaside – was probably a contributory factor. It would mark the start of a shameful period in the club's history, that would see them join Millwall, Chelsea and Leeds United in their infamy for football hooliganism. This was all the more tragic given the work that had gone into rescuing Wolves from the brink.

More than 20 Wolves fans appeared before a court the following Monday, with a magistrate calling for all future Saturday games to be held in the afternoon. It marked the beginning of an ugly chapter in Wolves' history that would see the club's reputation dragged through the mud for years to come, as they became notorious for a hooligan problem.

More than 20 Wolves fans appeared before the court the following Monday, and a magistrate called for an end to Saturday-night games.