The Molineux problem

Morgan Phillips

By Morgan Phillips

No one was really surprised when Fulham lost at Molineux on 3 November. The club has not won a league match there since 1985, and Wolverhampton Wanderers are in great form this season. Yet the teams used to be more evenly matched.

Back in 1994, the Fulham Supporters Club magazine – Cottage Pie – published an article written by a long-time Wolves fan, summarising Fulham’s visits to Molineux since 1946 when the Football League proper resumed after the Second World War.

The Londoners’ record, in 14 League matches, was not at all bad: won four, drawn four, lost six. The best performance was probably winning 4-2 in April 1951, a victory that deprived the Wolves of second place in the final table. The Champions Tottenham Hotspur were the only other team to win a League match at Molineux that year. Also creditable was Fulham’s 3-1 triumph in a League Cup tie (11 September 1974).

It is not hard to choose the team’s worst performance on that Midlands pitch. In September 1959, having beaten Wolves 3-1 at the Cottage, they lost 9-0 in the return match.

The Whites’ legendary goal-scorer Gordon Davies must have happy memories of Molineux. He so outplayed centre-half Joe Gallagher in the 4-2 victory on 20 November 1982 that the Wolves manager sacked Joe the following Monday.

Wolves won promotion that season while Fulham finished fourth. Both clubs swiftly fell from grace. The Wanderers suffered relegation in 1984, and fell into Division Three the following season. Fulham’s 4-0 win at Molineux in April 1985 was seen by a mere 6,172 spectators. The Whites themselves were relegated into the Third Division in 1986.

The teams’ final encounter (in Division Three on 11 February 1989) marked my only visit to Molineux. The stadium looked rather strange because a redevelopment scheme had stalled. Fulham had a new centre-half that day, Doug Rougvie, who experienced an unhappy debut, with Wolves leading 4-1 after half an hour. However, the visitors’ goal was a significant one. Clive Walker crossed from the left and Gordon Davies ran the ball into the net, his 158th League goal, a new record for the club. Gordon kindly signed my photo of the moment of triumph.

Gordon Davies celebrates his historic goal

Wolves won promotion in 1989 and the clubs did not meet again until the millennium. Between 2000 and 2017 Fulham played nine league matches at Molineux and collected just two points, scoring five goals and conceding 18.

It is odd that the Whites did better in the 1980s when resources were meagre than in the relative opulence of the 21st Century.

The views expressed in this blog are those of the author and unless specifically stated are not necessarily those of Hammersmith & Fulham Council.

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