West Brom-Wolves ‘one of most intense derbies in world’

26 January 2024 0 By Total Football News
West Brom v Wolves Graphic

Date: Sunday, 28 January Venue: The Hawthorns Kick-off: 11:45 GMT Coverage: Listen to full match commentary on BBC Radio 5 Live with John Murray and Chris Waddle; follow live text commentary on the BBC Sport website & app

Long before Wolverhampton Wanderers had sealed their place in the FA Cup fourth round, Molineux was awash with derogatory songs about West Bromwich Albion.

The taunts started before kick-off in last week’s replay with Brentford and peaked after Matheus Cunha’s extra-time penalty confirmed a first game with their fierce rivals in front of supporters for 12 years.

In a nutshell, fans of West Brom and Wolves dislike each other with a passion.

“It’s one of the most intense derbies in the world,” Dazzling Dave, founder and presenter of Always Wolves Fan TV, says of a fixture peppered with hostility and outrageous behaviour down the years.

After the Baggies beat their neighbours 2-0 in the Premier League in 2011, two Wolves fans walked on to The Hawthorns pitch unchallenged and made their way to the centre circle.

As one started filming, the other ‘relieved’ himself before security guards could intervene.

“This is raw tribalism – a world away from the slick presentable image of modern-day football,” Chris Lepkowski, West Brom’s head of media between 2014-16, tells BBC Sport.

On Sunday, Championship side West Brom host Premier League Wolves in the first FA Cup tie between the clubs for 17 years.

“This isn’t just any other game,” John Homer, a West Brom season ticket holder since 1976, says. “This is about glory – and shame and humiliation.”

Sacked after losing to Albion

Wolves fans let off flares during their side's 3-1 Premier League win over West Brom at Molineux in 2011Wolves fans let off flares during their side’s 3-1 Premier League win over West Brom at Molineux in 2011. The Baggies are unbeaten in the past four meetings since, winning three

Wolves are not even the nearest club to West Brom. Aston Villa is just four miles from The Hawthorns and are considered bigger rivals among older members of Albion’s fan base.

“The turning point was around the mid-80s when Albion, Birmingham and Wolves fell from grace,” explains Homer.

“We stopped playing Villa. That’s around the time we had Steve Bull, Ally Robertson, Robbie Dennison and Andy Thompson. We sold all four to Wolves and they all helped keep them alive.

“Anyone born after 1986, if they’re Albion fans then you’ll find that their main rivalry is with Wolves.”

Homer has witnessed more than 50 West Brom-Wolves fixtures since attending his first in 1967, when Jeff Astle performed his magic wearing Albion’s number nine shirt.

He saw Iwan Roberts score a hat-trick in 1996 – Wolves’ last win at The Hawthorns. Sixteen years later he witnessed Peter Odemwingie get three in Albion’s thumping 5-1 win of Mick McCarthy’s side at Molineux.

Former Wolves and England boss Graham Taylor told BBC Radio 5 Live at the time: “A 5-1 defeat at home to West Brom? You’ll do well to survive that.”

McCarthy was sacked the following day.

Peter Odemwingie celebrates scoring a Premier League hat-trick for West Brom at Wolves in 2012Peter Odemwingie celebrates scoring a Premier League hat-trick for West Brom at Wolves in 2012

When Wolves scored PR gaffe

When Wolves were relegated to League One in 2013, Baggies fans unveiled a banner taunting their rivals.

Five years later Wolves supporters got their own back after West Brom were relegated from the Premier League. They paid for a plane to fly over The Hawthorns with a banner which read ‘Boing Boing Bye Bye #Wolvesaywe’.

As well as sackings and hat-tricks, this fixture has also produced a huge PR own goal.

West Brom fans taunt their local rivals after Wolves are relegated to League One in 2013West Brom fans taunt their local rivals after Wolves are relegated to League One in 2013Wolves fans paid for a banner to be flown over The Hawthorns after West Brom were relegated from the Premier League in 2018Wolves fans got their own back in 2018 when they paid for a banner to be flown over The Hawthorns after West Brom were relegated from the Premier League

In 2007 Wolves angered their fan base by giving West Brom supporters the whole of the South Bank, normally a gold-and-black bastion, for an FA Cup fourth-round tie.

They then dug themselves into a deeper hole by offering outraged season-ticket holders a pie and a pint in compensation.

West Brom won 3-0 and as the goals hit the back of the net, the 5,300 travelling Baggies fans mocked their rivals by singing: “You sold your seats for a pie and a pint.”

They then left thousands of carrier bags on seats in response to a derogatory Wolves chant about Albion’s blue and white shirt resembling a supermarket brand.

“Giving them the South Bank caused a lot of anger at the time,” recalls Dave, the Wolves fan. “It was seen as an own goal. It didn’t sit well.”

Tensions on the pitch between the two clubs peaked in 2001-02 when they were both in the old First Division, now the Championship.

West Brom, managed by Gary Megson, trailed Dave Jones’ Wolves by 11 points with eight games remaining in the race for automatic promotion to the Premier League, despite beating their rivals 1-0 at Molineux.

In an extract from Lepkowski’s book, From Buzaglo To Balis – which documents a rollercoaster period in Albion’s history – Megson says: “When we beat them, it was a great derby, and Dave Jones said ‘they’ve [West Brom] had their day, we’ll have ours’.”

Albion went into the final weekend in second spot, one point ahead of Wolves. Megson discovered Wolves’ players had been promised a huge promotion bonus and a trip to the Bahamas if they went up.

The Albion boss lapped it up, pinning examples of Wolves’ entitlement to the dressing room wall before the final match at home to Crystal Palace. While Wolves were held 2-2 at Sheffield Wednesday, the Baggies won 2-0 to seal promotion.

“Missing out on automatic promotion from a winning position is tough,” Dave, from Always Wolves Fan TV, adds. “To do so against your arch rivals, that sticks in your throat.”

West Brom were 11 points behind Wolves with eight games to play in 2001-02 but still finished above their rivals to win promotion to the Premier League

More than 4,000 Wolves fans will be at The Hawthorns for Sunday’s tie which kicks-off at 11:45 GMT, before the pubs open.

“It can be nasty and intimidating. I hope it doesn’t bubble over into anything else,” adds Dave.

Despite the intense rivalry, there have examples of unity between both sets of supporters.

In 1993, Cyrille Regis, who played for Albion for seven years, came back to The Hawthorns with Wolves. Some were worried what sort of reception he would receive.

“There is only one Cyrille Regis,” says Homer. “Even though he was with our deadliest rivals, he got a standing ovation. That was a special moment when both sets of fans came together.”

Wolves fan Dave adds: “There have been many occasion when West Brom fans have put on a Wolves shirt to raise money for charity and vice versa. I know both clubs off the pitch have a very good relationship.