When Irwin left Manchester United after one of the most successful careers in the game, it was obvious his vast experience was going to be priceless to his new club. Wolves were the benefactors. Now at 38, the Corkman is back in the hunt for more trophies.
It’s a huge win for Wolves over Leicester, who is in second place in Div. 1. Wolves are only a few points behind City. That means promotion is very much a possibility for Wanderers.
What a career that would turn out to be for Irwin, finishing up back in the premier on the brink of his 40th birthday. Even though he is on a year-to-year basis, the way he plays the game it would be no surprise to see the Cork native rubbing shoulders with the Premier elite once again.
The cup run and dream of making it back into the Premier is also a great opportunity for Kennedy who is desperate to prove himself. A player who showed so much promise never really made it to the top but at Mollineux with Wolves his second chance might be around the corner.
Confidence is at an all-time high at Mollineux and for the first time in five years Wanderers reach the final 16 of the FA Cup. The Irish boys can thank George Ndah, who is becoming somewhat of a cup clincher for Wolves. He hit Leicester for two and scored the winner in the five-goal thriller against Newcastle United n the previous round. The gigantic striker is a handful of trouble for opposition and the Irish duo is well used to playing with a big target up top. The four-goal rout against City is precisely what Wolves needed as finishing was becoming a problem in the league.
Meanwhile, there is a wonderful story developing at Wolverhampton, and with further experience like Paul Ince governing the midfield, the golden outfit may not buckle in the upcoming big games. Head coach Dave Jones has put together a team that may stay together despite belief that veterans Ince and Irwin will retire. But don’t hold your breath on this. The two former United players may be unable to pass up a Premiership swan song.
Furthermore, Jones is not the type of manager who will make major changes and he will seriously consider keeping experience in the side. Of course, Wolves have to do the business first before they can go anywhere, but at Mollineux the belief is that the glory days are returning.
The last time Wolves won the FA Cup was 1960 and on the way to the old Wembley they beat Newcastle and Leicester. It was the 1950s that is considered the Glory Years for Wolves. It was the era of Stan Cullis, rated the best manager ever at Mollineux and indeed the game itself. Wolves were League champions three times and considered one of the best teams in Europe. The legendary halfback Billy Wright replaced the stardom of Roy Swinbourne. However, 1960 saw the end of the golden era for Wolves when they also won the Charity Shield, reached the quarterfinal in the European Cup and lost the league by one point. Great footballers like Steve Bull, John Richards and Kenny Hibbitt kept Wolves a great side to watch, but the club never matched those glorious days.
In recent times, many an Irish youth has been made welcome at the club to get their professional trade of the mark. Robbie Keane is one of them. While Irwin and Kennedy fly the Irish flag at Mollineux, the most famous of them all is Northern Ireland’s Derek Dougan. The Irish goal grabber scored 123 goals for Wolves and holds the record for most goals, 12, in European competition. There has always been a special place in the hearts of many Irish fans for Wolves and indeed many a soccer fan in general. It would be fantastic for the game to see them go all the way in the Cup and chances have increased as big favorites Man. U. and Arsenal will meet in the next round.
Wolves have won the Cup four times — 1893, 1908, ’49 and ’60. There is something special about the club founded in 1887 under the name St. Luke’s, who combined with cricket club Blakenhall Wanderers to become Wolverhampton Wanderers.
In 1891 the first penalty ever was awarded in the Football League to Wolves when John Heath scored against Accrington in a 5-0 romp. The first-ever own goal was given to Wolves when Aston Villa fullback Graham Cox was the culprit. The first footballer recorded as a substitute was R. Crichton vs. Walsall Alma in 1880-81. In the same season John Jack Baynton scored a goal for Wanderers from 97 yards.
Some of the most interesting stories in the game are associated with the club. In 1890, the famous composer and Wolves fan, Elgar, composed a bar or two for his favorite player, Malpass. In 1907, Wolves player, Jack Jones, a country gentlemen was unavailable to play because he was accidentally shot by his gamekeeper friend. Goalkeeper Billy Rose proposed the formation of a Players Union for the game. Jimmy Morgan signed from Bristol City but died falling from a train in 1920 before even playing for the club. And on Sept. 23, in the same year, George Edmunds scored a goal, which was disallowed, against Bristol City. Later it was found the ball had gone through the net because Edmunds had hit the ball with such great force.