Legendary football commentator Martin Tyler believes Wolves have the potential to return to the European elite, as they were in his childhood years of the 1950s.
The ‘Premier League Commentator of the Decade’ remembers watching Stan Cullis’ Wolves team playing against the top teams, including the historic clash with Honved under the Molineux lights which ultimately led to the introduction of the European Cup.
Tyler was back in Wolverhampton for the Premier League match against Newcastle last week, commentating on the game for Premier League Productions, and shared his thoughts on Wolves’ transition to the top-flight and the future potential of the club.
Martin, have you been impressed with how Wolves have adapted to the Premier League this season?
“Having watched Manchester City yesterday, many people might have thought my weekend was over, but I was on the train talking to some of the fans, and I was saying how excited I was about coming to see Wolves. I do genuinely feel that.
“They’ve brought a freshness to the Premier League, they’re a very famous club and I’ve been coming to Molineux for a long time now, and I can remember the Wolves teams of the 1950s.
“I worked with Billy Wright when he was at ITV and I was starting out – he was one of our executives – so I know a lot about the history of the club, but this is a new chapter in the history and a very exciting one and the Wolves fans absolutely deserve this.
“Although it’s a bit of a cliché to call them ‘the best of the rest’, that’s the way it stands at the moment. When you’re looking at the six clubs above them, you’re thinking it’s a real aspiration for them to reach that sort of level.
“There’s been a lot of investment and I’m not saying it’s all romance, there’s a reality of finance as well, but they play good football and I love the continuity in selection – it helps the commentator, but more importantly it helps the players.
“It’s a delight to be here. I did commentate on the Huddersfield game, so I’m probably not the luckiest charm, but I’m sure Wolves fans know coming here every two weeks that they’ve got a good side to watch.”
Did you expect Wolves to be able to maintain the same style of football that they displayed in the Championship last season to the top-flight?
“Changing from the 5-2-3 to the 5-3-2 seems to have brought something new to the attack. I saw [Leander] Dendoncker play against England in the World Cup and got a very good impression from him so I know how good a player he is. I’m not surprised having got into the side that he has found a way to keep himself in.
“Jimenez is scoring goals at a very impressive level, especially for somebody playing in the Premier League for the first time and Diogo Jota perhaps gets into better positions because he has a bit more licence running across the pitch, rather than being stuck out on the one side when it’s just the two of them up front.
“It’s working well and there haven’t been many injury crisis’ – the sort of thing which is difficult for clubs to deal with, but the quality is here in the team. The recruitment team should get a big pat on the back for getting the quality of players in to the club.
“From the moment Nuno came in, all of us as neutrals have kept an eye on the development, and I congratulate the club on what they’ve done in the past two years.”
What realistic targets do you believe Wolves should have this season?
“I think there’s a real chance for Wolves to qualify for the Europa League.
“It’s often said from people of my generation, but when I was young I did see the grainy black and white coverage of the Honved game which was on the BBC – it was way past my bedtime, but I was allowed to stay up and watch it.
“That was before the European Cup started, so as much as what’s been put down to the success of those games, Wolves played a huge part in that and for the European football we have today.
“‘What goes around, comes around’ and Wolves were at the outset of European football so, with the current wheel of fortune, why can't they be part of it once again.”
There are ambitious plans for the future of Wolves, but do you think the club can live up to its potential?
“I do think there’s bags of potential here. The right people are running the club, the right people are running the team, but it’s always a big step to try and go higher than Wolves are as we speak, but it’s not an impossible step – especially when you have the great history like this club has.
“Those 1950s sides were amazing, and I know the game’s changed, then we were living in the age of the maximum wage, so everybody got paid the same whether they were playing for Accrington Stanley or Wolverhampton Wanderers.
“Things have changed and the sheer force of the market place dictates where you can be, but Wolverhampton as a city probably hasn’t changed that much, so the outside influences have got to be there, the owners have got to foot the bill, maybe even more so than other clubs which have a bigger revenue stream.
“I can remember how close this club was to almost folding, in between the glory days and where we are now, so it’s amazing to see Wolves back where they are. Football is the heartbeat of a community and Wolverhampton is a real football community.
“Seeing the signs to Wolverhampton on the drive between London and Manchester as I regularly do, it’s pleasing to once again turn off and follow those signs to Molineux for real purpose.”