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Commonly referred to simply as “Wolves,” the Wolverhampton Wanderers Football Club has been in existence since 1877. That’s when the headmaster of St. Luke’s school in Blakenhall presented a football to a group of pupils as a reward for an exceptional year’s school work. Two years later, St. Luke’s FC merged with The Wanderers, a local cricket and football club, and the Wolverhampton Wanderers were born.

Windmill Field and John Harper’s Field off Lower Villiers Street in Blakenhall served as home grounds until 1881, when a move was made to a site on Dudley Road opposite the Fighting Cocks Inn. The Wanderers became founding members of the Football League in 1888 and reached the FA Cup Final that year, losing to Preston North End by 3-0 at The Oval.

A year later, the current location at Molineux was selected as the Wolves’ new home, just a few hundred yards north of Wolverhampton city centre. The team displayed considerable poise from over the next several seasons and gained their first silverware in 1893, defeating Fallowfield 1-0 to win the FA Cup. Three years later, they would reach the finals for a third time, but bow to Sheffield Wednesday by a score of 2-1.

Although relegation came in 1906, the Wolves showed how scrappy a Division Two club can be by upsetting favourites Newcastle United by 3-1 at Crystal Palace in 1908 to win their second FA Cup. Nothing they could do, however, would return them to Division One—not even a runner-up finish in the 1921 FA Cup.

A disastrous 1922-23 season dropped the Wanderers to Division Three for the first time. Perhaps that was the jolt they needed to regain their form, because in 1923-24 they took that Division’s title and then gradually clawed their way back to the top tier by winning the Division Two championship in 1932, ending a 26-year absence from the highest level of British football.

The years surrounding World War II were surprising good to Wolverhampton. In 1939, they were runners-up not only in the Division One table but also in the FA Cup. In 1942, they won the Wartime League Cup (North) by defeating Sunderland 6-3 on aggregate over two legs. Then they won the FA Cup for a second time in 1949, beating Leicester City 3-1 in the Final at Wembley Stadium.

The 1950s will always be remembered as the heydays of Wolves football. In 1953-54, they scored their first Division One championship. It was followed by a second title in 1957-58 and then a third in 1958-59. To punctuate a decade of dominance, the Club added a fourth FA Cup to the trophy case in 1960, drubbing the Blackburn Rovers 3-0 at Wembley before a crowd of 98,954.

Then came the rollercoaster ride. Relegation in 1965 was followed by promotion in 1967. The team’s first League Cup was won in 1974. Relegation in 1976 was erased by winning the Second Division championship in 1976-77. A second League Cup was won in 1980. But relegation in 1982 was a different story. The Club was bankrupt.

Under new ownership, the Wolves climbed back to Division One a year later, but all was not well. Beginning in 1984, the Club slid down to Divisions Two, Three and Four before being declared bankrupt once again in 1986. This time, it took more than one saviour to rescue the Club from extinction.

First, the Wolverhampton Council had to purchase Molineux and its surrounding land for £1.12 million. Then, Gallagher Estates Limited, in conjunction with the Asda Superstore chain, had to agree to pay off the Club’s outstanding debts, in return for permission to build an Asda outlet adjacent to the stadium.

The reorganisation acted as a tonic. In 1987-88, the Wolves won the Division Four title. The following season, they clinched the Division Three championship. This revitalization caused Sir Jack Hayward to purchase the club for £20 million in 1990 and redevelop the decaying Molineux Stadium.

On three occasions over the next dozen years, Wolverhampton would come within a play-off victory of promotion to the Premiership. Struggle as they might, they remained in the second-tier Champions League until at long they topped the table and claimed the championship in 2008-09. Promotion to the Premier League was confirmed in April 2009 after 27 years away from the elite level.

Since then, the Wolves have had to scramble to retain their place in the Premier League. They just barely avoided relegation in 2009-10 and 2010-11. Many have wagered on the Wanderers to avoid the drop zone for a third season, but it is quite likely to be another nail-biter.