- By Neil Johnston
- BBC Sport
FA Cup fourth round on BBC: West Bromwich Albion v Wolverhampton Wanderers
Date: Sunday, January 28 Location: The Hawthorns Start: 11:45 GMT Access: Listen to all the game commentary on BBC Radio 5 Live with John Murray and Chris Waddle; follow the latest commentary on the BBC Sport website & programme
Long before Wolverhampton Wanderers sealed their place in the fourth round of the FA Cup, Molineux was filled with chants mocking West Bromwich Albion.
The mockery began before last week’s clash with Brentford and escalated after Matheus Cunha’s extra-time penalty ensured the first game against their bitter rivals in front of fans for 12 years.
In short, West Brom and Wolves fans do not love each other with a passion.
“It’s one of the scariest sports in the world,” Dazzling Dave, founder and host of Always Wolves Fan TV, says of a team that has been riddled with hate and bad behavior over the years.
After the Baggies beat their neighbors 2-0 in the Premier League in 2011, two Wolves fans marched unopposed onto the pitch at The Hawthorns and made their way to the midfield.
When one started filming, the other ‘saved himself’ before the guards intervened.
“This is racism – a world far removed from today’s football landscape,” Chris Lepkowski, West Brom’s head of media between 2014-16, told BBC Sport.
On Sunday, Championship side West Brom host Premier League Wolves in the first FA Cup between the clubs for 17 years.
“This is not any other game,” said John Homer, a West Brom ticket holder since 1976. “This is about glory – it’s about shame and humiliation.”
He was relegated after losing to Albion
Wolves are not a close club to West Brom. Aston Villa are only four miles away from The Hawthorns and are known as the biggest rivals among Albion’s seniors.
“The turning point was in the 80s when Albion, Birmingham and Wolves fell from grace,” explains Homer.
“We stopped playing Villa. That’s when we had Steve Bull, Ally Robertson, Robbie Dennison and Andy Thompson. We sold all four to Wolves and they all helped them survive.
“Anyone born after 1986, if they’re an Albion fan then you’ll find their biggest rival is Wolves.”
Homer has watched more than 50 West Brom-Wolves games since he first attended in 1967, when Jeff Astle performed magic in Albion’s number 9 shirt.
He saw Iwan Roberts score a hat-trick in 1996 – Wolves’ last win at The Hawthorns. Sixteen years later saw Peter Odemwingie score three in Albion’s 5-1 win over 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.”
When the Wolves scored a PR gaffe
When Wolves were relegated from League One in 2013, Baggies fans unfurled a banner mocking their rivals.
Five years later, Wolves again achieved the same feat as West Brom were relegated from the Premier League. They paid for a plane to fly over The Hawthorns with a sign reading ‘Boing Boing Bye Bye #Wolvesaywe’.
Combined with the comeback and the hat-trick, this has also produced a great PR goal.
In 2007 Wolves angered their fans by giving West Brom fans the entire South Bank, which is usually a black and gold venue, to win their fourth FA Cup.
He then dug himself into a deep hole by offering angry ticket holders to pay for their apology.
West Brom won 3-0 and as the goals hit the back of the net, the Baggies’ 5,300 traveling fans taunted their opponents by chanting: “You sold your seats for a pie and a pint.”
He then left thousands of carrier bags on the seats in response to a Wolves taunt about Albion’s blue and white shirts that resembled a supermarket.
“Giving them South Bank caused a lot of anger at the time,” recalls Dave, a Wolves fan. “It seemed like your goal. It didn’t go well.”
When Cyrille united the rival fans
Tensions between the two clubs grew in 2001–02 when they were both in the former First Division, now the Championship.
West Brom, led by Gary Megson, trailed Dave Jones’ Wolves by 11 points with eight games remaining in the race for promotion to the Premier League, despite beating their rivals 1-0 at Molineux.
From Lepkowski’s book, From Buzaglo to Balis – which marks a rollercoaster period in Albion’s history – Megson says: “When we beat them, it was a good derby, and Dave Jones said ‘they beat them. [West Brom] they had their day, we will have ours.”
Albion entered the final weekend in second place, one point ahead of Wolves. Megson discovered that Wolves players had been promised a huge bonus and a trip to the Bahamas if they went up.
The Albion boss put it on display, putting up examples of Wolves’ freedom on the dressing room wall before the final home game at Crystal Palace. While Wolves were held 2-2 at Sheffield Wednesday, the Baggies won 2-0 to seal the deal.
“To miss out on promotion is tough,” Dave, from Always Wolves Fan TV, adds. “To do this against your enemies, that is against you.”
More than 4,000 Wolves fans will be at The Hawthorns for Sunday’s game which kicks off at 11:45 GMT, before the stadium opens.
“It can be ugly and intimidating. I hope it doesn’t fall into anything else,” adds Dave.
Although there is a lot of conflict, there are examples of unity between both groups of supporters.
In 1993, Cyrille Regis, who had played for Albion for seven years, returned to The Hawthorns with Wolves. Others were worried about what they would receive.
“There is only one Cyrille Regis,” says Homer. “Even though they had our worst opponents, they were very happy. It was a special moment when all the fans came together.”
Wolves fan Dave added: “There have been many occasions when West Brom fans have worn Wolves shirts to raise money for charities and vice versa. I know both clubs have a very good relationship.
“I want us to show the world what a proper derby is.”