In 1986, Wolverhampton Wanderers sat at the club’s lowest in decades. After expensive stadium renovations, local and national recessions as well as changes of ownership, the club endured three consecutive relegations down the football pyramid into England’s Fourth Division.
As Wolves fans know, out of darkness cometh light. In 1986, Wolves were on the mend with support from local developers and Wolverhampton City Council, and they began their march back up the Football League. Steve Bull arrived at Molineux from West Brom, after spending a year on the fringes of the Baggies first team, but unable to assert himself ahead of their Garth Crooks/Imre Varadi partnership.
Under the tutelage of Graham Turner, Steve Bull linked up with Andy Mutch to form a deadly partnership that saw a total of 53 league goals scored between them in the 1987/88 season. This saw Wolves take their first steps out of the basement of English football after losing the previous year’s play-off final to Aldershot.
Bully’s prolific season didn’t just extend to the league however. The then-Sherpa Van Trophy was also brought home to the Black Country as Wolves’ years of misfortune seemed to have an upturn. By the end of his second season in Black and Gold, Steve Bull had already found the net 71 times in all competitions, before embarking on a record-breaking season where he scored over a half-century of goals for two consecutive seasons, an English football record that still stands today.
For a fee of just £64,000, Wolves had secured their future with the addition of Steve Bull, with West Brom seemingly having their pants pulled down on such an astonishing deal. Of his 306 goals in the ‘Old Gold’, Wolves will have paid just shy of £210 per goal, an incredible figure for the rising cost of football even in the 1980s.
Back-to-back promotions meant that Wolves were in the second division by 1989 and were ready to enter the new decade with ambitions of reaching the top league before it became the FA Premier League. Despite not quite managing to get into the play-offs at the first time of asking, Steve did manage to find his way into Bobby Robson’s England side.
Four goals in 13 games seems like a fair enough effort, but considering he actually only received enough minutes to warrant 6.8 matches worth of football, it’s safe to say that his short cameo for the Three Lions was successful and proved any doubters wrong. He made his appearances in the build-up to Italia 90 and during the competition, but was never picked again for England by his future-Wolves boss, Graham Taylor.
And so the legend of Steve Bull continued. Year after year, scoring over double figures every season until the late 1990s, where Wolves continued to battle away at the top of the Second Division. It wasn’t to be for Bully, who was left dreaming of the First Division before retiring in 1999, but he won't be worrying too much.
Steve remains the Wanderers’ all-time top scorer with 306 goals and 18 hat-tricks and has a stand named after him at Molineux, which is now one of the country's finest grounds, home to a Premier League stalwart with European Ambitions. All part of the club that Bully helped build.