Everton, Leeds, Villa and Sunderland – all went close to winning football’s hallowed double

WHEN Arsenal won the double in 1970-71, it was the first time since Tottenham’s much heralded success of 1960-61. Everyone thought it was an astonishing achievement, yet it was only a decade after their North London rivals had swept up the major prizes. Prior to Bill Nicholson’s side winning

the double, you had to go back to 1896-97 (Aston Villa) and 1888-89 (Preston North End). It was popularly considered to be impossible to win both the premier prizes on offer.

Today we live in an age where the top sides want to win everything. But a leading club’s priorities don’t generally include the FA Cup – the Premier and Champions League qualification are the prizes that will be one and two on the “to do” list at the top clubs. The FA Cup and Football League Cup – wrongly – are consolation prizes. In the days when Tottenham and Arsenal earned their place in football folklore, success in Europe was a little bit of icing on the cake. The Football League and FA Cup, the everyday “bread and butter” competitions, were how managers and players were largely judged.

The creation of a group of “super clubs” has meant that winning a double is no longer out of the question. When you chase one prize, you go after two and when you position yourself nicely for two, you start to think about three or four. But you can aim for whatever you like and end up with nothing, as most clubs have found out.

Doubles started to become commonplace in the 1990s and early 2000s. The Double has been achieved 12 times, seven since Arsenal’s dramatic 1971 triumph: 1888-89: Preston North End; 1896-97: Aston Villa; 1960-61: Tottenham Hotspur; 1970-71: Arsenal; 1985-86: Liverpool; 1993-94: Manchester United; 1995-96: Manchester United; 1997-98: Arsenal; 1998-99: Manchester United; 2001-02: Arsenal; 2009-10: Chelsea; 2018-19: Manchester City.

Trbles of any kind are even rarer. The only time a domestic treble has been achieved was in 2018-19 when Manchester City were champions, FA Cup winners and Football League Cup winners. Manchester United pulled off the treble of League, Cup and Champions League in 1998-99. Liverpool have won two trebles, in 2000-01 (League Cup, FA Cup and UEFA Cup) and in 1983-84, the League, League Cup and European Cup.

There have been many near-misses, where a club has won one trophy and finished runners-up in another, or even finished runners-up in both.

1903-04: Manchester City – FA Cup Winners and Football League Runners-up
Newly-promoted City beat Bolton Wanderers 1-0 in the cup final thanks to a Billy Meredith goal. They finished three points behind The Wednesday in the league, despite being top in the final week.

1904-05: Newcastle United – Football League Champions and FA Cup Runners-up
Newcastle won the title by a single point, but went into Easter a point behind Everton and finished with a flourish. Two weeks before clinching the title, they lost the cup final 2-0 to Aston Villa, after beating them by the same scoreline in the league a week earlier.

1912-13: Sunderland – Football League Champions and FA Cup Runners-up/1912-13: Aston Villa – FA Cup Winners and Football League Runners-up
Sunderland Villa were neck-and-neck all season and shared the honours in 1913. Sunderland ended with a 10-game unbeaten run, including a 1-1 draw at Villa Park that all but won them the title. A few days earlier, Villa had won a rough house cup final 1-0 at Crystal Palace in front of 121,000 people.

1947-48: Manchester United – FA Cup Winners and Football League Runners-up
United finished seven points behind champions Arsenal in the league, but won the FA Cup, beating Blackpool in the final by 4-2 in an exciting 90 minutes. United beat six first division sides to win the competition, one of the toughest roads to Wembley.

1953-54: West Bromwich Albion – FA Cup Winners and Football League Runners-up
A goal three minutes from time from Frank Griffin gave Albion a 3-2 victory in the FA Cup final against Preston. In the league, they finished just three points behind Black Country rivals Wolves. Albion’s team, which included the likes of Ronnie Allen, started the season well and were unbeaten in nine games, but ended the campaign indifferently.

1956-57: Manchester United – Football League Champions and FA Cup Runners-up
The “Busby Babes”, who won the league title by eight points, scoring 103 goals, were denied the double by an Aston Villa side who finished mid-table. In the FA Cup final, United goalkeeper Ray Wood was injured and Jackie Blanchflower took over in goal. Villa went two-up through Peter McParland and United’s only response came late on from Tommy Taylor, one of the Babes who perished in Munich.

1959-60: Wolverhampton Wanderers – FA Cup Winners and Football League Runners-up
Wolves lost the league title they had won in the two previous seasons to Burnley by just a single point, scoring 106 goals. In the Cup Final y, Wolves crushed Blackburn Rovers 3-0 in a bad tempered game remembered for the loutish behaviour of the crowd, who showered Wolves in rubbish as they went off the field.

1971-72: Leeds United – FA Cup Winners and Football League Runners-up
These were the days when Leeds were challenging for everything. They won the FA Cup by beating old rivals Arsenal 1-0, Allan Clarke scoring the goal. Two days later, they travelled to Wolves in the final game of the campaign needing a point to clinch the double. They lost 2-1 and Derby won the title. “I’m as sick as a pig,” said centre-half Jackie Charlton.

1973-74: Liverpool – FA Cup Winners and Football League Runners-up
Liverpool were always second best to Leeds in the title race in 1973-74 and finished five points off of top spot. But they easily won the FA Cup when they crushed Newcastle 3-0, two goals coming from Kevin Keegan and one from Steve Heighway. It proved to be Bill Shankly’s final triumph with Liverpool.

1976-77: Liverpool – Football League Champions and FA Cup Runners-up
“Pack up your trebles” said the banner at Wembley as Liverpool tried to add the FA Cup to their league title win. Champions by a point from Manchester City, the Reds lost 2-1 to Manchester United, but a few days later, won the European Cup. No treble, but not a bad season!

1984-85: Everton – Football League Champions and FA Cup Runners-up
Howard Kendall’s young team emphatically won the title by a 13-point margin over Mersey rivals Liverpool. They were unlucky in the FA Cup, losing to 10-man Manchester United by an extra-time goal. Everton also won the European Cup Winners-Cup.

1987-88: Liverpool – Football League Champions and FA Cup Runners-up
This was the Liverpool team of Barnes-Aldridge-Beardsley, playing some of the best football of modern times. They lost just twice in the league and won the title by a nine point margin over Manchester United. The Cup Final produced one of the greatest shocks of all time, Wimbledon’s “Crazy Gang” winning 1-0 with goalkeeper Dave Beasant saving a penalty from Aldridge.

1988-89: Liverpool – FA Cup Winners and Football League Runners-up
Another great story unfolded at the end of the 1988-89 season. Liverpool won the FA Cup in an emotional Merseyside final, beating Everton 3-2. They were seconds away from winning the double when Arsenal scored right at the death through Michael Thomas to win 2-0 at Anfield and take the title back to London. It was one of those nights when you cheered, regardless of your allegiance (Tottenham fans excluded).

2002-03: Arsenal – FA Cup Winners and Premier Runners-up
Arsenal were five points off retaining their title, coming in second to Manchester United. In the FA Cup, they beat Southampton 1-0 in Cardiff, goalscorer Robert Pires.

2004-05: Arsenal – FA Cup Winners and Premier Runners-up
Arsenal won a dire FA Cup final on penalties against Manchester United. They were left trailing behind by 12 points in the Premier, Chelsea taking over from the “Invincibles”.

2006-07: Manchester United – Premier Champions and FA Cup Runners-up/2006-07: Chelsea – FA Cup Winners and Premier Runners-up
Chelsea lost the crown they had worn for the past two seasons to United, who finished six points ahead of Jose Mourinho’s team. But Chelsea won the first FA Cup final at the new Wembley in a lack lustre contest, Didier Drogba scoring the only goal in extra time to beat United.

2016-17: Chelsea – Premier Champions and FA Cup Runners-up
Chelsea were denied the double by Arsenal in the FA Cup final, Wenger winning his last trophy as manager of the Gunners. In the League, Antonio Conte won the title in his first season as manager of Chelsea.

Runners-up in both competitions
1927-28: Huddersfield Town – Runners-up in both Football League and FA Cup
1931-32: Arsenal – Runners-up in both Football League and FA Cup
1938-39: Wolverhampton Wanderers – Runners-up in both Football League and FA Cup
1961-62: Burnley – Runners-up in both Football League and FA Cup
1964-65: Leeds United – Runners-up in both Football League and FA Cup
1969-70: Leeds United – Runners-up in both Football League and FA Cup
1985-86: Everton – Runners-up in both Football League and FA Cup
1994-95: Manchester United – Runners-up in both Premier and FA Cup
2000-01: Arsenal – Runners-up in both Premier and FA Cup
2012-13: Manchester City – Runners-up in both Football League and FA Cup
2017-18: Manchester United – Runners-up in both Football League and FA Cup.

Photo: PA

Pandemic tames the Wolves

WOLVERHAMPTON Wanderers took a £ 40 million hit on revenues and turned a £ 22 million profit in 2018-19 to a £ 36.7 million loss in 2019-20. Unlike some clubs who reported a fall in matchday income, Wolves saw this revenue stream rise by 10% to £ 12.7 million.

The club’s revenues for the season totalled £ 132.6 million, some 23% lower than 2018-19. Wolves’ biggest drop came in broadcasting, a 28% decline to £ 95.8 million. Commercial income also fell by 13% to £ 24.1 million. Wolves calculated that if it were not for a deferred amount of broadcasting income, the club would have made a small profit of around £ 20 million. They will benefit significantly from the deferral in 2020-21.

Wolves enjoyed a lengthy UEFA Europa League run in 2019-20 that started in late July and ended over a year later at the quarter-final stage where they lost to Sevilla. They played 18 games in the competition against clubs from eight different countries. They failed to meet their objective of qualifying for Europe in 2020-21.

Wages went up to a record high of £ 94.7 million, representing a wage-to-income ratio of 71%. Since Fosun International took over the club, wages have more than trebled, but they remain among the lowest payers in the Premier. In 2016-17, Wolves’ wage bill was just £ 28.2 million, which was 119% of revenues. At the time, they were in the Championship where salaries invariably exceed income.

Wolves under Fosun have been transformed from a financial perspective. As recently as 2016-17, they generated just £ 23.7 million. Although income reduced in 2019-20, the £ 132.6 million was still the second highest total in the club’s history. Despite this growth, Wolves are still among the bottom half dozen in terms of revenues. In 2020, the club was named among the top 20 football brands in the prestigious Brand Finance annual review.

The club’s playing squad has a big Portuguese presence and all bar one player is a client of Jorge Mendes’ GestiFute player agency. In total, eight Wolves players have Mendes’ company as their agent. Fosun also has a 15% stake in GestiFute’s parent.

Wolves pay far less in agent fees than most of their peers. In 2019-20, they paid £ 8.6 million to intermediaries, some £ 20 million less than each of Liverpool, Manchester City, Manchester United and Chelsea. 

They have, however, been very active in the transfer market since Fosun arrived. They have bought more players than any other current Premier League club (129) and also sold more (also 129). Only Manchester City, Manchester United and Arsenal have incurred a higher negative transfer balance than Wolves’ £ 220 million between 2016-17 and 2019-20. Their income from player sales totalled £ 9.5 million which was lower than the previous campaign, but still up on 2017-18. They have continued using the market strategically in 2020-21, signing Fábio Silva (Porto) and Nélson Semedo (Barcelona) for a total of £ 65 million but recouping the whole amount by selling Diogo Jota (Liverpool), Matt Doherty (Tottenham) and Hélder Costa (Leeds United).

The club has anticipated working capital challenges going forward and has increased its financing with Macquarie Group to £ 75 million (from £ 50 million). This comprises a £ 60 million term loan and a £ 15 revolving credit facility. Given the current climate, it is no surprise that net debt increased to £ 125 million.

Wolves are a club with an interesting future and have retained their reputation for bright, attacking football. Their momentum over the past few years has been impressive, but the question is, will the pandemic curb their progress?


Portuguese flair could make Wolves the dark horses in old gold

WOLVES were fairly comfortable winners at Sheffield United in their first match of the Premier season, but you got the feeling it could have been even better than a 2-0 victory at Bramall Lane.

Sheffield United could find their sophomore season a tough one, although the neutrals will delight in any success that comes their way. For Wolves, the only thing stopping them from being popular among the average British football fan is the fact they are owned by a Chinese conglomerate and they are part of the Gordian knot that is the mysterious Jorge Mendes network – hence there are 10 players from Portugal in their first team squad.

Wolves are not in the very top billionaires’ club, but they are among the leaders of the second tier of wealthy club owners, and they play a brand of football that is exciting and easy on the eye. After two seasons of finishing seventh, they could be ready to make the leap to the next level of the Premier League. In their more traditional old gold shirts, as opposed to a rather over-yellowed version in 2019-20, Wolves showed pace and aggression. They were also way ahead of their hosts, Sheffield United, whom they killed-off in the first 10 minutes with two goals.

Wolves had a longer season than most in 2019-20 and reached the last eight of the Europa League, losing to Sevilla in their 17th game of the campaign. They failed to qualify for Europe by a narrow margin (goal difference of just three goals), but that didn’t extinguish the feel-good factor around Wolves. In fact, an absence of European football might improve their chances of a higher Premier League placing.

The pace and purpose of Wolves’ attacking impressed against Sheffield United, with Raúl Jiménez and Adama Traoré looking particularly sharp. Jiménez scored their first goal with a finish that underlined his agility and accuracy. He’s 29 and a client of Mendes (West Ham will need no reminding of that) and has scored 45 goals in 100 games for Wolves. The Mexican is, without doubt, one of the best strikers in the Premier League.

Traoré, who is 24 years of age, looks like a force of nature. His bulldozing style shouldn’t detract from the fact that he is richly skilful and is one of the best dribblers in the game. The 2020-21 season could be his time and if he can curb the temptation to hold on to the ball too long, he will be a valuable creator, as well as a taker, of goals.

Wolves lost Matt Doherty to Tottenham but received around £ 15 million for the Irish defender. The club has already been in the market with the £ 35 million acquisition of Portuguese teenager Fabio Silva from Porto and Lyon’s experienced left back Fernando Marçal, picked up for a bargain € 2 million. They also signed, on loan, Porto midfielder Vitinha. Silva is a rising star but Wolves may look at what happened to the last young player who had expectation poured upon him, João Félix, and how he has fared at Atlético Madrid. For a club with a relatively small core squad, new signings were badly needed at Molineux.

The Wolves project is still in its early stages but it is clear the club’s owners consider coach Nuno Espírito Santo is the man for the job. He’s just signed a new three-year contract and there are certain to be further reinforcements at the club in the coming weeks and months. Judging by their opening weekend win, this season could be their best chance to break into the top six for the first time for 40 years.