1. Steve Bull + Andy Thompson – £65,000 from West Bromwich Albion
There were some extremely difficult decisions to make when selecting my top 5 Wolves transfer bargains of all time, however, this was certainly not one of them.
The combined transfer of a certain Steve Bull and Andy Thompson from fierce rivals West Bromwich Albion for just £65,000 went beyond even the most optimistic Wolves’ fans hopes at the time. The pair combined to make over 1,000 appearances for the old gold and black, overseeing a crucial period in the club’s history going from the brink of extinction to promotions from the fourth and third division respectively. They were also part of the team that lifted the Sherpa Van Trophy at Wembley after the win against Burnley, a day edged long in the memory of Wolves fans who were present that day. Bully remains the club’s all-time top goalscorer with 306 goals and went on to claim 13 England caps, scoring 4 goals including a memorable strike on his debut against Scotland.
He remains part of a very select group of players to have represented England despite never playing in the top tier of English football. Bully now sits as honorary vice-president of the club and was also awarded an MBE in 1999. He will forever be known as the saviour of our club, with his contributions passed down to all generations to come. Many younger fans will have seen Bully’s late winner against the Albion in 1989, described by those in attendance in the away end as one of the best goal celebrations they have ever been involved in. Bull also managed the impressive feat of scoring 50 goals or more in two consecutive seasons, achieved between 1987-1989.
Tommo scored 45 goals in his 11-year stay at the club where he played in a number of positions, most commonly full back, and was renowned for his penalty taking. He, along with Bull, sits on the Wolves Hall of Fame. Thompson is also still involved with Wolves doing regular radio work during games. This is, without doubt, the greatest £65,000 ever spent.
2. Matt Doherty – £75,000 from Bohemians
If ever there was a player who does not quite get the recognition from the Wolves faithful that they deserve at the present time, it’s Matt Doherty.
Doherty signed from Irish side Bohemians for just £75,000 back in 2010 under Mick McCarthy, something that is often forgotten about. He made his Premier League debut at Anfield in 2011 at the age of just 18, before two relatively successful loan spells at Hibernian and Bury. His Wolves career really kicked off under manager Dean Saunders when Wolves were relegated to League 1. Doherty was one of the very few shining lights during that season and went on to make 17 appearances in the side under Kenny Jackett when Wolves stormed to the League 1 title. He went on to be a valuable squad member for the two following seasons, although his first-team starts were limited with the emergence of England Under-21 international Dominic Iorfa.
However, what was so impressive about Doherty was that this did not faze him. He found his place back in the side at left-back, and though this was unfamiliar to him, he provided many solid if not unspectacular performances throughout the reigns of Kenny Jackett, Walter Zenga and Paul Lambert in the Championship. Fans will remember his stunning long-range goal against Fulham in 2016, which went on to win the clubs goal of the season award that year.
Doherty was then transformed into one of the best wing-backs in the country under Nuno Espirito Santo, which finally brought Doherty the international recognition he deserved. He was a crucial part of the promotion-winning team when Wolves won the Championship with 99 points in 2018 and made light work of the transition to the Premier League. Doherty made an enormous contribution with 8 goals and 5 assists from wing-back as Wanderers claimed European football for the first time in 39 years after finishing 7th in the Premier League and also got to the FA Cup Semi-Finals. In his time at Wolves so far, he has made 251 appearances and netted 20 times.
For just £75,000, Wolves have managed to define the term ‘bargain’ in their flying wing-back, who shows no signs of letting up anytime soon.
3. Joao Moutinho – £5m from Monaco
It is now almost impossible to imagine a Wolves squad without the Portuguese genius in the middle of the park. In and amongst all the big money and high-profile signings of the Fosun era, few could argue that this is most certainly the biggest bargain. Quite how such a majestic genius can cost so little is simply staggering. At the age of 33, there is no sign of him slowing down either! You almost get the impression that if Sir Alex was in charge, he’d be saying he could play till the age of 40.
Previous to the Coronavirus pandemic, Moutinho has made 67 appearances in gold and black with 2 goals, most memorably the equaliser at Old Trafford at the start of the 2018/19 season which saw Wolves back in the top flight for the first time since 2012. He adds some much-needed experience and an extremely cool head in what a relatively young squad, his knowledge of European football has proved invaluable in Wolves’ impressive Europa League run, currently on course to reach the quarter-finals.
In addition to this, Moutinho is a born winner, his mentality matches that of Nuno and the ‘Fosun Wolves’ perfectly. His frustration at the end of the 3-3 draw in Braga in November was clear for all to see despite it being the result which clinched a place in the Europa League knockout stages for Wolves. Such is his talent and vision, many Wolves fans hope that upon the unthinkable day of his retirement, whether that be at Molineux or elsewhere, he will return to Wolves to share his unquestionable ability with the teams of the future. But for now, enjoy and appreciate the magician in the middle, and contemplate he cost a mere £5million.
4. Conor Coady – £2m from Huddersfield Town
‘They said that he’s a scouser’, well, by blood maybe, but that is just about it as far as Conor Coady is concerned. After joining from Huddersfield Town for a fee believed to be around £2million in the summer of 2015, there were high hopes for the then central midfielder who spent his younger years in the academy of boyhood club, Liverpool. Having netted an impressive long-range strike against Wolves for Huddersfield the previous season, many fans were hoping to see more of the same.
Ultimately, we’ve seen anything but! It was a difficult first season for Coady who struggled to force a regular place in the starting 11 under Kenny Jackett and drew criticism from some sections of the fanbase. Under both Walter Zenga and Paul Lambert the following season, Coady played in a number of positions including right back, and gained a massive amount of respect for his commitment and attitude to the cause, in particular for his performance in the 2-1 win against Liverpool at Anfield in the FA Cup 4th round.
However, it was under now Head Coach Nuno Espirito Santo that Coady really came to fruition. Many fans were sceptical at Nuno’s decision to play Coady in the centre of a three-man defence, first seen during the pre-season tour of Austria in 2017, but it has turned out to be one of the greatest decisions the Portuguese man has made since coming to the club.
Coady proved to be integral both on and off the field in Championship winning season, with his highly impressive reading of the game combined with his much improved defensive capabilities. Coady’s leadership was evident in the centre of the pitch, and he was officially made club captain the following season after the departure of Danny Batth. Many questions were raised of the centre half going into the Premier League season, but they were soon answered as Coady once again proved vital in Wolves’ rise to Europe and the FA Cup semi-finals.
However, it is not just Coady’s impact on the team that is so impressive. The way in which he conducts himself in and around the club, speaking to the media and the fans is the way in which every fan would dream their captain would do so. He sticks up for the players and manager every week and has adopted many of Nuno’s sayings, buying into the philosophy of the club. He loves Wolves, and Wolves love him. Yes, you could buy a better centre back, but you certainly couldn’t buy a better individual to play the many roles in which he partakes across the club, on and off the pitch, especially not for £2million.
5. Sylvan Ebanks-Blake – £1.5m from Plymouth Argyle
Ebanks-Blake Signed from Plymouth after Wolves activated his release clause of just £1.5m in 2008 and scored 61 goals and made 177 appearances in his time at Molineux. He won back to back Championship golden boots in 2008 and 2009 and was a crucial figure in Mick McCarthy’s team that won promotion to the Premier League in 2009. His partnership with Chris Iwelumo is often still talked about by many Wolves fans, with the pair guiding Wolves to promotion that year.
Following two extremely fruitful seasons, Sylvan struggled to adapt to life in the top flight but scored 2 crucial goals in the 2009/10 season. He equalised from the spot at home to Aston Villa to avoid defeat to our West Midlands rivals and also scored against Blackburn towards the end of the season which ultimately proved to be the goal which secured Wolves’ Premier League status and sparked wild celebrations at Molineux. He scored some crucial goals the following season as Wolves once again survived, his late equaliser at Everton and winner at home to Sunderland proved to be decisive in the race for survival.
The remainder of his Wolves career was unfortunately hampered by injury, scoring just one goal in a limited number of appearances the year Wolves were relegated back to the Championship. Ebanks-Blake was somewhat rejuvenated by the appointment of Dean Saunders the following season, scoring 14 goals back in the Championship, when Wolves were relegated to League 1. Many believe had he not suffered a serious injury against Birmingham that ended his season prematurely, Wolves would have survived having picked up in form with Sylvan’s goals vital in the run-in. An extremely eventful few years at the club for a natural-born forward, who’s contributions certainly warranted more than just £1.5million.
Honourable Mentions: Paul Ince, Mark Kennedy, Jody Craddock, Dave Edwards, Matt Jarvis, Ruben Neves, Diogo Jota, Willy Boly.
Who would be in your top 5 – leave your comments in the section down below.
Ciaran Barker is part of the Talking Wolves editorial team – you can follow him on Twitter here.