FOR Rotherham United fans, the current campaign is proving an exercise in stoicism – competing against a host of big-city Championship clubs and some of the most famous names in the game.
But if they need inspiration, they could do worse than rewind the clock exactly 30 years ago today when Norman Hunter’s class of 1985-86 inflicted one of the most grievous defeats in the history of one of football’s venerable institutions in Wolverhampton Wanderers.
Back in the famous Emlyn Hughes/Anton Johnson heady days of the early 80s, the Millers thrashed a decidedly down-at-heel Chelsea side 6-0 at Millmoor in October, 1981, Rod Fern firing a hat-trick past hapless Petar Borata in a victory which many seasoned Blues supporters still refer to as the club’s nadir.
Those Wolves diehards who stood in the Railway End will equate to those same feelings when the Black Country outfit were trounced 6-0 in the FA Cup first round on November 16, 1985.
It represents Wolves’ worst FA Cup defeat, with a former player on the books at Molineux in West Bromwich-born Alan Birch playing a leading role with a brace on an afternoon when he and the hosts could, and perhaps should, have scored many more goals than the six that they mustered.
Birch, whose younger brother Paul counted Wolves, Aston Villa and Doncaster Rovers among his former clubs, joined Wolves on a four-year deal from Chesterfield in 1981, but never established himself and made just 18 appearances.
Birch was an unwitting victim of the financial problems which went onto besiege Wolves in the early 80s, with the winger linking up with Hunter for the first time after being sold to Barnsley with Wanderers desperate to raise funds to save themselves from liquidation after being relegated from the top-flight in 1981-82.
The maelstrom continued and Wolves survived another winding-up order in August, 1985, with two sides of Molineux, the North Bank and Waterloo Road Stand, also closed in the wake of the Bradford City fire.
Relegation was inevitable from the start of 1985-86, with Tommy Docherty, Sammy Chapman and Bill McGarry at the helm for short stints before Chapman took charge for a second time ahead of the trip to Millmoor – McGarry quitting after just 61 days.
Tommy Tynan headed the Millers ahead on 15 minutes in a one-sided first-half in which only the display of goalkeeper Scott Barrett kept Wolves in it.
Tony Simmons made it 2-0 eight minutes before the break after latching onto a punt forward from Kelham O’Hanlon before Wolves were reduced to 10 men when defender Nicky Clarke was dismissed after tangling with Tynan.
The Millers had chance after chance before Mick Gooding’s 20-yarder made it 3-0, the first of four home goals in the final 16 minutes.
Birch, who went onto run several pubs in the Midlands, headed home before hitting the goal of the game after a sweeping move and there was still time for Kevan Smith to add a sixth.
Happy days for the Millers.