by Chris Stoneadge (@ChrisStonadge)
“It’s a bit of a cliché, but football really is the glue that holds us all together. Even on a global scale. It is the opiate of the masses.”
On a glittering Friday evening I had the absolute pleasure of talking to the Mendelsson family. A family who share a special connection, from Ross-on-Wye to the Middle-East.
The family affiliation with the Old Gold began back in the Second World War, with Jonny and David’s Jewish father being evacuated from Nazi Germany on the kindertransport.
Emerging from the carriage came a fresh-faced, aptly named Wolfgang Mendelsson. The dynasty which has carried so far over three generations had begun.
Having been stationed in Cannock Chase (a bus-ride from Wolverhampton), Wolfgang had the world of Midlands football at his feet. Living close to both Molineux and Fellows Park, the then home of Walsall, he visited them on alternating weekends depending on who was at home.
“He was lucky enough that his parents moved down into London in June, which is where we grew up. You see the majority of Wolves fans who hate West Brom, or Villa, but for me it’s the Arsenal’s and Spurs’ of this world who frustrate me the most. It’s understandable too because that’s where I got to know the game and they’re who all my friends supported. We have a real connection with Wolverhampton Wanderers, but the place of Wolverhampton doesn’t have that connection simply because we never lived there.” — Jonny
Wolfgang saw later in his formative years the best side in the clubs’ history, with the success ridden era of the 1950s the most illustrious in Wolves folklore. The decade brought three league titles under the captaincy of Billy Wright and the management of Stan Cullis, with the Old Gold vying with Manchester United to be the best side in the British Isles at the time.
After Molineux became one of the first stadium’s in England to build floodlights, Wolves played a massive part in the introduction of the European Cup in this era. In the mid-50s they played the ‘floodlit friendlies’ first against Horved, fronted by Ferenc Puskas, and later Real Madrid, Dynamo Kyiv and Spartak Moscow.
Cullis won Wolves five major honours in his time at Molineux and is immortalised by a named stand and a statue outside of the ground. Wright also heeds legacy and history in the Midlands.
So he made his move down to the capital, marrying and having three children, two of which were sons, in the form of David and Jonny.
And he certainly didn’t waste much time teaching them the Wolverhampton way. David recounted his first match as an away game aged five against Fulham. However, as he was such a young age he failed to recall much of what happened during the game.
David, Itai’s father, moved to Israel in 1980, therefore not having the access to Molineux and the English game itself that he would’ve liked. But the day before his emigration came the opportunity to take on a then dominant Liverpool side fresh from back-to-back European Cups and league titles. The 25th November brought the Reds to the Black Country. Managing to scrape a last minute ticket, David saw his side run out comfortable 4–1 winners. Goals from ex-Red Emlyn Hughes, Mel Eves, John Richards and Norman Bell saw the Reds crumble to defeat
WHAT WOLVES MEANS TO ME
“Wolves is everything. Even from the other side of the world we find a way of staying in touch with everything that’s going on. It’s a community, a club that brings everyone together. We have a family WhatsApp group so we can always discuss the games. It’s not like being there for every game but it’s as close as we can get.” – Itai
Coming from different eras its remarkable that the two generations have experienced similar highs and lows for the Midlands club.
Although the younger Mendelsson’s have never experienced the fourth tier like the class of 1988, the side in Old Gold did experience a more recent spell in 2013/14 where they dipped to the third tier.
“It’s all so relative. Like it’s amazing now because we actually have expectation and we actually have a chance, but some of my best moments as a Wolves fan came under Jackett with ‘Dicko, Afobe, Sako!’. Obviously there’s more fans now than when we were in League One, but every game feels different and every game feels special. We beat Rotherham 6–4 and wow I’ll never forget games like that. But then we pinch ourselves like we just beat United 2–1! — Otto
For a side left in the third tier after a despicable season under Stale Solbakken and Dean Saunders in 2013, it would be extremely difficult to even comprehend where the club is six years later. After investment and diligence the club is in seventh in the English Premier League.
“We didn’t realise the fantastic side we had in the 80’s. But now it almost gives me the same feeling. The club’s at a crossroads and it feels like, even after losing in the Semi-Final, it could be the start of something brilliant. But then Fosun could get bored, stop investing and we’d have to rebuild again. But the fans will always be there.”
“When you’ve seen Wolves play and having little expectation, like under Mick [McCarthy] and down in the lower leagues its just surreal to be where we are now. The manager, the players, the infrastructure of the club has just got so much better so quickly. It seriously is like a dream”
DOWN WEMBLEY WAY
For the first time since 1998, Wolves had made an F.A. Cup Semi-Final, this occasion against Javi Gracia’s Watford.
“We drove down, all of us absolutely buzzing for what we thought would be a real chance to get into a Cup Final.”
“Driving down the M40, seeing all the Wolves flags, it was mental! Stopping at the services seeing sombreros for Jimenez and of course that mask! People shame Jimenez for wearing the mask and celebrating prematurely but personally what would you do after going 2–0 up in a semi-final?”
“We played really well for 65 minutes and even with the Deulofeu goal it seemed like we were coming back to Wembley, I was dreaming. And people say Nuno’s subs were wrong but he was trying to close out the game. It’s still so sickening though”
After a stunning start, with goals from the in-form Matt Doherty and soon to be permanent striker Raul Jimenez, Watford replied with a deft Deulofeu dink, a last-minute strike from Troy Deeney and a cool slotted finish from the aforementioned Spaniard to win the game for the Hornets.
Although the Wolverhampton adventure has come to an end in the Cup this season, it does give foresight of what is to come for Nuno’s side.
“We seemed to have it in the bag, but things just weren’t meant to be. It was great that I could spend my first real experience of Wembley with my family, especially coming from far and wide. I am glad we can keep my grandad’s heritage going.” – written by Otto
The Mendelsson’s. A family etched in Old Gold.