Beating the big boys has become something of a familiar feel for Wolves in recent seasons, with the cream of the Premier League crop all despatched in one form or another in modern times.
But that hasn’t always been the case.
Since Mick McCarthy’s Wolves vintage upset the odds against the Manchester pair, Tottenham, Liverpool and Chelsea back in the day, there was a spell of several years of either inaction against the top sides due to divisional status or a hefty thumping when they did lock horns.
So that is why, five years ago tomorrow, the FA Cup fourth round success against Liverpool at Anfield has lived long in the memory bank of all who were there.
Not least for that squad of players who gathered for a post-match celebration selfie in what at the time was a portacabin for an away dressing room due to final stages of renovation work on the Main Stand.
There was an eclectic mix to the squad on that momentous January afternoon in what turned out to be a season of transition, the first of Fosun’s ownership.
The only starter remaining at the club now is boyhood Liverpool fan and former player Conor Coady, whilst Connor Ronan came on from the bench and Morgan Gibbs-White was an unused substitute.
The most experienced on show that day were skipper Dave Edwards – regular captain Danny Batth was on the bench – and early goalscorer Richard Stearman, whilst one of the big stories came at the opposite end of the age spectrum with goalkeeper Harry Burgoyne.
Only just turned 20, Liverpool away was only Burgoyne’s third senior appearance, coming seven weeks after his first, an epic 4-4 draw with Fulham.
The backdrop to this particular Burgoyne story had started a week earlier, when Wolves were beaten 3-1 by this season’s next FA Cup opponents, Norwich City.
Carl Ikeme, Wolves undisputed number one for an impressive few seasons, was shown a red card after an angry reaction to a Wes Hoolahan tumble which earned Norwich a decisive penalty.
A call from the bench for Burgoyne to get stripped to come on lasted barely a split second before the penny dropped that Wolves had already made all three substitutions.
For goalkeeping coach Pat Mountain, another realisation had quickly dawned.
“As Matt Doherty was taking Carl’s shirt which ended up being very baggy with the sleeves hanging down and putting the gloves on for the penalty, I suddenly thought of something,” Mountain recalls.
“Carl’s red card meant he would be suspended, Lonners (Andy Lonergan) wasn’t going to be ready because of injury, and so Harry was going to be playing at Anfield in the FA Cup.
“When he made his debut against Fulham, he only found out two hours before kick-off but this time it was going to be very different.
“Now he had a whole week to think about it and imagine for a moment what that was like for him – from about 10am on Monday morning he just wanted it to be 12.30pm on Saturday!
“It was all about getting him ready and understanding it was going to be a massive game but also keeping him as relaxed as possible.
“To be honest he took it all in his stride.”
Wolves did appeal the Ikeme dismissal, perhaps more in hope than expectation, but success was limited only in reducing the suspension from three games to two.
Burgoyne was in.
“When the gaffer (Paul Lambert) told me on the bus on the way back from Norwich that I would be playing at Anfield I thought he was joking,” the man himself recalls.
“But all week I was involved in all the ‘prep’ on team shape, and when Kemes’ appeal failed, and Lonners was struggling with a back injury, it became clear that I was.
“There were a million things going through my head that week, it was crazy and I was a bit nervous at the start, but I did enjoy it, anticipating what was coming.”
Wolves travelled to Liverpool on the Friday and, that evening, Mountain remembers heading to the hotel’s games room for a spot of pool with Burgoyne, just trying to keep things relaxed.
“So much of being a goalkeeping coach is about the psychological side,” says the coach.
“With Harry we were fortunate because he had already played the two league games and shown he could cope with that pressure.
“The coaching schedule would have been exactly the same that week, but I would have added a few jovial bits in there as well to keep it light.
“Every man and his dog would have been contacting Harry showing him support and giving him nuggets of information, but it was impossible for him to take all of that on board.
“So it was about encouraging him to enjoy it, to relish the experience and just go out and do exactly what he had done in his first two games.”
Burgoyne might have been ready to enjoy the occasion, but he didn’t massively enjoy his breakfast on the Saturday morning.
With a lunchtime kick off, a menu of chicken and pasta at 9.30am was not one for the keeper’s tastebuds.
“I’m not a big eater in the morning at the best of times, so how on earth was my stomach going to cope with that?” he laughs.
“Eventually I went for beans on toast and that has become my lucky pre-match meal ever since!”
Burgoyne was recently part of the Shrewsbury squad which played at Anfield in the third round of the FA Cup, and the police escort to the ground brought back memories of five years ago.
On that day, he went out for the warm-up knowing he was going to be between the sticks rather than, as he was recently, on the bench.
“So many people were really supportive of me ahead of the game, but I will always remember Lonners (Lonergan) as we were warming up,” he remembers.
“He had a problem with his back and so was on the bench, but he must have been gutted he wasn’t playing as he probably would have been had he been fit.
“He turned to me and said, ‘mate, this is one of the best games you will have in your career, a goalkeeper’s dream, all you’ve got to do is stay on the line and save some shots!’
“He was just trying to put me at ease, help me not overthink things, to be ready but not treat it any differently to a normal game.
“I have always respected Lonners for that, to help me when he must have been disappointed, but just like Kemes (Ikeme) he was always such a great supporter of me when I was at the club.”
It must have worked because Burgoyne was so relaxed that he took the wrong turn in the tunnel heading back towards the dressing room, later spotted with glee by one of his older brothers when Liverpool’s ‘Tunnel Cam’ was released.
By the time the teams were back lining up in the tunnel ready to head out for kick-off, it was the turn of Edwards to enjoy a special moment.
The Welsh international wasn’t aware of it at the time, but he was heading into the final six months of his lengthy and illustrious Wolves career and was arguably at his most influential in terms of on and off the pitch contributions.
“As my own Wolves journey had developed, I had become more of an integral part of the dressing room and felt like I was a big part of what was happening on the pitch,” Edwards recalls.
“That season was a bit all over the place, it felt like a circus at times, but from a personal point of view it was probably my most successful.
“When Paul Lambert came in, he made me feel brilliant every time I went out there from a confidence point of view, and to get the armband when Danny wasn’t playing was a massive honour.
“At a club the size of Wolves, in a game of that magnitude, an FA Cup tie at Anfield in front of a full house of over 50,000, with 8,500 Wolves fans, it doesn’t get much better, does it?
“And there we were, standing in the tunnel, with the mascot who I still remember was called Fletch, and all we could hear was the Wolves fans and the song – ‘We’ve got Edwards’.
“The fans used to sing that a lot that season which for me was incredible, although Ruben Neves has pinched it now and, let’s be honest, he is more befitting of it than I ever was!
“But standing in the tunnel next to the Liverpool team, listening to that, it’s the stuff that childhood dreams are made of – I had to pinch myself.”
Edwards was ready. And Wolves were ready.
Fired up even before leaving the team hotel by a compilation video put together by analyst Phil Boardman, Lambert’s final words captured the mood perfectly.
“This isn’t the sort of opportunity that comes along every day,” he told the players.
“Make sure you go out and make the most of it because it could be a day you remember for the rest of your life – go out there and make a bit of history.”
It was a theme which Edwards echoed in the team huddle.
As Burgoyne describes: “Eddo told us to make sure we took it all in and enjoyed every single minute of it, because it could end up becoming one of the best days of our careers.
“I think it was a really important message because in that situation it is so hard to take it in, but it just made me stop and think and make sure that I did.
“As for the whole experience of ‘You’ll Never Walk Alone’ – wow.
“I had no idea how powerful that was – a real goosebumps moment and I’m not going to lie, I had a bit of a tear in my eye listening in the last seconds before kick-off.”
Inside the first minute, 53 seconds to be precise, any Wolves tears were purely of joy.
Almost straight from the kick-off, Edwards drew a foul from Liverpool skipper Lucas on the right-hand side, and Helder Costa sent in an inswinging free kick.
The pinpoint left-foot delivery was destined for the head of one man, and one man alone!
Richard Stearman was, with Edwards and Batth, the only survivors from the Wolves squad which had won at Anfield in the Premier League just over seven years earlier.
Having left Wolves for Fulham – not of his own accord – with almost 250 appearances under his belt in 2015, he had made a much-acclaimed and emotional return on loan the following summer.
“When I came back that season to wear the old gold again, I was determined to grab the opportunity with both hands,” Stearman explains.
“To play for Wolves again was a dream come true, so I didn’t want to take anything for granted and wanted to let it all soak in.
“At the time the club was going through a bit of a transitional period, and it wasn’t going so well in the league.
“The FA Cup was giving us a good distraction and giving us something to shout about in that particular season.”
There was certainly something to shout about when the popular defender got his head to Costa’s set piece and directed it back across Loris Karius.
Cheers for Stears, indeed!
“Every time I think about that goal I can still see that lovely ball coming in from Helder and finding myself on my own, just concentrating on heading it back where it came from across the goal,” he describes.
“I knew I wasn’t far out and had a really good chance of scoring.
“Luckily it found the back of the net and what an amazing feeling for me personally and for the team.
“I still get those goosebumps even thinking about it, since going back to Wolves I had been desperate to score and what better place to do it than Anfield?”
That vociferous travelling following descended into joyous pandemonium.
And Stearman embarked on a very well-known celebration, one arm aloft, running across in front of the Kop before being engulfed by delirious team-mates.
“Ah yes, the old ‘Shearer’ ‘celo’,” he laughs.
“I didn’t score many, did I? There weren’t too many chances to vary my celebration.
“That one just came naturally, to wheel away with one arm up in the air – keep it simple.
“It’s all a bit of a blur when you score, euphoric, all the lads are shouting and you can’t really compute what’s going on.
“When I have looked back at the footage, I think Coads (Coady) was encouraging me to run towards the Wolves fans but that was some distance away and I needed to conserve my energy!
“Obviously it would have been amazing to score in front of the Wolves fans, but it was special in front of the Kop, and an incredible feeling that will stay with me for the rest of my life.”
It was the perfect start, after which Wolves looked relatively comfortable.
Stearman and Kortney Hause in the centre of defence, Coady at right back, Doherty at left back, and Edwards, George Saville and Lee Evans controlling the midfield.
It actually presented Burgoyne with something of a problem, in that his only action in the opening spells of the game were to take a closer inspection of a smoke bomb thrown onto the pitch before being warned away by the stewards.
“I really wasn’t nervous about Harry in the game because he had been so relaxed in the week,” says Mountain.
“But the thing that concerned me most was that he hadn’t touched the ball inside the first 20 minutes!
“That is what players are always told on their debut – make sure you get an early touch of the ball, whatever that means.
“I am sure Harry was stood there, with that tremendous Wolves support behind him, just desperate to get involved.”
As well as the Wolves defence was protecting Burgoyne, the attack – or more to the point the counter-attack – was getting to work.
Costa was in the form of his Wolves life – he would sign a permanent deal days after the game – and Andi Weimann and Nouha Dicko completed a fearsomely pacey attacking trio.
Having almost struck the most incredible of solo goals after carrying the ball from defence to attack, Costa then played Weimann in four minutes before half time for an expert finish which was greeted as wildly by the travelling fans as it was Ikeme, co-commentating with Wolves TV’s Mikey Burrows in the Anfield press box.
Wolves, 2-0 up against Liverpool at half time. It wasn’t a massively weakened Liverpool either. Both teams had made changes for the cup tie.
“At that stage the gameplan goes out of the window a little bit,” says Edwards.
“We were so good on the counter-attack which had got us in front but while we were excited, half time was a time to calm down and refocus.
“We didn’t want to stay compact and be hard to break down, not to drop too deep too early, while trusting that we still had the pace on the break to cause them problems.”
Coming out for the second half, Mountain had mentioned to Burgoyne the tradition from the Kop of applauding the opposition goalkeeper, even more so a young one and, even at 2-0 down.
“That was a special moment, unbelievable,” the keeper recalls.
“Liverpool fans seem to get a lot of stick but for me they are the most respectful opposition fans I have played in front of.”
The Liverpool players found Burgoyne and Wolves a tougher nut to crack, even with Phillipe Coutinho coming on at half time and Roberto Firmino in the line-up, later to make way for Daniel Sturridge, and Emre Can as another second half substitute.
During the second half Wolves brought on 18-year-old Connor Ronan and refreshed the front three with Joe Mason and Jon Dadi Bodvarsson, who also went so close to an incredible solo goal late on.
“We defended well, and the midfield were working their socks off, and Liverpool found it really difficult to break us down,” says Stearman.
“I think they got a bit disheartened in the end, shooting from distance or throwing balls into the box, and we were happy because we felt we could deal with that.”
It wasn’t until the 86th minute that Divock Origi – yes, him – pulled one back for the Reds to set up a grandstand finish.
But there was to be no last gasp Liverpool-inflicted heartache, thanks to Burgoyne making a late save with his legs to deny Origi an equaliser.
“It was nice to make that save, but it was also nice that the lads in front of me were unbelievable that day,” says Burgoyne.
“I think I only faced five or six shots, away at Liverpool, and three of those were from Coutinho which were pretty much straight at me.
“To make a big save at the end was the icing on the cake and a lot of Wolves fans still message me to this day to say they remember that game which is amazing.”
With victory secured the party could really start.
The scenes in front of the massed ranks of travelling Wolves supporters were those that only take place after a famous win.
It was the short-lived era of the Bodvarsson-inspired ‘Icelandic clap’, perhaps at its finest on this particular afternoon, and a sense of togetherness between players and fans that was strong at the time, despite mixed results.
Lambert, an Anfield specialist with a long unbeaten run as a manager, drove himself home after the game and Mountain recalls snapping a picture of Doherty and Saville, sat in the manager’s normal seat, feet up, enjoying the moment.
“We were playing at Barnsley three days later – which we also won – but I remember Paul using that photo in the team meeting on the Monday,” says Mountain.
“It was very light-hearted in the sense of ‘look at what you pair are doing just because we have beaten Liverpool’, but there was also the message about getting back to normal and going out to play another game so quickly.
“But Liverpool was certainly one to remember with such a brilliant atmosphere.
“You have more downs than ups in football and so days like that you have to cherish as much as you can.
“For Harry too, we were all delighted at how he handled it all and came through that pressure at the end.
“For a goalkeeper, games and occasions like that can be such a big moment in a person’s life, not just their football career.
“All his family were there, it was on TV, and if he had crumbled or made a mistake that was then shown every week it could have ended his career before it had started.”
What the game did do for Burgoyne was give him a taste to strive for more days like that and, for all involved, even five years on, it still clearly means so much.
Mountain’s travels across the Championship as Bristol City’s goalkeeping coach prompt regular reunions with Wolves players from the day, while he and Robins striker Weimann were discussing the game only recently.
Those Wolves players are all still in close touch, including with Coady, who has since gone on to etch his own name in Molineux folklore with his influence as captain.
“There are not loads of those days in a career – that will live you with you beyond your career – so you have to savour every moment and those scenes enjoying it with the fans,” says Stearman, now aiming for perhaps an even bigger miracle with Derby County.
“It is funny when you think of it being five years ago as in some respects it feels like yesterday, but the club has moved on so much since then in other ways it feels like ten years ago!
“It is incredible what has happened with Wolves since and so that win at Liverpool seems like light years away.
“They have gone from strength to strength and it’s great seeing them do so well, great seeing Coads do so well, and I think everyone must be really proud of how the club has done.”
Having beaten two Premier League sides away from home in Stoke and Liverpool, Wolves finally found champions-elect Chelsea too much to overcome in the fifth round but have of course since reached the semi-finals in 2019 before suffering an agonising defeat to Watford.
Edwards, who bizarrely has played against both Wolves and Liverpool in the fourth round with Shrewsbury since that famous victory, was with his son Jack at Wembley on semi-final day.
Now, ahead of Wolves’ fourth round tie with Norwich a week on Saturday, the midfielder believes the time is right for another run deep into the competition.
“At the stage of my life when that Liverpool game happened, I think it meant so much more to me, and showed the magic of the cup,” says the midfielder, who now plays with Bala Town in the League of Wales alongside business and media commitments.
“For Wolves now, this season, they are pushing for the European places with no need to look over their shoulders, so they can go all out in these cup games.
“It feels like this is the time for the football club to be able to take that next step, especially as they can give anyone in the Premier League a game on their day.
“It is certainly not unfathomable that they can go all the way, and Bruno Lage winning an FA Cup would write his name into Wolves’ history.”
Beating Liverpool at Anfield in front of a crowd of 52, 469 was certainly the high point of the Lambert tenure and the high point of a season which feels like it provided a bridge between two different eras.
After returning to Molineux, Burgoyne drove back to a pub in his hometown of Ludlow, to meet his Dad Chris who had been to the game with several Liverpool-supporting friends.
He even gave some of them a lift home, including one – Adam – who pronounced on exiting the car that he could never have expected to receive such a gesture from a goalkeeper that had helped beat his team just a few hours before.
It was the perfect end to the perfect day. And the best thing about it? There have been so many more of them since.