Running with Wolves

Nothing to do with running with Wolves really. Just following them has been hard work as they have plummeted disastrously. Two years ago Wolves were in the top league in the world, playing the likes of Chelsea, Manchester United and Man City, Arsenal and Spurs, to be followed by dropping straight down and out of the championship league, to now start the 2013/2014 season in League One.

The Wolves management team have overseen the removal of Mick McCarthy, as they struggled during 2012 in the premier league. Then the replacement of loyal but totally out-of-his-depth Terry Connor who tried to keep them up, and failed. Their arrival in the championship league, for the 2013 season, where they had the intent to get straight back into the premiership, saw the appointment of what may have been a sound replacement in Stale Solbakken. Stale tried to change things but was dismissed mid-season while still in 18th place in the championship. What did Stale do? One opinion says he didn’t understand English football and was a poor appointment by those who didn’t have a clue how to recruit a manager. Another view is that his vision was not given the chance to change things around, and over-paid players and a management who wanted to micro-manage meant he was isolated and became the latest blame-boy. This led to his replacement with Dean Saunders, who was took 10 matches to earn his first club win, and oversaw the by now divisive team continue to struggle and finish the season relegated. Saunders never looked like he could get Wolves playing the way they should, and led loyal fans to be critical of Jez Moxey’s astute financial management which did not translate into any football acumen.

For say what you like, Wolves have managed their financial situation well. A club with an illustrious history, they are respected as one of the founders of the football league, and the European cup. Wolves won the league title three times and the FA cup twice between 1949 and 1960, and were respected as champions against top European teams during these halcyon days. Hard times have followed since, but the modern Wolves were established with Steve Morgan owning the club and Jez Moxey as Chief Executive. Their ground is the impressive Moulineux, were they have played since 1889. A venue still just a few minutes walk from the city centre. The new Stan Cullis stand has been built during their most recent history of relegations, and seems to stand as silent criticism of the club’s football ability.

For over two years, as plenty of people never saw Mick as a premier league manager, fans have worried and fretted over who should be the manager. Between replacements, and the lack of club communications fans saw everyone from ex footballers to ex England football managers as their saviours. With relegation to League One the problem became worse, now we needed a good manager but someone who could understand the sheer relentless reality of football in league one. No more Manchester, instead Oldham and mid-week visits to Crawley. Who now? Current managers with experience of staying alive in the lower leagues, managers who were available and had indifferent CV’s but had lived through turbulent times, those young and inspiring but without the damage from shock relegations, a trusted old hand to keep everything stable and level and make sure things didn’t get worse? Someone with history of bringing in their own support teams and building a team through well-run football academies and astute loan players. Just a big name, Neil Warnock or Roy Keane. Time to bring back Stale?

Instead Wolves took some time and announced they were looking for a head coach and not a manager. Nearby rivals, WBA having achieved success with this model. Was this a stroke of genius, a sign of a revitalised Wolves or is it yet another sign of the let’s have a change and do it cheap attitude the fans have come to resent. There were deep worries. After removing Mick McCarthy in 2012, Mick went on to manage Ipswich, who are still in the championship. Rather than recruiting or replacing Mick the management promoted the ill-fated Terry Connor, who was an internal recruit having been an assistant to Mick. What looked to many as a poor football decision and/or a wrongly-advised cheap option. The appointment of Stale brought enthusiasm for new continental style football, instead within 6 months he was gone, after a poor FA cup run losing to Luton. Doncaster boss Dean Saunders, who like Terry never seemed at ease with the task, replaced Stale, and was sacked months later. So the fans worried even more about this rush to hire and fire.

Then finally right at the end of May it was announced. Kenny Jackett is the new Wolves manager, sorry, head coach! At least this appointment makes some sense. Jackett did well at Swansea and Millwall and has at least proved he can do stuff rather than just talk about it. The big club that isn’t, Wolves may make his name. For Wolves fans there is hope that this is true. A worrying 12 month rolling contract may provide some sense of wariness around what management expects. At least for now there is time, to sort out the players, get a grip on the team and get a proper team playing together in those gold shirts. The new season is coming.

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