It wasn’t long ago that Wolves found themselves competing in the Premiership under the guidance of Mick McCarthy and assistant, Terry Connor. Now only three years later, they are facing up to the real possibility of relegation down into League One. Sitting second from bottom in the Championship with eight games left, current boss Dean Saunders still has time to turn things around but at present his team are misfiring and lacking the necessary spark they need to save them from the drop. Saturday’s win against bottom placed Bristol City gave them only their second win in 2013 but with Peterborough beating Blackpool, Wolves remain firmly in the bottom three.
The problem that Wolves have had is consistency on all levels throughout the club, both on the field and off the field. Results and performances have not been good enough since the start of the season and led to the dismissal of former Copenhagen manager Ståle Solbakken after only eight months in charge. The appointment of former Wales striker Dean Saunders, brought in from Doncaster in January was seen as the change needed to turn the fortunes of the club around but so far he has been unable to do so. Five defeats, five draws and only two wins, including Saturday’s vital win, have not been good enough. Failing to score whilst leaking weak goals has led to matches being lost. Whilst his principle three strikers – Doyle, Ebanks-Blake and Sigurðarson have contributed 20 goals between them from 33 games, his midfielders (with the exception of French star Bakary Sako) have not contributed enough. Players like Jamie O’Hara and Karl Henry have played a majority of the games this season but have yet to hit the back of the net. Similarly the lack of appearances by Stephen Hunt has been baffling to many fans as the Irishman has often been the creative influence in the team. Hunt’s exclusion is not the only one that confuses the faithful home fans who struggle to understand why goalkeeper Wayne Hennesey was overlooked at the start of the season as the number one goalkeeper by Solbakken and so far has failed to make a single appearance for the team this year, despite being their chosen goalkeeper last year. His replacement, Carl Ikeme has been one of the standouts this year so his inclusion is merited but its the decision at the start of the season that baffles most.
Indeed there have been a lot of decisions made at the club that have left the fans scratching their heads in wonder. The firing of Mick McCarthy when the team was skirting close to the Premiership relegation zone did not come as a shock. The time had come for a fresh approach through a manager with new ideas so the appointment of McCarthy’s assistant, Terry Connor as their new manager pleased few. It looked like acceptance that relegation was coming and that planning for a new season in the championship took priority over actually attempting to revive the club and punch its way out of the relegation dogfight it was in. The suspicion looked even more provable when at the end of the season, after relegation had occurred, Connor was dismissed and quickly replaced by former Copenhagen boss Solbakken. He came with a reputation of winning – having led Copenhagen to back to back titles in 2006 and 2007 and was seen as the man to put Wolves right. But in the end he was the wrong appointment, losing the dressing room before eventually losing his job after only eight months in.
Some of the blame for these poor decisions lie firmly at the feet of owner Steve Morgan. Morgan has been on the offensive for a while now, defending the money he has invested in the club against the fans negative view of how he has been running it. Morgan has offered to walk away if he was unwanted and has even claimed that the recent problems at the club have affected his home life as well But he remains in charge, with a tight grip on the club much to its fans dismay. Questions surrounding the money generated from selling key player assets like Matt Jarvis and Steven Fletcher have been deflected by Morgan mostly to CEO Jez Moxey. Moxey himself has been criticised by the home support for his lack of football knowledge and understanding but in his defence he appears to be Morgan’s sock puppet rather than an influencer at the club. Morgan appointed both Solbakken and Saunders himself without consulting Moxey or anyone else connected to the clubs running. Indeed in both cases, they were the only candidates who were “interviewed” for the role.
Regardless of the internal politics that Saunders is battling or the cries from the stands to evoke change at the top, Saunders knows his only job is to get Wolves back up and running and playing better in the league. If he can pull together a run of four to five wins in the remaining eight games, then avoiding the drop may be possible. Based on Saturday’s scrappy performance against fellow strugglers Bristol it may be too late for Wolves to do so regardless if how talented their squad is. Relegation to League One will surely see Morgan wield the axe again, this time to Saunders but the fans will be hoping that the Chairman sticks to his promise and leaves before it’s too late for Wolves to fully recover and get their bite back.