Where did it all go wrong for Wolves?


Wolverhampton Wanderers began last season in the Barclays Premier League, hoping to secure a mid-table finish and ensure they would enjoy a fourth successive year in England’s top flight. Fast-forward to today and the Black Country outfit find themselves struggling in 17th place in the Championship. So where did it all go wrong for the boys in gold and black?

On Sunday 22nd May 2011 Wolves faced Blackburn Rovers in an extremely important survival showdown. They lost the game 3-2 but survived as results elsewhere fortunately went their way. Having secured another Premier League season by a single solitary point the writing was on the wall. They needed to invest in some new quality players (they didn’t); otherwise they might not have been so lucky the following season (they weren’t).

The club’s transfer policy in the 2011 summer transfer window was somewhat distracted by the construction of their brand new £16 million stand. They brought in just three players during the window. Jamie O’Hara, who had spent part of the previous season on loan at Wolves, was tied to a permanent deal, while defender Roger Johnson who had suffered relegation with neighbours Birmingham City was also brought in. Goalkeeper Dorus de Vries was signed on a free transfer, having rejected a new deal at newly-promoted Swansea.

So a club that survived relegation on the last day of the season by just one single point decided that a player that struggled with them the previous season, a defender that got relegated with a different club and a substitute Goalkeeper would be enough to make them into a mid-table Premier League side. Wolves’ Chairman Steve Morgan stated “We don’t need to do what we did the last two summers because the nucleus is there – the nucleus is 24-26 years-old. That’s the heart of the team and they’ll get better together.” Big mistake.

The beginning of the 2011/12 season started off well for Mick McCarthy’s men. They managed to pick up 7 points from their first three league games and at one stage sat top of the league. However, a run of six defeats from their next seven matches saw the club slide down table emphatically. Wolves dropped into the relegation zone for the first time in mid-January following a 3-2 home defeat to Aston Villa. Another home defeat three days later to Liverpool prompted Chairman Steve Morgan to enter the dressing room at the end of the game.

It was the 5-1 home thrashing at the hands of local rivals West Brom that brought McCarthy’s reign at Molineux to an end and seemingly their season along with it. Many believed it was the right time he was given the boot but they needed an experienced manager at the helm to help get them out of trouble. Step forward Terry Connor.

The farce that followed the sacking of McCarthy was nothing short of an embarrassment. They failed in their attempts to lure Alan Curbishley to the position and it was clear that Steve Bruce wasn’t the man they were looking for. The humungous task of getting Wolves out of trouble in the remaining 13 games of the season fell to the assistant manager Terry Connor. This decision was derided for being in contrast to CEO Jez Moxey’s early-stated belief that the job was “not for a novice”.

Wolves failed to win any of their remaining 13 matches and finished the season bottom of the league with just a measly 25 points. On the eve of their final fixture the club announced that Connor would not be retained as manager and Norwegian coach Ståle Solbakken would instead take charge from July onward.

During the 2012 summer transfer window a much needed clear out at took place at Molineux. 10 players left the club, including Matt Jarvis who was sold to West Ham and Steven Fletcher who joined Sunderland. They were replaced with some unfamiliar names from overseas including the likes of Tongo Doumbia and Bakary Sako.

Wolves have endured a pretty difficult season in the Championship under their new manager so far. They sit in 17th place having picked up 25 points from 20 league games. It may take a bit of time for Solbakken to find his feet in the English game but there have been signs that he could do well here. The Wolves faithful need to be patient and not expect an immediate return to the top flight.

So where did it all go wrong for Wolves? Perhaps the ultimate failure in the past couple of seasons was their decision to bring only three players into an already struggling side. You could argue that the whole manager fiasco towards the end of last season was the turning point and maybe if they’d have appointed someone like Bruce, things would look a lot differently than they do right now.

The Wolves board has to take the blame for their plummet into England’s second tier. It may take a little bit of time but I’m sure that Wolverhampton Wanderers will be back where they belong in the Premier League soon enough.

Andrew Floyd