Double relegation for Wolves?

There is currently much unrest at Wolverhampton Wanderers, with consecutive relegations to League 1 a very real possibility at Molineux.

Wolves were relegated from the Premier League long before the end of the 2011-12 season, going down with a whimper after manager Mick McCarthy was sacked in February and his replacement, assistant Terry Connor failed to win any of his 13 games in charge.  But why does it look so likely that Wolves will be playing in the third tier of English football while still receiving parachute payments for their time in the top tier?

Many point to the timing of the McCarthy sacking as the root of the problems.  McCarthy was the man that had masterminded Wolves recent resurgence into Premier League football.  Following the title winning promotion season of 2008-09, Wolves then went on to survive as a Premier League club for two seasons under McCarthy’s stewardship.  The former Republic of Ireland manager was relieved of his duties by Wolves owner Steve Morgan in February 2012, soon after the January transfer window had slammed shut.  Many cite this as simply too late a sacking for any new manager to both stamp his mark on the team and steer them clear of relegation.  To compound the confusion surround the McCarthy sacking, Morgan promoted long term assistant manager Terry Connor to the hot seat.  Having worked tirelessly as McCarthy’s number two for so long, how would Connor’s ideas and way have working been any different to McCarthy?  Certainly not different enough to get a reaction from his failing squad.

Connor’s appointment hammered home Morgan’s failings to attract a proven manager to Molineux.  Early interest in hot favourite Steve Bruce seemed to go cold and Alan Curbishley, Morgan’s first choice for the role could not be convinced that the club was heading in the right direction.  Both candidates have experience of keeping teams in the Premier League and the failure to lure either to Molineux only added to Wolves’ woes of that season.  Terry Connor has an excellent reputation in the game as a very well respected coach, but to throw him in at the deep end as what was clearly a last resort was not fair on either Connor himself or Wolves as a club.  Perhaps Morgan should look at the job double act McCarthy and Connor have done at Ipswich Town this season, taking a team doomed to relegation when they walked through the door and now look set for another season of Championship football at Portman Road.

Following relegation, it was clear that Connor was both uncomfortable as a ‘Number 1’ and was not the man to lead Wolves charge back to the Premier League.  As a result, Stale Solbakken was announced as the manager for this season.  This was certainly an imaginative move from Morgan, Solbakken had never managed in England.  Having previously managed Champions League with Copenhagen, Solbakken was seen as a big name appointment however the former Norwegian international was unable to arrest the freefall from grace that Wolves were experiencing and eventually suffered the same fate as McCarthy in January of this year following the FA Cup exit to tournament giant killers Luton Town.  His replacement, former Doncaster Rovers manager Dean Saunders, is also struggling to stop rot that has set in at Molineux and is still waiting for his first win after 9 games since taking the job in January.

Morgan himself is perhaps correct in pointing out to the fans what he has done for the club, particularly the amount of money that he has ploughed in.  Morgan has developed the stadium at Molineux to bring it up to a capacity of just under 32,000.  Although the word from that terraces at Molineux is that Morgan should have backed his managers in the transfer market rather than build a new stand which the club are struggling to fill at present.  He has also recently opened a new Wolverhampton Wanderers museum, a move that underlines his respect of the club’s great traditions.  However, Morgan has made several footballing decisions in the last 18 months that can be questioned.  Mick McCarthy had previous experiencing of keeping Wolves in the Premier League, experience which some would argue should have earned him the chance to do it again.  Although Morgan’s expertise in selling houses cannot be questioned, his ability to sell a football club to potential managers clearly failed when it came to appointing McCarthy’s successor.  This appointment was probably the most important Morgan has made since becoming Wolves owner, and his inability to bring in a manager that was just proven in keeping teams up but proven as a manager altogether has proved telling in this great clubs current demise.

Following Wolves 5-1 defeat at the hands of nearest rivals West Bromwich Albion in February last year, then Baggies manager Roy Hodgson addressed the Wolves fans that were calling for McCarthy’s head with the words ‘’be careful what you wish for’’.  If only Steve Morgan had taken the advice of the now England manager.

Aaron Sharp