Fans’ Parliament – Ben’s Minutes

If there is one drawback from being so successful on the field of play, then it’s that the fans’ parliament is a damn sight quieter than it used to be!

Having said that, I found this latest get-together (having missed the last two) to be as informative as it was uplifting, as Jeff Shi, Laurie Dalrymple and Kevin Thelwell fielded questions amongst others on the top table.

I’ll try to cut through the vast swathes of notes with a condensed summary of the meeting to begin with, from my own subjective standpoint (notes taken in shorthand, which reflect fairly what was said):


The club is fiercely ambitious and the future so bright, with FOSUN thinking big, but being humble (this was a word used on at least one occasion) enough to know that there is a huge effort needed to get over the line in the short term. As Laurie Dalrymple concluded quite poignantly:

“We see the remaining period of time as the most defining as to where we want to go as a club. Keep the faith, drive the team forward and really, really get behind the team. We have five more home games and they will ultimately define us. We want to thank the fans for helping us to get to the position we are in. They will play a massive, massive role in these last five home games.”

In the long term, a stadium redevelopment would begin in May 2019, with the South Bank actually more likely to be demolished first, as this would have less of an impact on attendances inside the ground while work is taking place. Clearly this means there would be no move from Molineux either, as it remains a ‘hugely intrinsic part of the fabric and tapestry of the club.’

In the short term, the temporary Graham Hughes stand would be reopened for next season in all likelihood, with Laurie adding: ‘If we continue as we are then yes, we are actively looking at reopening this.’

In terms of players, Kevin Thelwell confirmed that we have an exclusive option to buy all loan players, but we need to get to the Premier League first. Jeff Shi was very quiet but it was noticeable when he did speak – namely when Kevin Thelwell was answering questions about British players and a supporter referencing the standard in the England squad. Basically, Jeff didn’t give a toss about the national squad, stating: ‘As a club we try to compete in the league. If we have English players then it is a plus, but the price, value and quality of player is most important. If you look around the world there will be more choice and better players so you have to look around the world to find better players.’ Have that!

We basically have nothing to worry about from a financial fair play perspective and Laurie did allude to us getting promoted this year or next, suggesting that we will be ahead of track were we to do it this season. Early birds will be announced when the club knows what league it will be in.

In short, it really will be lift-off for the club if we do make the Promised Land, but with Thelwell quoting Fulham as looking ‘unbeatable’ right now, all eyes can only be on these remaining nine games in the short term. The final furlong is in sight and all we can think about is this task in hand.

I’ll go with the footballing matters first, followed by the non-footballing matters.

Footballing matters

Willy Boly and Jota and other permanent signings

Kevin Thelwell said: ‘We are not focusing on this at the moment. We have nine games left this season. We worked very hard to secure loan players only if we had an option to buy them. Where we are now is focusing all of our efforts around the nine games. Let’s get promoted (touchwood) and then make some informed decisions. We have the exclusive right to buy Willy Boly in the summer as we have with all loan players we currently have.

What if it all goes wrong and we don’t get promoted?

Kevin: ‘We need to be really careful and cautious about what happens in these next nine games. We understand the situation. There is a lot of pressure from Cardiff, Aston Villa and Fulham, who look unbeatable at the moment. Having said that, if we continue on the form that we have been on all season, then we get around 98 or 99 points. (Reassuringly, KT began reciting points scenarios as he digressed, and who couldn’t catch us if we amassed various totals, before making light of it all by saying he hasn’t really looked at it very much!) ‘We understand that we still have a lot of work to do.’

Parallel planning

Kevin: ‘We are always working on a parallel plan. We are in a really good position to identify players to take to the Premier League with us. I think that we are in a really good position in terms of planning better (in terms of new players arriving) but the precursor is getting the players to want to come.

The ‘golden egg’ is getting as many in for pre-season as possible.’

Jota injury

Kevin said: ‘It is not ligament damage. Having said that, it is not easy for him to come back quickly. We’re looking at 4-6 weeks for him to come back. He is young and the medical team is as good as any I have ever worked with. Lets say 4-6 weeks but fingers crossed it is a bit sooner because he is a young guy.’

Why didn’t we strengthen more in January?

Kevin: ‘Going back to the summer transfer window, we evaluated the squad and we had three really good goalkeepers; six central defenders; two left backs; Matt Doherty and Ryan Bennett to cover right wing back; four central midfielders including MGW and some outstanding attacking talent. There was only one position (to address). We have Leo who has done a fantastic job having played so many matches. And that’s why we went for Rafa and Benik. We were very fortunate we did a lot of good business in the summer. We tried to look at least two players for every position.’

I quoted Kevin Thelwell from last season, where he said that the secret to the success of a Championship side was having around a 70/30 split between UK and foreign players (with the bias on UK players). I asked if he has now changed this viewpoint in light of this season:

Kevin replied: ‘We have got the balance right this season. There is a nice blend of youth and experience, British and foreign players and we have also had a group of players who have been here for a year, such as Romain Saiss and Ivan Cavaleiro. Where we are going does bring its own set of problems, but we will still be looking at homegrown players. Our main focus is how can we improve the quality at the right price. That won’t be easy when Alfie Mawson was signed by Swansea for £2.5m and now commands between £30 and £40m (according to West Ham bid).

My view of how we have done better is that the players are much clearer about the strengths and weaknesses of the league. We are much clearer about how we fit the whole thing together and we have been able to work closely as a group. We think the process (of player recruitment) has been better than before.’

I then asked KT which players would not be a Molineux now, were he not in his position. And, in light of the likes of Ryan Bennett, John Ruddy and Barry Douglas doing so well, is he in a stronger position than he was when Nuno first arrived?

Kevin Thelwell was very self-effacing here and didn’t want to take credit for any specific players at the club and wouldn’t name any. He reiterated the point that Nuno, him, Laurie and Jeff Shi work as a team and that the relationship is very harmonious.

He did quote a German footballing saying when looking for players in future, stating it was his responsibility to find players who will go on to become stars. He said: ‘In Germany they say they create millionaires – clubs in England buy them.’

James Maddison quote alert

‘From our perspective, can we find the next James Maddison or the next Morgan Gibbs White?’

On the theme of MGW…

Thelwell said that while Ruben Neves rightly gets so many plaudits for being such a wonderful player, he genuinely believes that MGW can be as good as him. The club has huge hopes for MGW. ‘Morgan Gibbs White has the potential to be the next big player.’

Non-footballing matters

Financial Fair Play

Laurie: ‘We have maintained from very early on that we were going to have to make an investment to improve the side and the depth of the squad – and that wasn’t going to be cheap. We have managed that strategically. Are we in danger? The short answer is no. We are entirely comfortable with the rules that are in place.’

Early birds and when the announcement will be made

Laurie said: ‘Soon! There are a lot of things in play and when we launch the strategy for next year, we will do so knowing what’s ahead of us. I urge you all to trust us on this and trust me. In the last week we published our figures and everybody is familiar with how much we invested into the side. I don’t think that anybody can say, hand on heart, that from a ticketing perspective it has not been money well spent. We have mapped out what we think is appropriate. We have mapped out what Premier League sides, Championship sides and Midlands-based sides charge. The next factor is where we will be as a club. We have still got enough time to facilitate the early bird process.’

Temporary stand

Laurie: ‘‘If we continue as we are then yes, we are actively looking at reopening this for next season.’ He added that it is not fit for purpose currently, but it should not be a big issue to remedy this.

Stadium redevelopment

Laurie: ‘I don’t know where the rumours came from about Goodyears or moving to another site – certainly not from inside the club. Molineux has been our home for 140-odd years now. As far as we’re concerned, Molineux is a hugely intrinsic part of our fabric and tapestry of the club and I can’t see that changing at all.

In some ways the site is restrictive. We have got the university, main routes and supermarket. In terms of redevelopment we see ourselves as firmly staying here. We have the short term goal of playing continuously in the Premier League. The team has to come first and so far, we are comfortable with where that is.

If we get promoted this season or next then we are on target. Being in the Premier League has to come first. When we are there then absolutely. We are having discussions about what we can physically do with the site. If promotion was to happen soon, then these discussions would significantly progress.

We would be looking to formally start work in May 2019.

Order of redevelopment

Laurie: ‘The key thing is to limit the reduction of supporters being able to come in. I want to see us supported as best as we can while work is taking place. We want the impact to be as limited as we can. I’m absolutely clear that there are some areas of the ground that need to be improved but we could find that the south end of the ground is developed first. There are a couple of pockets of land that are not ours which we are actively working on.

Improving existing stands

Laurie basically said that there was no point doing this significantly, when these very stands might be knocked down in the future. He said they looked at reconfiguring the Steve Bull Stand to have a dedicated area for away fans (in the upper tier I recall him saying?) but it was extremely cost prohibitive to do this.

Work to improve kiosking will take place, possibly more specific beer and food kiosks to reduce queuing.

Safe standing

Laurie: ‘It could be that the stadium redevelopment will fall quite nicely with potential Government changes on this issue. We would be more than happy to put our hands up because the majority of fans are keen to experience it.’

Booking fees

Laurie: I appreciate that this is a bone of contention. There are some costs incurred in terms of fulfilment of the tickets and some legislation that we are complying with. But the wider question is what should we do to make it fit for purpose? We will be reviewing this and will continue to review this as we go on. It is a bit of a legacy from the past, but we are looking to evolve, change and review.

Contactless payments

Laurie said: ‘We are definitely in the process of developing that. We are in a tender process because we want to bring the club to a modern standard where you don’t have to bring cash to the ground. It would be really good to have this in place for the start of next season. We are currently working towards that.

Season ticket sales

Laurie: There is not much scope for more…maybe one-and-a-half thousand. There is a cap and we are looking at ways in which we can maximise the number of seats we can offer inside the stadium.

Laurie said: ‘This is probably something that we look at with the stadium redevelopment. It would come at a significant cost. As and when it comes would be when we redevelop the site.’

The kit

Laurie: ‘The only thing we can say (on the main sponsor) is that they signed a three year deal (with Money Shop) so I can’t say any more than that at the moment.

In terms of kit supplier, everybody knows that we are at the end of our fifth year with Puma. We are conducting a review on that. What I would say is that the Puma kit this year has been the fastest selling and most productive kit we have had, with between 25 and 26,000 sales. I would urge people to have faith in whatever decision we take regarding the kit, because it will be the right one.’

Safeguarding in light of recent child abuse cases

Paul Richards, supporter liaison officer, said: ‘Our policies are multi-dimensional and reviewed by local authority designated officers, child services. We are really comfortable with how we look after any youngsters across the club. If anyone does have any questions though, then please ring me.’

Away season tickets

Please see official club minutes for this as I didn’t get the detail and what was agreed, sorry!

Future of Fans’ Parliament

People also talked of a raising of the profile of the FP, a possible name-change and sub-groups to give it more teeth. Again, I switched off here sorry. All I would say on this is that the FP is definitely a worthwhile entity and one I appreciate being able to go along to. It gives us an insight into the club’s thinking on certain matters and is unique amongst professional football clubs, so I am told.

Two points I’d make, and the first one is on me

I need to communicate when the meetings are with you all and encourage you to submit questions through the blog which I haven’t done for some time. I will do this. Sorry!

My only gripe in the past has been the inability to report on some issues, as some have been ‘off the record’ which prohibits clarity and transparency. However, this used to be a trend set by Jez Moxey on certain matters, so I trust this won’t be an issue going forward.

In conclusion

A new look team on the top table looked focused, determined and completely in tune with what challenges lie ahead. Let’s be honest, I worry – and some others too – that we could ‘choke’ this season, with minds being cast back to 2002 and beyond. If this were to happen – and we clearly don’t want to dwell on the prospect – then it won’t be for any degree of complacency on the club’s part.

First and foremost, we need to get promoted. From there, anything is possible – literally. It is for this reason that I worry even more, as you can almost reach out and touch that pendulum which is slowly swinging our way!

Every mention of the Premier League was caveated with the need to get there first. The word ‘humble’ was used on more than one occasion.

And when Jeff Shi did speak, he did so twice:

Once to debunk any notion that we should care about British based players over the number one objective of making the side as good as it can possibly be.

To very unassumingly and quietly remind the room of the brilliance of Nuno, when interrupting an answer to a fan who bemoaned Danny Batth playing ahead of Ryan Bennett at Aston Villa. Back in your box!

As for Laurie Dalrymple, if there was a similarity to Jez Moxey, then it was the occasional answer which didn’t necessarily say a lot, but enough to command attention and effectively buy time. Where he and Jez differ is that the answers Laurie gave – at all times – were utterly plausible and resistant to any future regurgitation to contradict. In other words, a way safer pair of hands from a PR perspective. It was a very solid, assured performance with substance taking precedence over soundbites, the latter being used prolifically under Jez, where he could occasionally dazzle.

Clearly the goalposts have moved since the last regime was here, making evenings like this way less confrontational or eagerly anticipated.

But nonetheless, it was a very worthwhile evening and an insight into what we all hope will be a golden future.

Wolves 3 Burton Albion 1

What a difference a week makes.

Seven days after being thumped at Villa Park and we’re 13pts clear of Steve Bruce’s men, who is now attributing his latest defeat to the snow, having scoffed at our own prospects in the wintry weather a few months ago.

The irony won’t be lost on many, nor the endless ad-libbing about most facets of our club in every press conference he sits in.

Bruce, more than anyone, should appreciate that actions speak louder than words. Our actions on the pitch against Burton Albion were flawless, as we cruised to a second successive home win to inch us closer to the finishing line.

Winning (against weaker opposition) is one thing, but the self-assured manner of both victories has been quite astonishing in the context of the season, when Bruce, Radrizzani and their Machiavellian colleagues were cranking up the hysteria levels in a pretty transparent agenda. A winter of discontent, in other words.

Thankfully, Nuno’s men were as expressive on the ball as the rest of the league has been on the microphones, typified by the outrageously good Ruben Neves, who dictated proceedings like a conductor with the Philharmonic.

As Dave Jones actually bemoaned at roughly this time of the season when the wheels were falling off, struggling teams will still comprise of 11 men who try to stop us from winning. This time around, we appear to have the players who – to borrow another phrase from Jones – aren’t afflicted by ‘safety first football.’

Again, look no further than Neves, who positively demands the ball at all times when the easier option might be to pass the baton. Costa, Cavaleiro, Saiss…All of them in fact, are also desperate to have it to feet and express themselves positively. To comprise a squad of players with this common similarity is actually quite incredible, if not illegal depending on who you listen to. The end result is a sight to behold and a side in old gold who look to be genuinely enjoying themselves.

The full backs are occupying positions in the final third like they always used to and the understated Saiss spearheads the ‘mid-press’ philosophy that makes us as compelling without the ball as we are when we’re on it.

This was a nerveless display overseen by a nerveless manager in Nuno, whose ability to ignore the peripheral noises and concentrate on the job at hand is commendable. A head coach by day and a therapist at night for us compulsive obsessives.

And whilst lavishing praise on individuals isn’t Nuno’s style, he can only have purred at the performance of Benik Afobe who, to borrow a quote from another past-manager, looks like the final piece in the jigsaw.

If there can be one legitimate criticism of our side (rather than the ethics behind it) then it’s the lack of a Plan B when unpicking the lock. Those sumptuous goals at home to Sheffield United will live long in the memory, but Afobe’s first goal – and strike at Leeds – demonstrates a more direct route to goal that I’ll relish equally. A through ball, pace in behind and bang! Old fashioned number 9s might not be en-vogue, but with this diversity in place of Bonatini’s more predictable play, we only look stronger in the areas that matter.

Burton’s high line always looked likely to be breached at some point, with the only surprise in how quickly it was. Costa dispatched coolly from a stunning Coady through-ball early on and Afobe was clinical thereafter. Aside from questionable defending from a set play (which will surely be addressed ahead of a trip to Tony Pulis’ Boro), this was a breeze.

A clinically icy performance to further divide a division.

Wolves Vs Burton Albion Preview

Someone on Twitter posted the results Wolves have achieved this season in matches that immediately follow a league defeat.

I can’t recall the precise figures, but they’ve won every game without conceding a goal.

It’s been lose, win, lose, win in the last four but those two victories have been as impressive as the defeats were demoralising.

The chips were well and truly down after losing at Fulham, but Leeds were routinely swept aside and it was the same in midweek after losing at Villa Park. Convincing responses that ease any fears of collapse.

Such ruthless professionalism is required again on Saturday, with victory expected, but far from guaranteed.


The Brewers were on the receiving end of a post-defeat backlash when Wolves battered them 4-0 at the end of September after losing to Sheffield Utd days before.

That was the most routine victory of the season against a Burton side possessing the worst home record in the Championship (currently reading 2 wins, 4 draws, 13 defeats).

Their away form isn’t quite so disastrous though (5 wins, 5 draws, 8 defeats) so odds are this will be a much closer game than the non-contest at the Pirelli.

With a goal difference of -38 it’s surprising they’ve managed to stay off the bottom (Sunderland playing a blinder). As with most strugglers goal scoring has been a problem. Only Blues (25) have scored less than their meagre 26 goal tally.

Darren Bent and record signing Liam Boyce (just back from long term injury) are the strikers they hope can score the goals they need in the remaining games but only have one goal between them so far.


With Jota out, the team should pick itself.

It’s one start, one goal for Benik Afobe and I don’t think he’s anywhere close to top form yet. Confidence should be high after scoring in midweek though and that bodes well.

I still don’t understand why Nuno would ever leave Cavaleiro out of the side or for that matter why he so frequently takes him off midway through the second half? His ability to manipulate the ball and work positions will be crucial in this one against a team who will likely defend deep.

Helder Costa assisted two goals against Reading and saw a great effort from distance saved. He’ll be haunted by that late miss when clean through and still seems to be lacking belief. There’s still time for him to make a major contribution in the remaining games.

The odds

You can get odds as generous as 12/1 on a Burton win with Wolves overwhelming favourites to complete a league double over the Brewers. provide a list of top betting websites in 2018 if you want to maximise your stake.


I’m not sure if I’d describe this as ‘must win’ in every sense but I’ll certainly be disappointed if Wolves don’t collect the maximum.

I suspect Burton will provide a sterner test than many are anticipating but am hopeful of another professional performance to see us closer to the finish line.


Up The Wolves!

Wolves 3 Reading 0

Ironic that ‘Insomnia’ by Faithless was blaring on the PA system moments before the teams took to the field, when most of us haven’t had a wink of shut-eye since Saturday night.

In a performance that restored the faith and a 10-point gap to third, Wolves put on another midweek masterclass to suggest that if there is a wobble at the summit, then it’s not as debilitating as some might think – including me.

Being billed as our first genuine ‘six-pointer’ of the season on Radio WM, the pundits couldn’t have imagined quite how prophetic their words were, with Aston Villa losing the three we all thought they’d plunder against QPR, as we chalked up three more to put us in the exact same position we were at 5.30pm in Birmingham the other night.

After five minutes, the game assumed an glorified attack v defence drill with Reading sitting deep, shuffling banks of players left and right in a collective effort to frustrate. After 10 minutes, their keeper was actually wasting time. After 40 minutes, the game was over.

Matt Doherty’s bonce released the pressure valve around Molineux, which might just have become audible had the score remained at 0-0 for much longer.

As it was, this was the most processional victory since…Reading last season come to think of it, with John Ruddy never tested and the back three rarely occupied. On the rare occasions they were, Ryan Bennett looked particularly easy on the eye and slotted back in like he’d never been away. Any fears of Jon Dadi notching his first ever goal at Molineux were allayed, or Dave Edwards scuffing one in as Reading showed absolutely no intent to attack for the entire 90mins. Both were impotent and barely noticeable.

If there was one criticism to be levelled at Wolves (and it would be a tad harsh to do so), then the levels of urgency and purpose could have been higher for a fair chunk of the first half and it was noticeable how the momentum was seized in the second period, with Costa definitely looking to be more assertive on the ball. It was he who set-up Afobe brilliantly for the second, the striker surely feeling good about life and looking more like his old self. And Cavaleiro occupied the types of positions that even the most defensive minded of sides struggle to cover.

A blot on the evening was the loss of Jota, who looked in agony when going down under a seemingly innocuous challenge in the first half. We can only hope it is not a serious one, but the blow might just be offset with a return to form of Costa, who did form part of a menacing front line with Afobe and Cav. Surely all three have plenty of miles in the tank, too.

As it was, the evening was rounded off by a splendid Doherty strike to seal the points – and the best night’s sleep we’ve all had in ages.

Wolves Vs Reading Preview

If Wolves don’t get in the top two it won’t be because they lost to Aston Villa on Saturday.

It will be because they failed to despatch the teams at the bottom of the table between now and the start of May.

The manner in which the lads put Leeds away last week gives me belief there’s still more than enough left in the tank to get over the line.

I’m expecting a bumpy ride but ultimately, I still think we’ll do it.

Truth be told, I wish it was Burton tomorrow and Reading Saturday, but if we get the performance it shouldn’t make much difference.


I was nervous about Reading before this fixture got postponed last week and nothing has changed since.

Given how they like to get on the ball and control possession, I think they’re the type of side who can make Molineux anxious, particularly if they get ahead.

That said, the Royals have only managed one win in their last 17 league matches and if the bottom three weren’t making such a dogs dinner of playing catch-up they’d be in real trouble.

Something isn’t right there and I am surprised Jaap Stam is still in a job, despite the success he enjoyed last season in taking them to the play-off final.

An away record of 5 wins, 5 draws and 7 defeats isn’t too shabby though for a team battling the drop.


It’s time for Plan B. Batth and Bonatini out. Bennett and Benik in.

We’ve got to see if Afobe can do something from the start. He could be the man to fire us to promotion in these valuable homes games where opportunities will be created. I’ve been a fan of Bonatini but he looks hesitant in front of goal at a time when we need authority.

I could forgive Danny Batth’s meagre use of the ball at the weekend if he didn’t get the basics so horribly wrong. Sliced clearances, poor defensive headers and mistimed tackles put wind in Villa’s sails. Bennett has a misplaced pass in his locker, but his overall game inspires greater confidence.

Saiss for N’Diaye is another possibility as the big man lacked a bit of precision in his passing on Saturday, which restricted the team’s fluidity going forward.


It’s going to be twitchy but I back us to get the win. Every time we’ve lost there’s been a response so I expect the same again tomorrow.

As much as we talk about the attack, it’s defensively where we’ve been found lacking most in this poor run. The team was built from the back (in Nuno’s words) and it’s that solid foundation that’s given our forwards the chance to shine.

Tighten up and use the ball well when playing out from the back and we’ll be fine.


Up The Wolves!

Aston Villa 4 Wolves 1

They wanted it more.

Hardly the most original sentiment to summarise a derby but one that neatly explains the result.

A scrappy old opener bundled over the line by sheer force of will following a Danny Batth error was eerily symbolic of everything to follow.

There was a brief window of opportunity after Wolves found the leveller when it looked like they might start twisting the knife.

But chances never really materialised, the passing became loose on a suspiciously poor Villa Park surface and the contest drifted away. There wasn’t anything like the focus or precision we saw at Elland Road days before.

Batth was repeatedly targeted and his inability to cope in and out of possession was so excruciatingly  obvious I’m still in a state of shock he wasn’t hooked at half time, particularly on a yellow card.

If Nuno was prepared to drop the dependable Ryan Bennett after one miscued pass at Fulham then surely the Wolves skipper is set for another stint on the sidelines following this horror show?

Bonatini should also fear the axe on Tuesday after another frustrating night of indecision in front of goal. Several times he could have pulled the trigger but instead opted for the extra touch that took the opportunity away. He also failed to occupy the centre halves meaning the ball repeatedly boomeranged back.

With one defender unable to play the ball out from defence and one center forward unable to make it stick when it came long, that didn’t afford Wolves significant margin for error.

Still, the ever industrious Ivan Cavaleiro came close to opening up their back four with the scores level in the first half but both Jota and the confidence shot Bonatini were too static or wasteful when receiving the pass.

Sloppy set piece marking, the aforementioned Batth frailty and a Villa team that grew in confidence as their opponents failed to land meaningful punches meant this ended up being the most routine of victories.

It’s a heavyweight blow and even with a healthy seven point buffer to absorb the impact, this felt like a watershed moment.

With the fixtures that remain and the quality Wolves possess, it alone cannot derail our top two ambitions.

But the response must now be swift and decisive.

Hold onto your hats.