Great expectations

To quote one of those Facebook status updates that are way too irritating to be informative, ‘if you expect nothing from anybody, you’re never disappointed.’

Victim of his own success?

Maybe Sylvia Plath – and the school friend I have no intention of ever rekindling a friendship with – has a point with this one though.

Personally, a top 6 finish for Wolves would be the height of my expectations this season, bearing in mind the context in which Stale Solbakken found himself in when taking over the reins.

I’m not expecting a great deal so by definition, will not be upset if we’re not vying for an automatic spot come the end of the season.

In fact, a top six finish should represent the pinnacle of our ambitions, considering the following:

1. Solbakken inherited one of the worst squads ever to play in the Premier League (4th worst in fact)

2. He then had to sell Jarvis, Fletcher and Kightly

3. He has only been given a fraction of the £25million accumulated in sales – never mind parachute payments and Steve Morgan’s ‘treasure chest.’ (£3m Sako, £2.5m Sigurdarson, £700k Margrietter, the rest loans?)

4. We hardly EVER spend in January transfer windows

5. African based players will have barely experienced a British winter, let alone played in one

6. Stale still doesn’t have the backroom team he wants and requires.

Any comparison with Mick’s 2006/07 over-achievers has been described as spurious by some, because this squad is laden with Premier League experience rather than the low profile fare of the Pontins League – where Darren Potter and co were signed from.

I’m not so sure.

Was there a better keeper in the country than Matt Murray six years ago? Was Jackie McNamara not a more reliable left back than Stephen Ward? And how much better is Berra now than Jody Craddock was back in 2006?

Karl Henry is flourishing now like he was back then, while Olofinjana actually showed consistency and maturity alongside him, scoring 10 goals in his best ever-season.

Will Tongo Doumbia be as steady over the course of 46 games?

And don’t forget the signings of Kightly, Keogh and McIndoe in January to boost that squad of yesteryear.

That we finished fifth after beating Leicester 4-1 in May 2007 pays the ultimate tribute to Mick McCarthy and his best Merlin impression.

Anything like fifth place again and I’d not be disappointed.

I’d be positively ecstatic!

Background research

It’s funny to think that virtually no-one on this blog had even heard of Ståle Solbakken, never mind were able to pronounce or spell his name.

Now, just weeks on from his appointment, I just can’t imagine having anyone else.

Agreed, he’s only had success in Scandanavia and has never managed in England. True, his only experience in a major European league ended in relegation in his first season. However, his position at Cologne was widely recognised as untenable. Look beyond that and his management history as a whole makes for impressive reading.

Shrewd tactician

In his first 2 years in management he won the second division title with Ham Kam in Norway and then took them to fifth place in their premiership, the Tippeligaen(apparently with one of the lowest budgets in the league).This was their highest finish in 33 years.

In 2005 he was appointed head coach at FC Copenhagen and won the title by six points, largely as a result it is said of the team’s ‘oak-hearted defence’. Now wouldn’t that be nice?

His team impressively defeated Ajax to qualify for the group stages of the Champion’s league( the first time in FCC’s history), a group also comprising Celtic, Benfica and Man Utd. Although they lost all 3 away games, 2 draws and a victory over United left them unbeaten at home and bottom only on goal difference.

That year they also retained their league title, this time by a huge 13 points and with even fewer goals conceded. Now wouldn’t that be nice?

Ståle went on to win 2 more titles and one cup before again progressing to the group stage of the Champion’s league. This time their opponents were Rubin Kazan of Russia, Greece’s Panathinaikos and some club called Barcelona. All 3 were their current league champions.

A 2-0 away win in Athens(not many do that) was added to by 2 home wins and a 1-1 draw against a full strength Barcelona side and FCC became the first Danish side to reach the knock out stage of the Champion’s League.

Pep Guardiola described Ståle’s team as ‘the best organised opposition in his time at Barcelona’.Blimey!

I got this information from an article by Charlie Andersen, the editor of the Nordic football blog Stone by Stone. He goes on to say:

‘In terms of his tactical ability: well, a year or so ago I mentioned him in the same breath as André Villas-Boas and Jürgen Klopp, and I stand by that. I think Solbakken is one of the best young tacticians around, and I don’t mind standing or falling by that statement. The way he organised and prepared his Copenhagen side for big games was impressive, but even more remarkable was the tactical flexibility he instilled in that team.

To take a side so dominant in their domestic league (in 2010-11 they won the Superliga by 26 points) and get them to put the shackles on Xavi Hernández and Andrés Iniesta shows genuine coaching quality. His transfer policy at FCK was sound, too: he tended to sell his most marketable players and replace them prudently and intelligently.’

OK, it’s just one man’s opinion, and all managerial appointments are gambles to some extent, but I am still very excited by this one. And don’t forget, if he hadn’t failed at Cologne, we wouldn’t have had a sniff.

Brendan Rogers at Liverpool, Paul Lambert at Villa, Woy at England, whoever the bleeding A****n end up with. Naah, not for me. You can keep the lot. I wouldn’t swap ‘the bald head who came back from the dead’ for any of them.