Archives for May 2013

A pre-emptive defence of Kenny Jackett

So suddenly we are all Phil Collins fans.

Jackett

The howls of the Wolves unfaithful have been loud and not so proud. An Express and Star poll recently showed that Kenny Jackett could not even garner five per cent of the popular vote to become the next Wolves boss. One suspects Kenny Hibbitt would have fared better.

It will undoubtedly add to the feeling that once again supporters have been reduced to helpless bystanders to the latest Waterloo Road car crash. But let’s not pretend this appointment is the latest affront to reason.

They do say even a blind squirrel finds a nut once in a while. Admittedly, the saying does not document the harvesting habits of malevolent weasels. And, against the backdrop of assumed incompetence, any appointment would – and arguably should – be met with scepticism.

A bit like Groucho Marx and his membership habits, a manager who survives several interviews with Messrs Morgan and Moxey is one instinctively to be avoided. It is certainly the opposite of reassuring.

But Jackett deserves our support. At the very least, he doesn’t deserve animosity. While Stale Solbakken was an ambitious appointment with obvious pitfalls and the decisions to turn to Terry Connor and Dean Saunders were clear signs of a football club hell-bent on self-destruction, this doesn’t wreak of recklessness.

Other options may have offered more glamour. Perhaps there was a miracle cure from abroad or a bright young thing in the lower leagues. Clearly there was an arch self-publicist in Owen Coyle ready to sell dreams of passing football if only you’d be willing to overlook events in the Bolton area in recent years.

In contrast, Jackett appears an unassuming fellow who has built his reputation on quiet competence. While headline-grabbing highs have not been his forte, nothing in his CV suggests disaster imminent. And make no mistake, two seasons too late, Wolves are now in the crisis-aversion business.

For the gambler who is willing to stake ever more outlandish bets in the forlorn hope of clawing back his winnings, the appointment of Jackett might feel like an admission of defeat. In truth, it’s the first sign indication in a long time of this football club facing up to reality.

Wolves fans may have been through too much too soon to be anything other than pessimistic. But this is a baby step back towards normality after a maddening 18 months.

Perhaps the No Jacket Required fans among us would be better served listening to track three of that album: Long Long Way To Go.

History repeating

While most Wolves fans will remember ‘that’ infamous ‘We will not do an Albion’ promise in 2010, many might forget that Jez Moxey also said:

Moxey

“In 2003-04, we were clearly not well equipped to deal with the challenges. We were promoted through the play-offs and we were five or six weeks behind the other teams.”

Quite how many weeks we will be behind teams in League One once Moxey eventually decides upon Dean Saunders’ successor is anyone’s guess?

It’s fair to assume that an indulgent sun tan from Jez’s ludicrously timed holiday will have faded by the time an announcement is made, up to a month after the play-offs ended.

Three weeks have passed since Saunders was sacked and the club today say they’re only half way through the process, ahead of an August 3 Big Kick-Off.

Taking Jez Moxey’s words on face value – which is not necessarily advisable – we will make an appointment around 40 days before the new season starts.

How long does the new man get to assess our leaden footed failures? How long to bring his own players in?

Who buys players in the meantime? Who decides who goes? Who will want to come under such circumstances? Will Thelwell impersonate Connor with a Frank Nouble signing between then and now?

Jez Moxey is at pains to ‘get this one right’ but contrives to make the same glaring error that has blighted his sorry reign for so long…

…Namely, that he using this entire process as a vehicle to cover his own backside in the event of the club getting it wrong again, using our half-cocked previous managerial debacles as some sort of yardstick to be grateful for today.

In this whole sorry goose chase, one thing has become clear and after 22 days and it isn’t even a manager to fill the hotseat.

Once this charade has finally run its course, the miserable conclusion to draw will be the very one we that were promised would never happen again.

No root and branch overhaul, no inquest and no heads to roll for two years of history defining, record breaking incompetence.

It’s shameful enough that redundancies are planned to remove the real DNA from the club to justify the buffoonery that made it a haemorrhaging laughing stock in the first place.

It’s worse still to let the very perpetrator concoct his own timescales and make his own appointment which, in the wonderful world of Wolves, will not even make a blind bit of difference anyway.

Prediction League final standings

Apologies for not getting round to this sooner. The fallout from relegation distracted me and then I totally forgot.

30 people correctly thought we’d lose at Brighton on the final day, but only 1 person got the 2-0 scoreline.

Congratulations to Predictor for scooping the maximum. It’s a single point for the other 29.

But most of all congratulations to Ash K for getting the point he needed to win the 2012/13 Prediction League. A prize will be winging it’s way over to him.

Well done to everyone who made the top 20, which is pretty good going:

Top 20 Prediction League

You can see the table in full by clicking here.

Thanks to everyone for taking part. The PL will be back again next year so please do join in.

What about that?

I still vividly remember the day Sylvan Ebanks-Blake signed for Wolves.

Blake

Procrastinating on BBC Sport, as I often did in the tediously boring job I held back then, the story had just broken.

Excitedly, I shared the bulletin with a Blackburn-supporting colleague sat opposite. He smirked dismissively from his Premier League pedestal and said, ‘Fatty Blake? I wouldn’t expect much.’

For 18 joyously smug months he was unstoppable, averaging better than a goal every two games, including the best Wolves goal I’ve ever seen:

But promotion and the arrival of Kevin Doyle signaled a rapid downturn in both fortune and form.

Pushed down the pecking order as Mick McCarthy decided (correctly) that a one striker approach was the route to safety, he was often held in reserve.

On the rare occasion he did play, more cautious, defence-minded tactics left him isolated, which for a striker who’d previously feasted on endless crosses and dangerous knockdowns was a massive adjustment. Confidence dwindled.

It was also apparent from game one that the dream partnership of Doyle/Ebanks-Blake was a non-starter. Unlike the devastating double-act he’d formed with Chris Iwelumo just a year previous, their contrasting styles simply weren’t compatible.

He scored 2 goals that season (although one of those was against Blackburn) from 27 appearances.

7 goals the following year and just 1 in the season we were relegated suggests SEB just couldn’t cut it at that level.

Who could argue? A striker that averaged 25 goals a season in the Championship netting just 10 times in three top flight seasons.

As the goals dried up, his overall contribution to the team, which was never significant, came under scrutiny.

“He’s too slow.”

“He doesn’t work hard enough.”

“He’s been at the Big Macs again.”

For me though, the equation was always very simple. Put balls into the box and a physical presence alongside him and the goals would come, whatever the level of opposition. Otherwise, don’t bother.

There’s no point shelling long balls up to him or asking him to play with his back to goal thirty yards from the opposition’s penalty area. He is what he is, a striker that comes alive inside the box.

Back in the Championship comfort zone, he continued to find the net on a semi-regular basis. Despite the decrepit form of the team, he hit 15 to end as our top scorer.

There’s a valid theory that we might have avoided a second relegation had Ebanks-Blake’s season not been ended prematurely at St. Andrew’s, where his Wolves career finished how it started, with his name on the scoresheet.

Whether or not that’s true, five and a half years and some 64 goals later, I can safely say that fatty fulfilled expectations.

Counting the cost

In Steve Morgan’s post-relegation statement there was one paragraph in particular that stood out from the rest.

Steve Morgan

“It is the younger players who will play an essential part of the team going forward.  These will be supplemented by recruiting new players for the challenge ahead.  I confirm that funds will be made available for this purpose within the confines of the new Football League financial fair play restrictions.”

From our chairman’s defiant words, two questions immediately came to mind:

  1. What exactly are the Football League financial fair play restrictions?
  2. What are the implications of these restrictions for Wolverhampton Wanderers?

In this article, I’ll answer the first question and attempt to shed light on the second.

Financial Fair Play

Clubs in League One must simply comply with a Salary Cost Management Protocol (SCMP).

This means limiting the amount a club can spend on wages as a proportion of turnover. For the 2013/14 season, a League One club can spend no more than 60% of it’s turnover on wages.

As a rough example then, if a club makes £20 million (from parachute payments, player sales, ticket sales, TV money, etc) then they can spend no more than £12 million (60%) of that money on wages.

Any club that fails to comply with this rule will be hit with a transfer embargo. The Football League state that they’re aiming to enforce this ‘at source’ meaning an embargo will come into force immediately when a club goes beyond the 60% threshold, not retrospectively.

You can read the full literature on Financial Fair Play on the Football League website here.

Parachutes and early birds

If a club can only spend 60% of it’s turnover on salaries, surely Wolves are immediately at a huge advantage?

Moxey and Morgan

After all, we’ll have easily the biggest turnover of any League One side, thanks to a £16 million parachute payment we’re due from the Premier League.

Additionally, with over 9,000 supporters signing up for an early bird, we’re already guaranteed to be one of the best supported clubs in the league, given that only 5 League One clubs had an average gate of over 9,000 last season.

When you add in shirt sales, sponsorship deals and other commercial initiatives, our financial might for 13/14 will easily dwarf that of any other side competing at our level.

It’s difficult to say what our turnover will be, but based on the most recent accounts (as discussed in this Fans Parliament meeting) I would conservatively calculate it’s somewhere in the region of £25-£30 million.

One big problem

You know what I’m going to say already.

Our current wage bill is widely reported to be £25 million.

That figure would account for a percentage much higher than the permitted 60% of our turnover for 13/14. It might even be 100%.

This does nothing more than confirm what we knew already, Wolves must trim the fat.

High earners, expired deals and easy wins

On the playing staff, our biggest earners are reported to be Roger Johnson, Jamie O’Hara, Kevin Doyle and Stephen Hunt.

Wolves players relegated Brighton

By offloading just these four players, as much as £6.5 million could be shed from the annual wage bill. This alone would go a long way towards bringing us in line with financial regulations.

Stephen Hunt provides the easiest solution. His contract is up so the club have the option of offering him a new deal on more suitable wages or just letting him walk away.

Doyle will likely find a club, meaning Wolves not only get shot of his salary but also pocket a transfer fee. Double bubble.

Roger Johnson’s stock couldn’t be lower, but Wolves would likely give him away for nothing just to get his wages off the books and Johnson himself would probably take a pay-cut to end his Molineux nightmare.

O’Hara provides the most considerable problem. His terrible injury record and ongoing fitness concerns could make him unsellable. Would a termination be viable?

Outside ‘the big four’, there are some other easy wins.

Christophe Berra will walk for free. Ebanks-Blake could do the same. Jody Craddock will retire after a season in the wilderness. Their combined salaries would recoup another chunk. Loan signings like Peszko, Robinson and Gorkks will also go, further easing the burden.

By contrast, McCarthy stalwarts like Henry, Edwards, Foley and Ward are all tied to contracts on reasonable wages. If offers don’t come in, all could survive the summer coup.

Learning a lesson

Cutting wages isn’t the only way to comply with Financial Fair Play of course, there is a second method – boost turnover.

Sako

And by far and away the easiest way to do that is by selling your best players.

Get £5 million for Bakary Sako and the immediate financial picture looks much brighter, easing the pressure to offload others.

But one would hope Steve Morgan knows better.

Selling your top performers (like Fletcher, Jarvis, Kightly) isn’t just a bad exercise in fan PR, it’s also short sighted in a financial sense, moving the club further away from a return to the riches of the Premier League.

These days, Wolves realistically have just two jewels in the crown. One of which is Sako and the other is a player yet to even make an appearance – Leigh Griffiths.

The Scottish striker has been in red hot form for Hibernian and will attract interest. But is it worth cashing in on a player that could easily spearhead a promotion charge?

Surely the emphasis must be on getting rid of the players we don’t want to keep, rather than sacrificing those we don’t want to lose? Keep quality, cut quantity.

If that means rejecting good offers, turning down transfer requests and defiantly making want-away players honour their contracts, then so be it.

Buying power

Spending big on transfer fees isn’t a problem. The Financial Fair Play rules for League One only cover wages. This is a significant development.

If Steve Morgan wanted to give his new manager (or head coach) millions to spend on new players, he could.

As long as Wolves even out their wage bill so it equates to less than 60% of turnover, they can flex as much financial muscle as they like to secure an immediate Championship return.

Conclusions and takeaways

Despite the many details, it’s really a simple equation: get rid of the big earners and deadweights and the financial advantage we’ll have over our League One competitors will be gargantuan.

I’ll finish with my top 7 rules for financial and footballing success in 2013/14:

1. Get rid of the top earners as quickly and as efficiently as possible. Preferably sell Doyle, Johnson and O’Hara, but get them off the wage bill by any means necessary that doesn’t incur significant loss.

2. Sell any of the other players that have contributed to our downfall if offers are received. These include but aren’t limited to: Henry, Ward, Foley and Edwards.

3. Allow Berra, Craddock, Hunt and Ebanks-Blake to leave for free. The latter two could be offered deals on reduced terms if the new manager so chooses.

4. Return all loan signings to their parent clubs. In particular, do not contemplate signing Kaspars Gorkks.

5. Do not accept any offers for the club’s best players. Our best players consist of Sako, Griffiths, Sigurdarson and Hennessey.

6. Should any of the above players request a transfer, reject and block by any means necessary.

7. Assuming steps 1 to 6 have been executed successfully, invest money in new players to fill in the gaps around our best young talents and top performers.

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Head hunting

 Yuk, managers are so passé. What do you think we are, some sort of wracked-off League One side?

Kenny Jackett

We’re in the market for a head coach, thank you very much.

But wait a minute, didn’t we have one of those last season? Wasn’t he some random goon called Patrick Weiser? And didn’t his arrival neatly coincide with a fatal nosedive in form?

Maybe I’ve got that wrong (I haven’t).

I suppose talk of restructuring and crowbarring the words Kevin and Thelwell into every other sentence at least shows some intent. But I can’t escape the feeling we’re merely shuffling the deck without removing the two jokers from the pack.

As is customary though, here’s a rundown of the candidates being linked to the next 12-month rolling contract on offer.

 

CoyleOwen Coyle

Last seen: Relegating Bolton from the Premier League and subsequently settling them into life as a midtable Championship side.

Do we want him? According to the E&S Polls, absolutely. He’s the overwhelming fans choice taking just under half the total votes.

Why would we want him? Did stellar work up in Scotland (which as we all know doesn’t count) before taking Burnley to the Premier League. After absconding to the Reebok did well initially. Has a reputation for attractive, attacking football and would be considered a coup given our League One status.

Does he want the job? This statement concerns me: “I’ve been very fortunate with who I’ve worked with at Burnley and Bolton. That’s a big part of it for me. I need to know I’m working with the right people. We’ve seen in football lately that it’s not been the case with one or two managers.” Given recent events, he might take some convincing.

Best odds: 25/1

 

JackettKenny Jackett

Last seen: Managing easily the most annoying team of last season in Millwall. Always crap but always getting just enough points to remain tantalisingly out of reach. Not that I’m bitter.

Do we want him? Isn’t polling well, but there are a loyal minority who think his experience would come in handy.

Why do we want him? Knows the lower leagues having taken Swansea up from League Two and Millwall from League One. Seems a likeable chap and his surname is ripe for a plethora of unimaginative puns.

Does he want the job? Had his fill at Millwall and wants a fresh challenge. Something tells me he’d crawl on his hands and knees for the job. He just looks the type.

Best odds: 5/2

 

FergusonDarren Ferguson

Last seen: Suffering heartache at Selhurst Park as Palace’s stuffy last minute goal relegated the Posh.

Do we want him: A more popular choice than Jackett but less so than Coyle. My gut instinct is that his arrival would be greeted with cautious optimism.

Why do we want him? Knows League One well having taken Peterborough up twice. Plays attacking football. Has a Wolves connection and handsome managerial genetics. Tasty loan deals from Old Trafford might be drying up though.

Does he want the job? You would think he might be interested, but his chairman is having none of it stating to Wolves fans on Twitter last night: “I was shocked your chairman didn’t come in for him after he witnessed DF’s young team win 3-0 at your place. Regardless of interest, he wont be going to Wolves one way or another. All the best in recruitment process though.” That’s us told.

Best odds: 3/1

 

DavisSteve Davis

Last seen: Getting Crewe promoted from League Two, consolidating them in League One and winning the JPT.

Do we want him? Has an ever-growing fanbase with more people realising everyday he’s not the snooker player, but an upcoming manager with a decent CV.

Why do we want him? Perhaps more than any of the above candidates, would fit the role of head coach. Has served an apprenticeship of sorts at Crewe and with greater resources might be able to achieve greater things. If Steve Morgan does want to pursue a policy of blooding lots of academy graduates, Davis could be the ideal man.

Does he want the job? Almost certainly. This could be his big break (sorry, I’ll get my Jackett).

Best odds: 8/1

 

SmithDean Smith

Last seen: Falling just shy of the play-offs with Walsall after a superb second half to the season in which the Saddlers lost just 2 of their 23 matches..

Do we want him? His name has been banded about a fair bit, but he didn’t make it onto the E&S’s latest 8 man shortlist, which makes him a red-hot favourite.

Why do we want him? He’s done alright at Walsall and they’re totally crap.

Does he want the job? Well, we’re also totally crap but we offer the possibility of one day not being totally crap. Ironically,  if he was to turn us down, it would be the most damning indictment yet of how totally crap we’ve become.

Current odds: 33/1

 

Best of the rest

TCKarl Robinson – Because he used to play for Wolves. What do you mean it’s not that Karl Robinson? What do you mean it’s Karl with a ‘K’? He looks exactly like him. Whatever, he’s getting good reviews from that pantheon of football – Stadium MK.  Best odds: 25/1

Michael Appleton – Because everyone deserves a fourth chance, inside 12 months. No thanks. Could also be another double-agent job ala Big Rog. Best odds: 33/1

Paul Ince – Because he’s angry most of the time and most of our players need a jolly good boot up the arse. But would he drop down a division having only just got hit feet under the table at Blackpool? Best odds: 50/1

Martin O’Neill – Because you wish. Best odds: 33/1

Terry Connor – Because this isn’t a job for an ameteur and his winning record stands up against the best (people to have never managed Wolvehampton Wanderers). Best odds: 100/1

All odds found via OddsChecker.