Archives for May 2016

Fans’ Parliament – Ben’s minutes

So the fans’ parliament minutes are out in the public domain, meaning I can share my notes from the evening as well.

Wolves fans at Leyton Orient

In an attempt to cut to the chase, I will begin with my conclusions and subsequent predictions after listening to what was said, before working my way backwards. My shorthand wasn’t in the finest of fettle, as I was asking a few questions and wanted to be looking directly at Jez Moxey when he answered them, rather than my notepad with my head down. So in some instances, the quotes are indirectly taken rather than direct, but this should become clear.

So, my overriding conclusion, purely subjective and of my own personal opinion, is as follows:

1. There is literally no hope for next season from what I can glean, unless we find a new owner.

JM said: “There is nothing to add since the end of season dinner. We are in discussions. We remain optimistic. There is no timeline. Don’t get yourself too excited. We want exactly what you all want and nothing changes. The situation is exactly the same and let me reassure everybody that we read your comments. We are aware of the feelings that people are expressing and our fingers are on the pulse.”

2. Jez Moxey was particularly careful in phrasing plans for summer strengthening…check the semantics.

JM said: “We are trying very hard to strengthen the team, irrespective of whether there is a new owner. We are going to continue to try hard to strengthen the team, regardless of whether there is a new owner or not.”

Call me a cynic, but the ‘trying hard’ bit sounded too pertinent to me. It was not a categorical statement that we will definitely strengthen the team. Stating that you will try hard to do something is completely different to saying that you will! These comments really underwhelmed me, underpinning my overriding conclusion above in point 1.

3. To underline my ‘no hope’ conclusion, check out the quote from JM below when one fan contested that we would only be able to strengthen the team by selling players (being as all the parachute payments have ended)

JM didn’t rule out having to sell players (from what my memory serves, at least), with the following vague response: “We want to get a team who can compete.”

4. Jez Moxey’s money contradiction…

When I asked about what objectives / brief Kenny Jackett is working towards, JM said: “We would like new investment if we can get it. With a? new owner potentially comes with new investment policies. Ideally, we want to be challenging for promotion regardless of ownership. I think being in the top six if at all possible is a minimum requirement. Kenny Jackett is here to help us do that.”

But he earlier asserted that money is not the be-all-and-end-all. He talked about clubs spending big and not getting it right (quoting Manchester United and £250 million) before talking about nurturing players like Wallace, who was a League 2 player of the year, and Jordan Graham, who has been carefully developed. He talked about always having ‘one eye on the future.’

My question that followed was: “How much is ‘one eye on the future’ a genuine philosophy that runs in your heart as being the right way to operate, or how much is it Steve Morgan simply saying ‘I’m tightening the purse-strings and you’ve got no money? So buying Wallace, loaning Ojo is the only choice you have?’

JM appeared to argue a case for the latter by reminding the room of the success we have had when we have spent money. He said we have a history of doing well when we do spend, such as 2008/09. He reminded the room of the day Sir Jack made a fateful decision in a London conference room following promotion in 2003 when the board was told that very little money would be made available. Had it have been, we could have really established ourselves, claimed JM.

So he ultimately agreed that money was important, having earlier argued the case against it being important?! (Indeed, in his last FP appearance his direct quote was finding ‘a knight in shining armour to fund our aspirations’ after reminding us of the strides made by Ipswich Town and Birmingham City).

I’d suggest to Jez, with respect, that extolling the virtues of ‘doing things the right way’ is a tad disingenuous, when there is literally no other option but to operate in this way in the first place, owing to a chairman who has downed tools!

I did follow up by saying to Jez that he must wish he could go to Steve Morgan and ask for £50 million to get us promoted, which would be pocket money to SM. We could then bring in players of the ilk of Andre Gray, which is surely preferable. It was this observation that Jez followed with his examples of Wolves doing well when we spend money.

5. Kenny Jackett is a dead man walking.

Dave Benton, a guy who I respect for asking straight questions, asked: ‘How long are the club prepared to put up with the most dire, boring, clueless football that has ever been served up before they ditch the manager? (And before almost no one bothers to turn up because it is so dreadful?)

JM answered, and I quote: “”Not long. This past season is not what we wanted. It is not acceptable and it must change!”

Ergo, Jackett will have to fashion a silk purse out of a sow’s ear with no solid pledge given on improving the team (other than doing their best to improve it) let alone any assurances on how we would fund any new additions with existing player sales not being ruled out. Let’s not forget the Stearman saga from last season. If I was Kenny, I would be worried.

6. Other questions I asked:

Is a clause in Kevin McDonald’s contract prohibiting Kenny Jackett from playing him?

JM answered: “What do you think?” to which I responded, ‘I don’t know.’ He pushed again: ‘What do you think?’ I said was a claim that could have legs. He then categorically denied that there was a clause in Kevin McDonald’s contract and said it was the manager’s decision on whether he played or not.

Interestingly though, a fan asked a similar question in the parliament earlier on in the evening, and Moxey actually sounded more guarded, and said there was a reason why McDonald wasn’t playing, before appearing to stop himself from elaborating. He seemed to go on the defensive, stating: I don’t know another club who would give a fan chance to ask the chief executive this. I’m not going into full detail but Kenny preferred the other players he chose.”

It came across as being guarded to me, hence me asking the follow-up question on K Mac.

Comparing Wolves in 2016 to when you first joined the club in 2000, season ticket sales are down, quality on the pitch is down, commercial revenue is presumably down, expectation is down and apathy is at an all-time high. How do you assess your performance during this time?

JM replied: “I will allow the people who employ me to assess that as they control whether I am here or not. They know the detailed criteria on which I am judged.”

7. Money Shop sponsorship.

Most of the points are on the official minutes. No amount of signatures are going to change the decision. The CEO of Money Shop Stuart Howard was keen to state how he is turning the business around from a mess of 18 months ago, from where a great deal of negativity stems. He has now changed their lending criteria and he is trying to ensure they do not lend to anyone who cannot afford it again in the future. Also, they are going to work with the credit unions in Wolverhampton. A lot of charity work was outlined too.

And Wolves are committed to giving programme space to other lending unions / independent bodies, which is what MPs asked for in their letters of complaint.

My thoughts for what they’re worth: I just look at the Money Shop sponsorship through the following, simple ground: Was it the right thing to do? In life, you have choices and generally, you know in your heart of hearts what the right thing to do is. Yes, this sounds horribly woolly and opaque I know, but it is what I go off.

In my opinion, this was the wrong thing to do. I don’t want to revisit Charles Ross’s excellent open letter but it is on this blog if you need further elaboration. In the FP, the club were defiant in their view that this was the right thing to do, whilst acknowledging that they do care about what supporters think.

Matt Grayson’s overriding argument was that there is a place in society for regulated loans. ‘Regulated credit should not be demonised,’ he said.

Jez Moxey said, and I quote: “We are not here to solve society. We are not here to do that, that’s not our job. Our job is to win football matches.”

He followed this up by saying that 2 million people need this service, and if it ceased to exist, what would the alternative be?

Would he do things differently if he had this time again? “Absolutely no,” he answered.

And JM offered a gentle reminder about all of the positive community work that the club carries out, which some fans might not remember.

“We, as you know, give a lot of money to charity and have done so for a long time. When we run stories about donations, which run into hundreds of thousands of pounds, people are not really interested, but they are interested in lots of other things.”

He added: “There is a genuine synergy with the Money Shop.” (This quote in relation to the amount of charity work that both businesses carry out).

Bizarrely, after one fan argued that High Street banks like Barclays were way more reprehensible than the Money Shop because they plunged the nation into a recession in the first place, Jez Moxey asked fans in the room who banked with Barclays to raise their hands. I felt this was unnecessary and frankly, beside the point, but that’s just my humble opinion.

There were other points raised but the topics didn’t strike a chord with me, so feel free to refer to the official minutes for these (JM’s role on the Football League, pigeon crap on seats etc etc).

Summing up

As is always the case after a meeting on the fans’ parliament, I report back honestly, backed up by pages of shorthand. And most quotes written above are direct, taken from 100words per minute shorthand in my pad. Those that are not direct quotes are written indirectly and I think I make this clear.

To sum up, we need a new owner as a matter of urgency. We have no money, we have no confirmation of whether we will definitely improve the squad – let alone how funds will be made available in the first place – and Kenny Jackett is skating on thin ice.

Oh, and Kevin McDonald most definitely doesn’t have a clause in his contract!

If this parliament tells me anything, then it is that we’re quite probably in for one of the longest summers in recent history.

Thanks for reading. All comments welcome.

My take on the Fans’ Parliament

Having attended my first fans’ parliament meeting in September 2014 and my latest one last night, I feel I’m in a credible enough position to offer my thoughts on the platform and whether commonplace criticism of it is merited.

Ben at fans parliament

Last night represented my fourth meeting in total and while my overall minutes will appear in due course (once the official minutes are published) I can at least blog about my feelings about the parliament generally without risk of contravening official rules.

One point that has been repeatedly made by chief executive Jez Moxey – and head of marketing Matt Grayson – is that we should be thankful of the parliament itself, which offers way more accountability, openness and transparency than most, if not all other clubs. Indeed, our CEO regularly trumpets the forums as setting an industry standard, with WBA and Stoke City following Wolves’ lead – the only difference being that our CEO attends every meeting, whereas their topics of conversation are way more sanitised with less influential people.

Indeed, documents were placed on tables around the room last night, detailing the many achievements attributed to the parliament since being formed in 2006. These include the Flex-Ticket, the removal of admin fees on online match tickets, the introduction of an under-21 season ticket and work to introduce safe standing / rail seating through dialogue with the chairman of the Football Supporters Federation (an ongoing project). There were many more bullet points besides, which I will share in due course.

Last night, discussion touched upon the credibility of the parliament, with some fans bemoaning the cutting jibes made about it – and them for being associated with it – outside the room, when they really don’t appreciate what goes on from the inside. Or words to that effect.

I have heard similar. And I get the point.

My opinion, for what it’s worth, is that the Fans’ Parliament is a worthwhile set-up and I attach a high value to it. I wouldn’t have rushed back from the hard shoulder of the M40 in Warwickshire at 5.30pm last night following a hastily repaired flat tyre if I felt otherwise.

If people think it is a toothless entity then yes, I would understand, but I wouldn’t level that at Jez Moxey or Wolves as a whole, who can only create the entity and then field questions thereafter. (Bemoaning his carefully thought-out responses is another matter entirely).

Where the Fans’ Parliament falls so depressingly short is the complete lack of inclination from so many members to ask any meaningful questions at any given time.

With the buffet in place, the orange juice flowing and Messrs Grayson and Moxey in situ for the evening, far, far too many fans digest their wholemeal sandwiches and Indian nibbles, washed down with a cup of tea before looking on in silence.

I’d say 75 per cent of pertinent questions are asked by a minority of five or six members, while vast swathes of the room decline to engage in the act of rational discourse. Worse still, they don’t make any notes whatsoever at any point, making their presence at the parliament literally pointless.

The club can only take the horse to water. That some order beer from the bar instead as the meeting commences is not their fault.

After of one of the most underwhelming, soul-destroying seasons in living memory and you’d think questions would want to be asked?!

My questions to Jez Moxey, for what it is worth, were (and I am paraphrasing in one or two of these as I asked one or two off the cuff):

  • Comparing Wolves in 2016 to when you first joined the club in 2000, season ticket sales are down, quality on the pitch is down, commercial revenue is presumably down, expectation is down and apathy is at an all-time high. How do you assess your performance during this time?
  • Is a clause in Kevin McDonald’s contract prohibiting Kenny Jackett from playing him?
  • How much of this ‘one eye on tomorrow’ philosophy do you believe to be the right thing in your heart, or how much is it the owner telling you we have no money and have no other choice but to sign players like Ojo and Wallace? For example, we spent big in signing Newton, Miller, Blake, Kennedy in 2002 but don’t think that spending is important today?
  • You must have gone to Steve Morgan and said ‘give us 50 million’ and we can get promoted, which is pocket money to him. The fact he won’t results in us bringing in players like Sheyi Ojo and Wallace, who everyone in this room knew weren’t adequate replacements for Sako.
  • What key performance indicators / objectives is Kenny Jackett working towards next season?
  • A whole ruck of questions were asked about the Money Shop sponsorship, which I didn’t add to.

I will elaborate with answers as and when the official minutes are out, but for the time being, I wanted to clarify my thoughts on the fans’ parliament. With a number of members coming to an end of their four year tenures, I would only urge fans with dissenting voices to channel their frustrations in a positive way, apply to to become a member and get it all off your chest.

That’s what it’s there for and long may it continue.

Every Wolves player from the 2015/16 season, ranked from best to worst

Based on appearances, overall contribution, delivery against expectation and personal opinion…

every wolves player ranked

1. Matt Doherty

Correctly swept the board for the end of season gongs, albeit in a poor season. Only made 32 league appearances, which says much about the inconsistency of the team selection. Sensational over the second half of the campaign and a constant driving force.

2. James Henry

38 appearances, 7 goals and 6 assists. A useful season from a useful player. Good enough to be a leading light in a promotion chasing team? I’m not sure. But for the moment, essential to our efforts.

3. Dominic Iorfa

41 appearances and all starts. More game time than anyone by a mile in what was his first full season. The only question is: In the middle or out wide? I just hope Wolves can keep him for a few years longer.

4. Kevin McDonald

Despite being cast into the wilderness for the final third of the season, he still started more games (30) than most of his midfield colleagues. Hence why his sudden omission was baffling. Our most talented individual. Must keep if we’re serious about doing anything next season.

5. Jack Price

Similar to most years. Always starts out of the team, but then reemerges when things wobble and you’re left wondering why he wasn’t playing all along. Must realise full potential now, but suspect next year will be as competitive as ever, particularly if the likes of McDonald and Evans hang around.

6. Jordan Graham

Only 11 starts but laid on a goal in nearly all of them and was the catalyst in a vital 4 game winning run over Christmas. Criminal that it took Kenny so long to throw him in. Need him back as soon as possible.

7. Dave Edwards

Steady Eddy. 27 appearances, 5 goals and does what he always does. Much like Henry, a good pro and a useful player, but we need better technicians around him to improve the team.

8. Connor Coady

Featured 35 times but very mixed. Seems to be at his best when he’s got license to get up and down and definitely a victim of Kenny’s constant tinkering to find a decent midfield balance. Could still be a very important player for Wolves I suspect, but must discover consistency.

9. Carl Ikeme

Disrupted for the first half of the season by Martinez breathing down his neck, but back to his best by the end. First name on the sheet next season in every sense. Will be interesting to see who he’s competing with though.

10. Danny Batth

36 appearances, a couple of goals and generally reliable. You get what it says on the tin with Danny Batth. Benefits from having pace around him. Will face strong competition next season if Williamson is fit.

11. Kortney Hause

Missed a chunk through injury but 22 appearances and still showing potential. Prone to mistakes from overplaying and ironing those from his game whilst still playing out is key and will determine how far he goes.

12. Benik Afobe

Like it or lump it, he was our top scorer. 24 appearances and 9 goals wasn’t spectacular but practically Ronaldo-esque compared to Le Fondre and Siggy. Irreplaceable…on our budget.

13. George Saville

Still not everyone’s cup of tea but 18 appearances and 5 goals. Some important ones too against Derby and MK Dons to get us the wins we needed. The manager likes him so will be around next season.

14. Sheyi Ojo

I didn’t rate him, but what do I know? Did score a couple of goals in wins against Fulham and Blues, but went missing for long periods and never left his mark on games. Will be surprised if he makes the grade at Liverpool next season.

15. Jeremy Helan

Not too shabby at all. 8 starts in his loan spell and gave us much needed pace and physicality out wide. Knows his limitations and plays to them. I’d take him as a squad player.

16. Scott Golbourne

Why the hell did we sell him? Occasionally cost us goals through being vertically challenged, but a good technician and played out from the back. Says a lot about the team’s deterioration in style. 20 appearances before he was booted out.

17. Ethan Ebanks-Landell

20 appearances too for EEL before injury curtailed his season. Not my favourite player. Makes mistakes and often looks vulnerable. Doesn’t have the pace or skill of Hause to make up for it either. Will be surprised if he’s playing come August.

18. Joe Mason

15 appearances made up of 8 starts and 7 from the bench. 3 goals, which were all well taken efforts. I’m not convinced there’s enough there to make him promotion-chasing material, with or without a strike partner, but hope to be proven wrong.

19. Emi Martinez

13 starts, a couple of penalty saves, a couple of costly errors and ultimately played second fiddle. Was given every chance to wrestle the shirt away from Ikeme and couldn’t do it. Typical Arsenal goalkeeper in many ways.

20. Nathan Byrne

Made twice as many substitute appearances as starts, which says everything. Much like Mason, you’re left wondering if Kenny wanted him in the first place? Looked alright, but never much more.

21. Michal Zyro

7 appearances and 3 goals, which makes him prolific by our standards. Looked red hot against Fulham, but then most strikers do. Not as good after that and ridiculously bad luck with the horror tackle that’s sidelined him for at least a year.

22. Rajiv Van La Parra

One week he’s out on loan, the next he’s in the team. Both weeks he got paid. But then he got loaned out again and sold. Has talent but will never fully realise it. Frustrating.

23. Adam Le Fondre

Featured 23 times but 3 goals is poor by his standards. OK, he never got a long run and never played consistently with a partner, but still should have done better. Much better.

24. Bjorn Sigurdarson

Back from the dead, 13 appearances, zero goals and swiftly returned to the grave. Contributed though in some important wins and can’t fault the effort. Goodnight and good luck Siggy.

25. Jed Wallace

Only 9 appearances and struggled initially to adapt to Championship football. Benefited from the loan at Millwall and showed glimpses in the final knockings. Judge him next season.

26. Mike Williamson

4 starts in a productive loan spell, but then crocked after signing permanently. Harking back to the Sir Jack era those sort of shenanigans Michael. Hope we get a full season out of him next time.

27. Nouha Dicko

Didn’t score in his 5 league appearances and didn’t really look himself before injury destroyed his season and wrote off any chance we ever had of doing anything. Need him to be immediately brilliant next season, which is asking a lot.

28. Richard Stearman

Only played 4 times before being moved on and we didn’t look solid in any of those matches. Sad to see him go, but might eventually prove a good decision. Cost us in the immediate aftermath though.

29. Bright Enobakhare

The lowly ranking of our youth team prospects is a reflection of their lack of game time but Bright got the most and looks to have all the necessary attributes. Would like to see him through the middle rather than out wide.

30. Sylvan Deslandes

Much like Bright, has talent but looks raw and will need to be managed carefully. Doesn’t have that immediate physical presence of Hause or Iorfa so will need to beef up or find a smart way to play.

31. Conor Hunte

Should have been given more opportunities in the dead rubbers, but showed flashes in his cameo against Bristol City. Might find it tough next season if reinforcements arrive and Graham returns from injury.

32. Tommy Rowe

3 appearances and I can’t remember who they were against, which says much about his Wolves career. Sandwiched that with two good loan spells in League One though, so will get another club and can rebuild. Unfortunate with injury but never got going in two disappointing seasons.

33. Grant Holt

I thought this was a good signing at the time, but he didn’t start a single game and did little from the bench. Ended the season at Rochdale and they haven’t renewed his contract. Should have signed him 5 years ago.

If you think my rankings are poppycock, then please do feel free to adjust as you see fit in the comments below. Here’s a list you can copy and paste:

Van La Parra
Le Fondre