Archives for June 2017

First day back

Well, if everyone is going back today I guess I’d better pull my finger out too.

It’s been a long, over indulgent summer so you’ll have to bear with me while I get back up to speed. Here’s a few warm-ups.

Bad timing

Wolves have been handed a tough looking start with games against Middlesbrough, Hull and Derby.

Many seemed to be saying words to the effect of ‘it makes no difference’ or ‘you have to play them all at some point’, but I don’t agree with this sentiment. Quite the opposite in fact, I think the timing of fixtures can be pivotal.

With the continued upheaval behind the scenes at our club, I’m fearful of a slow start and the implications that could have on the team. More than anyone else, I think Wolves could have done with a softer launch.

Walter Zenga was fortunate to kick off last season with games against Rotherham, who proved to be easily the worst team in the league and Reading who themselves were adjusting to Jaap Stam’s methods.

Shortly after we lost against the first decent side we played in Huddersfield and everything went south with Zenga chopping and changing the team every week in search of answers.

I’d like to see us get some points on the board early again to inject confidence into what’s certain to be another new look team. That will be difficult in a pretty horrendous looking August. I hope to be proven wrong.

Exit door

I wasn’t upset to see either George Saville or Jed Wallace leave for Millwall today. They’re obviously a couple of good, honest pros but it wasn’t working out for either of them.

Saville was always on the fringes of the team under Jackett, Zenga and Lambert and I thought it was unfair of those coaches to constantly shoehorn him in at full back or left midfield. He rarely made an impact and was mercilessly torn apart by supporters.

In Jackett’s final season he scored some important goals against Derby and MK Dons to ensure we finished in midtable instead of more uncomfortable territory, so there was a meaningful contribution there for sure.

Wallace just never got started. He had a great game against Blues last season in the 3-1 win at St. Andrew’s but got injured and fell away.

I suspect both players will prove to be solid Championship performers for Millwall, but the club already have better players and should be aiming higher again in this transfer window. Good night and good luck lads.

60 not out

If you’ll excuse the shameless self-indulgence, I just wanted to finish with a big thank you to Bully who joined us for breakfast at the weekend to celebrate my dad and godfather’s 60th birthday.

Suffice to say they were surprised to see our record goalscorer holding the birthday cake and delighted to share an hour or so in his company.

Steve told some great stories, answered all our inane questions and scribbled on the 300 or so items we all brought along for his cherished signature.

I put together a lighthearted quiz for the occasion, which I’ll post in the comment section below if you’d like to test yourself on some Bully trivia (FYI, even he didn’t know the answer to most of these).

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Back to front

I am intrigued by our transfer business so far this summer.

We’ve signed two seemingly very different centre backs in Miranda (a ball player) and Ryan Bennett (a no-nonsense pro).

Hopefully they complement each other and add just the right amount of guile and steel to the spine of team this year.

Our other two centre backs, Batth and Hause, are very much in the Bennett mould, so I get the feeling Nuno Espirito Santo is looking for one of those three to rotate around Miranda as a key figure. I’m guessing Ebanks-Landell will be shown the exit door.

Our third signing, Phil Ofosu-Ayeh, is also interesting. Kudos to those of you who had predicted this signing for a couple of weeks now, but it is still surprising – not only because it is quite unusual for Wolves to raid the German second tier, but also because of the questions it inevitably poses:

1. Who is he?

To answer this, and get some idea of what he would bring to Wolves, I took to the fans’ forum of his former club, Eintracht Braunschweig (eintrachtbraunschweig-fanforum.de). Some seemed indifferent to his departure:

“I was never actually convinced by him. He was very quick but never quite played the right final ball.”

“I think he found his level in the second tier.”

But this is countered by others:

“A good player on the way up.”

“A very committed player with the right attitude. A real shame [that he has left Braunschweig].”

The general consensus (from a 28-page thread) is that he was an extremely quick player who a few Eintracht fans would have liked to have seen more of. His time at the club was marred by injury – he only made 20 appearances in 2 seasons.

Pace is certainly an attribute you cannot have too much of in the Championship. Let’s hope his injury woes are behind him, because if so, we may have just acquired some much-needed athleticism at right back. At times last year our defence felt one-sided as only Doherty was comfortable getting forward.

2. What does this mean for Dominic Iorfa?

A bit-part player from last season seems to have been pushed further down the pecking order. Part of me can’t help but feel a little sad, given that it isn’t often that we have an England U21 international in our squad.

I also hope the new centre-back signings don’t curtail Kortney Hause’s chances, either. Both still have a lot of potential and it is very easy to forget how young they still are.

3. Is the defence now suitably reinforced?

I’m surprised we’ve already signed 3 new defenders. With Silvio potentially still to renew his deal, we could have a very different looking back four come the first day of the new season. In fact, we actually have two complete back fours in our squad currently.

4. Should we now focus on other areas?

A proven striker is a must, surely. And a real ball-playing central midfielder to supply the bullets, as we can’t rely on our wingers all the time.

Miranda and Ofosu-Ayeh are pretty much unknown until we’ve seen them ourselves. However, I do think a mixture of gritty Championship know-how and the surprise element of new players could be a potent mixture. For me, our defence seems to have that now.

One word of caution – I read that Miranda may be made captain. Roger Johnson was the last centre back we signed and immediately gave the armband to, and look how that turned out…

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Clive’s autograph hunt

I do hate an illegible autograph so when Clive sent me this a few weeks back asking for help identifying the culprits, I was keen to help.

As the man himself says, “it’s an album from the mid sixties and hoping someone can identify all the signatures. I got Peter Knowles, but ain’t sure of the rest.”

Here’s the picture rotated to offer another angle:

I’ll be disappointed if we can’t solve this one between us lads.

Changing faces

So, what have I missed?

Apologies for the lack of commentary on the Paul Lambert saga, but truth be told I didn’t think it was worth interrupting my once a year holiday over what could have been nothing more than paper talk.

But as with last year’s endless takeover speculation it goes to show that there’s rarely smoke without fire.

To bring things back up to speed, here’s a few thoughts on the whole episode and where I think it leaves our club.

Paul Lambert

While probably in the minority, I’m disappointed to see Paul Lambert go. Although I agree with the general consensus that the football was less than sparkling and the results mixed at best, I did feel progression was inevitable next season under his leadership, whether or not that meant a top six finish.

Laurie Dalrymple suggested Lambert got the heave-ho because of the team’s performance over the final months of the season, but I’m fairly sure the much publicised disagreement over transfer policy was likely the decisive factor. That will no doubt come out in the wash when Lambert eventually talks in more detail about his departure.

When Ben and I sat down with him shortly after his appointment, he obviously had big aspirations and talked about reshaping the whole club, not just the team, and putting the fans at the center of everything. Given his ties to Dortmund and what he’d achieved at Norwich, I bought into that and was keen to see him do well.

Talking tactics

The one thing that did disappoint me about Lambert was his constant insistence that ‘football was a simple game’. I think he was making a general point about players working hard, putting in the hard yards, etc, etc, but I was desperate to coax something more technical from him, perhaps a few things he’d picked up shadowing some of the greatest coaches in the world. But nowt was forthcoming.

Although many of you felt Kenny Jackett was dull as dishwater in his interviews, he’d occasionally make reference to tactical setup and how certain players are utilised within a system. Additionally, the excellent book Family: Life, Death and Football, in which he was shadowed during his League One winning season at Millwall, revealed him to be a deeply analytical thinker as well as a strong man-manager.

The point is, right or wrong, I like to believe whoever is sitting in the dugout is at least familiar with some of the more technical nuances that separate professionals from the other 20,000 managers in the stands. Paul Lambert never fully gave me that confidence and as many have stated, certain decisions regarding team selection defied any plausible logic.

Nuno Espirito Santo

With that, I welcome Nuno Espirito Santo with open arms. Although I don’t agree with the manner of his arrival or the various conflicts of interest it presents, it does appear to be a significant coup to have a coach of his pedigree sitting in our dugout.

Nobody has yet grilled him on how he likes his teams to play, but I’m hoping we see a more possession based approach. Regardless of what I did and didn’t like about Zenga and Lambert, neither were able to get us performing well at Molineux and for me that stemmed from the inability of their teams to keep hold of the ball.

Fulham, Huddersfield and Reading all showed that dominating possession can work just as well as the percentage football most managers adopt in the Championship. With vague references made to Santo’s style of play aligning with Fosun’s vision for the club, perhaps this will culminate in something more attractive? We can only dream.

Like most others, I have greater confidence in this appointment than that of Zenga and with most of the summer to play with, there’s no reason the team won’t be well drilled come the start of August.

With his own backroom staff and a better grasp of the English language than Zenga, Santo should feel more comfortable around Compton Park. And bluntly speaking, his CV alone (no disrespect Walter, you were the better goalkeeper) suggests we’ve made a significant upgrade on last summer’s appointment.

He’s going in with his eyes open, knowing full well how the club have treated Jackett, Zenga and Lambert so it will be difficult to have too much sympathy for him if this blows up before Christmas.

Jorge Mendes

There seem to be two questions surrounding the involvement of our friendly super agent overlord.

  1. Should the FA / The Football League be allowing it?
  2. Is it to the benefit of Wolverhampton Wanderers?

The answer to the first is ‘probably not’ but nobody seems to care. Fosun have a direct stake in Mendes’ Gestifute agency so that presents many conflicts of interest in itself, even without him moving players and managers in and out of the club at will. But agents wield a lot of power, so it’s not surprising to see the most powerful of them all making a power move. It’s for the footballing authorities to shut it down. You can complain but it’s just systematic of where football is going, which is dictated by money.

Based on last season, I don’t think you can say that Mendes’ involvement has benefited the club. In fact, I’m certain that if you’d simply given Kenny Jackett the same pot we ended up mostly wasting on his clients, you’d have got a far better return in terms of points on the board.

Yes, we got access to a wonderful talent like Helder Costa but ultimately the team did not improve. If we’re bracing ourselves for another Gestifute influx this summer, we have to hope someone within the club is connecting the dots to make sure it’s more effective.

My real hope is that Mendes is as keen as I think he is to see Wolves in the Premier League, given that it will almost certainly be to his benefit as much as anyone else. More money to play with, better contracts to negotiate, etc means more cash for Gestifute. If his ultimate goal is to see us become a top flight force and in doing so make him even more powerful than anyone could have contemplated an agent becoming then that’s exciting to contemplate.

The other side of the coin of course is the very real prospect that Fosun (partly advised by Mendes) continue to stumble and make poor decisions that put the club in reverse and in that instance, what will happen? What will be their take on things if we’re still in the same position or worse this time next year or the year after that? How long are they prepared to wait for things to take off and what’s the fall back plan as a business if it doesn’t play out as they hope? Those are questions that need to be asked.

For now I suppose, we just do what we’ve always done as supporters of this club – fear the worst but hope for the best.