Losing so subserviently to a relegation candidate would usually be enough to provoke an angry tweet or two, if not a call to Franksy on Radio WM, in any given season.
So it feels a tad unnatural to feel somewhat upbeat following our emphatic away loss at Bristol City, not least after five successive wins.
In this instance, the feelgood factor emanates from the confirmation that this squad of players is simply not good enough to challenge for a mid-table Championship finish, let alone a promotion push to the play-offs or beyond.
In simple terms, our squad is nauseatingly average at best. At worst, it is absolutely crap, with last season’s 14th place finish coupled with this perpetually underwhelming campaign, when we’ll probably finish even lower.
Football being as compulsively short-termism as it is, a win at Ashton Gate might have coerced Lambert and Jeff Shi into thinking that we are actually a decent side with minimal reinforcements needed over the summer.
Thank God then, that they were reminded of the side’s unshakable levels of frailty, which should act as a yardstick from which to shape their close-season recruitment drive. (Games against Cardiff City away, Burton away, Birmingham City home, Rotherham home and Wigan home should also act as likewise).
If Fosun’s mid-to-long-term plans are to be taken seriously, then a nostalgic nod to hard-luck failures of yesteryear must be replaced by a hard-nosed search for ruthless winners. It’s that simple.
If – and it’s a big if – we are to get promoted from this hell-hole of a league, we don’t need to look too far from home to understand what is needed to get out.
In 2002/3, a rotated triumvirate of Cameron, Rae and Ince ensured we were not only good enough to last the pace, but actually accelerate into the play-offs with bona-fide momentum. All three would guarantee you a 7/10 performance in virtually every game they played, whenever called upon.
In 2008/09 – our only other comparable year of success – Karl Henry and David Jones were equally consistent, if not completely underrated compared to the three names above, whose cult statuses have long been decreed. The originals, perhaps, so therefore the best? No matter, the maligned Henry, in particular, was the base from which our incredible Championship winning season was formed. He was another 7/10 guaranteed performer week in, week out.
It’s a common theme amongst winners, not least when looking at other successful sides to make hay in the Championship.
For Reading, read Sidwell and Harper. For Bolton Wanderers (on multiple occasions) read Pollock, Sellars and more latterly Per Frandsen. For Sunderland, see Kevin Ball / Lee Clark and didn’t Tigana’s Fulham also feature Clark and John Collins? And while I really don’t want to mention them, I will utter the names McInnes and Greening in two separate Albion seasons.
At present, we don’t have a single player in our squad capable of lacing these players’ boots. Not in terms of metronomic consistency.
David Edwards offers you a 7 (usually if he scores a goal) and anything from a 4 or 5/10 on most other occasions. Maybe Evans could imitate David Jones if a worthy lieutenant was alongside, but ifs and ands are pots and pans.
We haven’t got time to find out, have we? Jack Price, a player I admire greatly, might also be better blessed with a natural leader from somewhere, while Saville and Coady are proven dross.
Saiss, possibly, could thrive in the right environment, but when it’s almost exclusively on the bench, then you sense we’ll probably never find out.
Get ruthless here, because it’s the most critical area of concern, more so than a goalscorer in my humble opinion.
Saville, Coady*, Evans, Edwards can all go.
Prince and Saiss probably already have, going by the comments made about foreigners by Thelwell in a recent FP and the need for a 75% / 25% split between domestic and foreign players.
Ronan has shown plenty to suggest he can play a part, but one midfield general is needed from somewhere.
*Unless deployed exclusively as a right back
Many fans hanker after a modern day version of Joleon Lescott or Dean Richards – and with good reason. They were class acts.
But more than individual flair at the heart of the back four is a need for a genuine partnership between two preferred players, whoever they might be.
The unassuming but no-nonsense Paul Butler assumed rock-like proportions alongside the prodigious Lescott in 2003, while a defender cut from the same cloth as Butler came back into the fold to see us over the line in 2008/09 – Jody Craddock.
Bells and whistles aren’t so critical in central defence – muck and nettles are.
I refer back once more to that all conquering Reading team, with mainstays Sonko and Ingimarsson forming the foundations. QPR would get promoted with Clint Hill and Elphick with Bournemouth.
It looks like Danny Batth and Kortney House are our current first choice pairing.
They don’t stack up unfavourably on paper to the many individuals with championship medals from previous seasons, as per above.
But they still lack that rumbustious sense of leadership that any successful side craves.
They need help and we need to strengthen. Asking Ethan Ebanks-Landell to meet the requisite levels of consistency is asking a lot, while Williamson has been a laughable waste of money, even if he does hint at those levels that are needed.
Bring in a proven centre half.
Of all the positions to remedy in the summer, this one is it.
It needs no explanation. In 2002/03 Kenny Miller and Nathan Blake scored plenty, while we all remember Big Chris and Sylvain a few years later.
I have a hunch that Bodvarsson could be a better bet to come good next season than Dicko, whose track record might be more compelling, but appears to have lost that intuitive knack he once had of being in the right place at the right time. And on the few occasions he is, he misses.
When I say ‘come good’, I mean 10 to 12 goals over the course of the season.
If both are sold then they can have no complaints. Joe Mason should be sold. Can we hang our hat on a player like him?
Lambert then has to bring in TWO strikers to consign the above to long term substitute options. One could be a ‘number 10’ to replace Mason.
If we’re playing David Edwards for much of next season because we’re ‘relying on his goals’ then we can forget about promotion.
So quality – and quantity – is required here as the cupboard is bare.
As far as Wolves’ DNA goes, if not a promotion push itself, then nothing gets the turnstiles ticking quite like a cocksure winger in full flow, in complete and utter faith in his own ability.
Hancocks, Mullen, Wagstaffe. Even Daley and Froggatt were a nod to our heritage, albeit a fatal one as luck would have it.
Mark Kennedy was the mercurial one back in 2002/03 who got bums off seats quite unlike any other player that year, even if he did frustrate at times. Shaun Newton more ‘Robin’ to the Irish Batman, offering a steadying level of consistency which often went unnoticed (see Wolves’ second goal v Newcastle in that FA Cup game as an example).
We were just spoilt rotten with Kightly and Jarvis under Mick. to have one of those was a blessing. Two was downright taking the mickey, which we did on a regular basis to opposing teams.
And then there was Bakary Sako, who we all loved mostly because he was a player to electrify – and partly because he represented the very antithesis of the anaemic last knockings of the McCarthy era.
So to ask for two players of Helder Costa’s ilk is wishful thinking. To have Costa in the first place might be a long shot in itself, going by the general undertones which accompany each man-of-the-match performance.
Just to keep Costa alone is as big a statement as signing him in the first place.
Call me old fashioned but I like a winger with pace – and obviously consistency. This means the jury is still out on Cavaleiro for me. In Weimann (should he sign) and Marshall, we have adept operators to add some balance, both of whom are good enough to sustain a promotion challenge.
Of course, Ivan could continue as a crowd pleasing match winner too.
Basically, sign Weimann and keep Costa.
Ikeme is more than good enough. I maintain he’s a better keeper than Hennessey.
Lonergan will be released. Burgoyne will deputise no doubt, which would please me.
Hardly a position to shift the necessary number of season tickets to trigger the refund, but an important one.
Matt Doherty should play a significant role in a tilt for the Promised Land. Coady can only be seen as a stop gap on the right, albeit an effective one.
The bigger conundrum is Dominic Iorfa, whose career is in inverse mode. He does possess mobility, and I refuse to believe that a player can lose all of the virtues that made him so eye-catching under Jackett.
A left footed left back is a must.
In our only two seasons of success in this league – not to mention all of those other sides who’ve eventually conquered – they all shared one common trait that every successful side needs: Luck!
By luck, I mean keeping key players fit for a good 75% of the season. This is not something that can be controlled entirely, but Lambert will surely have taken note of the Mike Williamson debacle, if not Joe Mason as well.
It’s a big ask to get out of this season, even with all the resources under the sun as we all know from bitter experience. Curle, Richards, Keane and Bully just a few legends never to have managed it in a Wolves shirt.
It will be far from easy. BUT by being ruthless, with the onus on finding consistent performers, it can be done!