When Wolves sold Barry Douglas in the summer of 2018, eyebrows were raised. People questioned the rationale, and many were convinced that the club had made a mistake.
But the signing of Jonny quelled any unrest and showed that the club was prepared to act in order to upgrade the squad.
With the sale of Matt Doherty this week, many are hoping that history repeats itself and this is the dawn of a new era. There are some key differences to the Douglas-Doherty scenarios, however, that are cause for concern.
Firstly, unlike Douglas being sold to a team in the division we had just departed, we have sold Doherty to a direct rival and below his market value. It is a sign of our progress – and their decline – that Wolves and Spurs are considered direct rivals, but that doesn’t mean we should simply let them take our players for cut-price fees with 3 years to go on their contracts. If Ben Chilwell is worth £50m, Doherty is worth considerably more than a flat £15m.
Secondly, while Wolves clearly moved to upgrade Douglas, Jeff Shi has openly admitted that selling Doherty “was not something we had planned ahead of the summer”.
So, has any scouting been done to replace him?
An already-stretched squad is now positively threadbare. Before any outgoings, the squad needed reinforcements at LWB to cover the injury-stricken Jonny, a new CB to upgrade Romain Saiss, and a striker to take the load off Raul.
There was also an argument to bring in a new, dynamic CM, as Joao Moutinho is not getting any younger. We can now add a quality RWB to that list.
That means we need a minimum of 4 quality reinforcements (LWB/RWB/CB/ST) just to maintain the previous squad level. In reality, Wolves need more like 5-6 new faces to bolster the squad and help us challenge even higher up the table.
While our pursuit of Ainsley Maitland-Niles is promising, seeing him perform for Arsenal in the Community Shield suggests our attempts may yet be forlorn.
We stand at one of the most crucial points of FOSUN’s time owning the club: a manager yet to commit his long-term future to the project, a squad in need of considerable investment, and a new structure that sees no need to replace previous Sporting Director Kevin Thelwell.
With the unplanned sale of a key squad member, reports of purse strings being tightened and managerial unhappiness with this, and no imminent incomings ahead of a season that starts in 2 weeks, fans are understandably anxious.
The positive is that Wolves are starting from the highest point (7th in the Premier League and Europa League quarter-finalists) that they’ve been at in recent memory. Should the club choose to invest – not doing so isn’t really an option at this stage – they would prove an enticing proposition to a number of excellent players.
But football is an unforgiving environment and you can easily be left behind if you rest on your laurels or decide to jump off the train of constant investment that successful professional football clubs require. Our fingers may have been burned by UEFA sanctions, but as Man City have proven with their recent activity – spend first, solve issues later.
Fears over FFP should not stop us looking to achieve our stated ambitions, especially with UEFA’s sanctions crumbling like a house of cards when challenged by any half-decent lawyer.
New signings would instantly lighten the mood and bring back the feel-good factor of last season. A lot can change in 14 days if we get it right, but anxiety can also grow in that time too.
Wolves must act quickly in this transfer window, not only to build on the platform they’ve painstakingly built for themselves, but also to ensure any raised eyebrows are promptly put back in their normal place.