A look at why Nottingham Forest, Wolverhampton Wanderers, Sheffield Wednesday and Leeds United should be in the Premier League: Part 2 - Wolverhampton Wanderers.
Welcome to our second instalment of “Four sleeping giants of English football”. Last week we looked why Sheffield Wednesday are a sleeping giant of the game and vastly underachieving. This week, our attention turns to a club, who is the lowest rank side of the four, are currently topping the League One table.
First of all, let's recap....
The top four average away attendances in the Football League are as follows;
1) Leeds United
2) Nottingham Forest
3) Wolverhampton Wanderers
4) Sheffield Wednesday
The definition of the phrase 'sleeping giant' is something or someone who holds great power but is still waiting for their big moment.
The phrase in football has been around for decades and many a club has been labelled as such. This isn't a discussion of who is the best footballing side outside of the Premier League, as none of these clubs can claim that.
It is much more than that, its having the fanbase, structure, history and heritage in place. It isn't just about having the most dedicated away fans, although these four clubs do have that all in common. Its about silverware, icons who have turned out for these clubs, days out at Wembley and wonderful European nights.
Wanderers were played a pivotal role in the creation of the European Cup, which we all know as the Champions League today. After arranging to play two games abroad, which Wolves both won, a local newspaper declared that Wolves were champions of Europe, which was considered a bit far-fetched, even by the English press’s dramatising reputation. This claim sparked conversations between top European clubs, including Wolves, and head officials in Paris, and the rest is history.
Wolves are currently the 9th most successful English team domestically in history. With 13 major cup wins, including four FA Cups, three League titles, two League Cups and four Charity Shields in their trophy cabinet. Despite not winning any major competitions since 1980, with Wolves' proud history they should certainly be competing at a higher level than League 1.
Over the years, many famous players have worn the famous ‘old gold’ shirt for Wolverhampton, such as Billy Wright, Bill Slater and more recently cult-hero Steve Bull. Despite their golden years coming before World War II, I think that it is hugely important that we do not dismiss the achievements of many a great player, and a great football club.
Over the past two seasons, Wolverhampton Wanderers’ plight down the leagues, two consecutive relegations has somewhat damaged their reputation and standing within the English game. Despite this their fans still head to Molineux in their droves, and they have the 3rd best away support outside of the Premier League. That should convince any doubters on the size and stature of this once great football club.
With regards to the stadium, Molineux, it currently holds an impressive 30,852 after recent expansion. Many suggest that the development of Stan Cullis Stand, actually cost the Midlands club their place in the Premier League, as the money would have been better spent in developing the clubs playing squad. Obviously, it should be noted that is wasn’t the sole reason for Wolves dropped down the division, with left-over money badly invested on flops like Roger Johnson.
The sacking of Mick McCarthy and consequent appointment of Terry Connor was controversial but even if Big Mick had stayed, disaster may not have been averted. The former Republic of Ireland manager did originally have a great spell at the club after rebuilding Dave Jones’ team which failed to survive their debut season in the Premier League. Mick got the club to the Premier League and kept them up for two seasons. A good job in my book, but in the 2011-12 season, which led to McCarthy’s sacking, it seemed that both parties needed a change as things had got a bit stale and predictable.
The board at Wolves got the next three appointments desperately wrong in Terry Connor, Stale Solbakken and Dean Saunders. When the club decided to get rid of Mick McCarthy, it was clear that the squad needed to hear a different voice, someone to come in and give some fresh emphasis to a struggling side. To give his assistant, the inexperienced but highly respected coach, Terry Connor, a chance to keep the side up was almost resigning the club to relegation.
Following their relegation to the second tier of English football, Wolves appointed Stale Solbakken, their first ever overseas coach. The Championship is one of the toughest divisions you will find, particularly when you don’t have experience of dealing with it. Despite Solbakken’s good reputation, the appointment was again, poorly timed by the board. Quite frankly, he had no right to taken Wolves on following the relegation.
Solbakken didn’t last long, only six months, but the club was in a poor position when up and coming manger, Dean Saunders was appointed. Saunders took on a sinking ship in Wolves and failed to turn them around. I have no doubts that the former Welsh striker, has the potential to be a solid Championship manager, but he was the wrong choice. Also it was the wrong choice for Saunders who should have seen out his time at Doncaster Rovers. The pressure cooker of a Championship relegation battle, add into the mix that it was a club the size of Wolves, Saunders didn’t really stand a chance.
However, finally, Wolves have got it right, appointing steady-hand Kenny Jackett. The experienced manager was the type of manager Wolves needed following their relegation from the Premier League. Perhaps, at times Jackett isn’t always the stylish manager the board clearly had their heart set on but he is capable of getting the best out of the cards he is dealt with. Wolves look favourites to go up this season, automatically, and it wouldn’t surprise me if you saw the club sniffing around the play off places, in the Championship next season.
Wolverhampton Wanderers must stick with the reliable Jackett, give him time to build a Championship class squad, arguably they already posses this. Finally this is a time for loyal fanbase at Wolves to finally start cracking a smile, after two terrible years.