So, 5 years after relegation, the famous Black and Gold strip of Wolverhampton Wanderers has made a belated return to the Premiership after Saturdays tense 1-0 win over Queens Park Rangers at Molineux. It’s an impressive return from a complete turn around from the side relegated from the Premiership under Dave Jones back in 2003-2004 season, Jones was unable to push them back up and was replaced by Glenn Hoddle but he also failed in his attempt to return Wolves back to the Premiership.
It was the choice to replace Hoddle with Mick McCarthy in the Summer of 2006 that saw the green shoots of recovery appear at Wolves. Taking over a team short on confidence and players, the expectations were for a tough season of mid-table mediocrity, but McCarthy exceeded all expectations by steering his collection of youth players and experienced Championship players to the play offs, before ultimately losing in the semi finals. Last season saw Wolves make a slow start and crushingly missed out on the play offs by the slimmest of margins, goal difference but the club didn’t panic.It stood by the manager and gave him the funds to strengthen the side for a proper tilt at the title.
The key to this patience was the new owner Steve Morgan, who may be a name familiar to Liverpool fans, as the man who tried to buy the club off the Moores family in 2004 before it all turned a little bit nasty at Anfield and Moores sold the club into a world of debt and petty squabbles under Gillette and Hicks. Morgan was eager to get himself involved in a football club that he could take to the next level and Wolves fitted the bill perfectly.
Morgan amazingly paid £10 to the owner, Sir Jack Hayward, to take over at Wolves but had to promise he would invest £30 million into the club. Morgan has been as good as his word, with his chief executive Jez Moxey and McCarthy working in tandem to identify the hungry and eager players they knew the club needed if it was to get back up to the Premiership. Sylvan Ebanks-Blake was one such signing, at what now looks like a steal from Plymouth Argyle at £1.5 million. In 63 appearances for Wolves so far, he’s scored 37 goals, a remarkable return for the front man.
Now, i’m not going to go on one of those raining on a promotion teams party postings. In fact Wolves are possible one of the strongest clubs in terms of finances coming into the Premiership. They’ve made profits 3 seasons in a row, the owner has invested plenty of money on players and has plenty of cash to throw at the club if they need to invest more money. They know they cannot repeat the mistakes of the 2003-2004 season, when experienced free transfers and old legs just couldn’t gel to keep them in the league.Winning the play offs, left them chasing the sales over the Summer of 2003 and it showed.
They spent a pittance and got what they deserved: relegation.This time it’s completely different, Wolves should stay up easily, as long as McCarthy can attract the right type of player to balance the youthful, pacey and hungry side he’s developed. He’s eager to show that the lack of support he received from the board of Sunderland was a one off, that he can indeed manage at the top level.
Yet, look a the two clubs who came down with them that season, Leeds United and Leicester City. The Foxes have just won the title to return back to the Championship and Leeds will be hoping to follow them in the play offs from Divison One. What they would have given for the stability of Wolves in the same period, Leicester have had an amazing 11 people sat in the dug out since the beginning of 2006, Leeds United have had 7 people in the hot seat. That says a lot about Sir Jack Hayward and Steve Morgan and their refusal to listen to a minority of fans who wanted McCarthy sacked last summer.
Congratulations to Wolves and their passionate fans, I’ll be looking forward to visiting Molineux again next season and I think they’ve got a great season ahead of them in 2009-2010.