Wolverhampton Wanderers today announced that manager Mick McCarthy has been sacked by the club after a devastating 5-1 home defeat in the local derby against West Bromwich Albion. The last time Wolves lost so badly to West Brom was 1964 when Wolves lost 5-1 at the Hawthorns.
After a promising start to the season, Wolves has only picked up 14 points from their last 22 Premier League games. Wolves sit third from bottom. Assistant manager Terry Connor will take charge of team training until a new manager is appointed. McCarthy had been in charge of the club since 2006.
In the meantime, here’s a review of yesterday’s last game for McCarthy in charge of Wolves:
As a young Queen Victoria’s royal carriage passed through the Black Country circa 1840, she ordered the blinds to be drawn in disgust and to hide the horrors that beset her disapproving eyes. Some 170+ years later inside the same location, Wolves’ fans would yearn to repeat the actions of the famous old Monarch.
Typically the most important fixture on the footballing calendar, the local derby, the importance of which to the two sets of supporters is unrivaled. Essentially, it all boils down to bragging rights. The locality of the two clubs dictates that supporters will become intertwined whether it be in social circles or the workplace and the 6 months or so of gloating, banter and privileges that follow are ultimately determined by the outcome of one 90 minute football match. It is one of the beautiful game’s unwritten laws that one should revel in the misery of those closest to him. Whilst the Bible teaches to ‘love thy neighbour’, for whatever reason when it comes to football this is simply not the case.
In the heart of the Midlands, the area inclusive of Dudley, Sandwell and the Wolverhampton borders famed for its thriving industrialisation of yesteryear was coined ‘the Black Country’ and provides the backdrop for an intense rivalry with the feelings of both sets of supporters towards each other, bordering on hatred. It becomes second nature passed on through the generations. Born into a Wolverhampton Wanderers household, I was raised to be anti-West Bromwich and I would expect vice-versa. To avoid being on the wrong end of the stick and the jibes that are apparent in the workplace, at school and more recently exploding onto social media sites, the passion and expectation conjured for a derby game is like no other.
With the two combatants teetering ominously over the dreaded drop zone in the Barclays Premier League, the stakes were further increased. With Wolves stuttering at home this season, having lost three consecutive games heading into this pivotal fixture and West Brom picking up a staggering 18 of their 26 points so far on the road, it seemed a no brainer. Although a point would have helped neither side you sensed before kick-off that something was going to give.
Mick McCarthy boldly opted to begin the game with the eleven that finished the victory a week prior against Queens Park Rangers. With the focus firmly set on not getting carried away with the three points gained against 10 men Rangers, Wolves set out their stall with Sylvan Ebanks-Blake partnering Steven Fletcher up front whilst Kevin Doyle reverted to the right wing leaving Wolves with essentially three strikers on the pitch from the get go. Matt Jarvis, David Edwards and Jamie O’Hara completed a midfield which was otherwise depleted by a suspension to Karl Henry, an injury that prematurely ended Emmanuel Frimpong’s loan spell and yet another niggle for injury troubled winger Michael Kightly. Having lost disappointingly seven days earlier at home to Swansea City, Roy Hodgson crossed into enemy territory with a more adventurous 4-5-1 come 4-3-3 option with Peter Odemwingie and Jerome Thomas providing support for the re-emerging Marc Antoine Fortune from the flanks. With the intent of bossing the engine room, Albion started with a combative midfield trio of Mulumbu, Scharner and Morrison whilst Liam Ridgewell started his first game for the club since making the short hop from Birmingham City on transfer deadline day.
Amidst a tense, yet raucous atmosphere it was the visitors who settled quickly to ease the nerves of their three thousand or so travelling supporters. In the very first minute James Morrison burst intently into the box with the ball at his feet, his drag was towards Fortune was ricocheted off Wolves’ Tottenham loanee Sebastian Bassong before rolling invitingly into the path of Jerome Thomas who shot smartly off of Wayne Hennessey’s chest and out for an early corner. This point blank save a sign of things to come for the ‘over worked’ Wolves goalkeeper.
Albion looked as comfortable in possession as Wolves looked wasteful and carved out two more chances in quick succession. Patient build up play and some neat touches set up Thomas again to drive narrowly wide of the Welsh stopper’s right hand post before a neat one-two between Peter Odemwingie and Paul Scharner emanated from the right flank finishing with the Nigerian international gliding unchallenged into the box and forcing another smart parry from Hennessey. Wolves’ fans pre-match enthusiasm was quickly waning as their team were under increasing pressure in the early stages as their neighbours looked the much more capable of the two sides.
By 22 minutes the cracks which had started to appear in the Wolves back four were becoming gaping holes. West Brom had control of the game, passing Wolves to pieces and looking slick with possession aided by the extra man in midfield. With just four Premier League goals to his name coming into the tie) Peter Odemwingie was thriving in the hostile atmosphere as he robbed a dallying Bassong of possession before laying a pass into the path of Paul Scharner. The ball sat up invitingly for Scharner who forced another top drawer save from the Wolves goalkeeper with a half volley from inside the penalty area which was tipped over the bar. The reluctance to challenge and close down from the home side was beginning to worry the supporters as their bitter rivals danced rings around them on the field and had registered 6 unanswered attempts on goal midway through the first half.
With ten minutes remaining in the first half the pressure finally paid off and the inevitable occurred. West Bromwich Albion dictating the tempo of the game with slow, short passing and relevant movement pulled both of Wolves’ full backs out of position once more allowing Fortune aeons of time on the edge of the penalty area. The target man returning from the footballing wilderness had time to chest a long ball down turn and lay into Mulumbu as Wolves simply spectated. Mulumbu moved the ball out right to Odemwingie as a line of six Wolves defenders back pedalled and invited him forwards. Offered space and time to cut inside onto his left foot, Odemwingie obliged and his shot was deflected between Hennessey’s legs for the opening goal that Wolves’ fans could painfully see coming a mile off. Nobody in gold and black had touched the ball for the best part of five minutes as West Brom elegantly crafted the opener.
As the clock ticked past the 45 minute mark, Wolves registered their first and only highlight of the half. Following a Kevin Doyle flick on, Ebanks-Blake headed down into the path of Fletcher who spun his defender cleverly before unleashing a left foot shot from the edge of the area beating an otherwise spectating Ben Foster in the Albion goal for a largely undeserved equaliser. The crowd erupted more out of relief than joy as their solitary shot on goal in the entire first half nestled into the corner of the net.
On reflection Wolves fans could count their lucky stars to be level at the interval after seeing their team outclassed for large periods of a game in which they could have easily been 5-0 down before their leveller. With the strikers anonymous and the defence looking increasingly disjointed, Jamie O’Hara was the only player worthy of the entrance fee so far for the home side. The busy central midfielder recently returning himself from a spell on the side lines was involved in every aspect of Wolves play, too often having to collect the ball from his own defenders and force the issue by involving himself box to box in anything positive that Wolves could muster.
With lady luck seemingly in their corner and a half time endorsement from their manager, Wolves started the second half the brighter of the two teams. Hopeful of kicking on from their equaliser late in the first half, Wolves fans had found their voice once more and were encouraged when Steven Fletcher pounced with a snap shot from outside of the area which was deflected narrowly wide following a loose header from Steven Reid.
At the other end the visitors intent on sticking to the principles that had brought them so much joy in the first period, put together another patient move going side to side with six one touch passes before laying the ball off to Fortune who’s rasping shot was saved one handed by Hennessey high to his right and tipped over for a corner. The result of the following play was nothing short of calamitous from the home team’s perspective. James Morrison delivered the right wing corner which found its way onto the head of centre back Gareth McAuley. The header looped into the area with Hennessey flapping and rebounded off the post. Roger Johnson then put his foot through the ball, the clearance went a good thirty feet into the air but only three yards forward at best and as Wolves players looked cluelessly to the skies, the ball dropped to the feet of Albion’s Swedish centre half Jonas Olsson who volleyed from the edge of the area straight at Hennessey. Cue the ‘big top’ theme as Hennessey caught the shot but then dropped it back over the goal line and went from hero to villain in a matter of moments as West Brom regained the lead. The goal could not have been more comical from a Wolves perspective, adding to the joy of the travelling supporters who revelled in the misfortune of their Black Country counterparts.
Although the deficit was unnecessary it was by no means unassailable for the Wolves players who pushed on for another much needed equaliser. First Wolves goal hero Steven Fletcher put himself about in the area getting on the end of a Kevin Foley centre only to see his header acrobatically saved by Ben Foster, then from the resulting corner Nenad Milijas delivered an accurate cross which Roger Johnson headed against the bar to set the home fans purring once more.
With the crossbar still shaking Albion set about a counter attack. The lively Odemwingie was involved once more as he shrugged off Matt Jarvis with ease before skipping between the winger and O’Hara who gave up the ghost and became infuriating spectators as the Nigerian advanced into the area unchallenged eventually having his effort cleared off the line by Kevin Foley. The fact that the Albion players were finding so much freedom and going largely unchallenged in their approach play was both a concern and an insult to the home fans who if nothing else expected to see passion and determination from their team on this most volatile of occasions.
The greatest fears of the Molineux audience were realised on 77 minutes as West Brom doubled their advantage. Another right wing corner from Morrison was converted with the help of three unchallenged and unmarked team mates. Liam Ridgewell headed the miscued cross back into the mixer from the edge of the area, the centre back Olsson had time to nonchalantly flick the ball with backwards before Odemwingie hooked into the corner of the net after avoiding the half-hearted attempt by Jamie O’Hara on the near post whilst his closest marker Stephen Ward lay helpless in heap on the deck. The natives were more than restless by this point, their frustration with their teams poor performance which had been bottled up for the most part now threatened to boil over as they turned their attentions to their vilified manager in search of answers.
The mutterings from the terraced were of frustration and bemusement as they attempted to figure out how Mick McCarthy had set the team up in the second half. It seemed that the Wolves boss had abandoned the 4-4-2 system but instead of swapping for another formation had given the players license to roam awkwardly. Specialist winger Matt Jarvis was tucked inside as the play passed him by in central midfield for the most part of the second half, whilst goal poacher and box player Ebanks-Blake was asked to spread ineffectively to the left wing. Steven Fletcher who has carried Wolves only goal threat for the entire season thus far, was shunted further away from the goal out of position on the right flank giving justification to the vocal concerns of the home crowd.
West Bromwich Albion were unstoppable by this juncture and like sharks that smelled blood prayed on Wolves ineptitudes and set about ensuring their fans had something to remember for years to come. The impressive and tireless Morrison made a mockery of Stephen Ward as he danced around the left back’s three poorly timed challenges getting to the by-line before cutting back for former Wolves man Keith Andrews to put the cherry on an already well iced cake with a left foot drive into the bottom corner from the edge of the area. It was all too much for the Wolves fans who turned their anger towards their manager and chairman (who was questionably absent from the game) with chants of “you’re getting sacked in the morning”. The goal from old boy Keith Andrews who was largely unsuccessful at Molineux heightened the away fans jubilation who could barely believe what was unfolding before them and how little their Black Country rivals were offering in return on an occasion that means so much. Savouring the moment, the away fans epitomised the occasion by singing “super Mick McCarthy” which served only to fuel the fire even more.
With only a few minutes of anguish to go, Wolves were given a corner which on the evidence of today’s game would mean only one thing – an Albion goal. So it was to be, the corner was headed away and picked up by Fortune who was allowed a free pass once more as he travelled a full fifty yards with the ball unchallenged before slipping it into Morrison this time plying his trade on the left flank. Morrison picked out Odemwingie for his hat trick despite the desperate attempts of Wayne Hennessey ensuring the all-action Nigerian would go down in derby day folklore as the first match ball performer since Iwan Roberts netted three for Wolves in the fixture almost 15 years ago.
For those who bravely remained in the ground until the final whistle, the scene before them was an ugly one. Not only had Wolves fans witnessed one of the most disjointed, comical and spineless performances from their side in a local derby in living memory, they were also forced to watch helplessly as the three thousand or so travelling fans joyfully rubbed their noses in it after a humbling 5-1 mauling. The final whistle was greeted with an inevitable chorus of boos as spleens were vented to the fullest extent towards the manager and players who were branded “unfit to wear the shirt” after their second half capitulation.
Credits where it is due, West Brom were tantalisingly good for the entirety but the four home losses in a row tells a sorry story for Wolves. The manager had been living on borrowed time for over a year now and there was currently no argument against his tenure being totally exhausted. To lose today on this momentous occasion was bad enough, to lose in a manner which will hang like a millstone around our necks for years maybe decades to come is ultimately unforgiveable. There was simply no way back for Mick McCarthy after this. His public were left humiliated and ashamed as his team and his tactics were exposed and dismembered by the opposition who were only one place above them in the league but poles apart on the day. Wolves were without leadership, without a formation or system and most poignantly without the spirit, passion and desire which has accounted for the majority of their success in the past 6 years with McCarthy at the helm.
If a storm was brewing before the game at Sunday lunchtime, Wolves’ fans will wake in the aftermath of a man-made disaster. While West Bromwich Albion fans bask in the glory of their impressive derby day triumph, their Wolverhampton counterparts face dark days ahead with their only hope being to call upon the substance of the motto that encompasses their millennium city – out of darkness… cometh light.
Now that McCarthy has been sacked, who do you think should replace him to help keep the club up this season? Neil Warnock? Post your suggestions in the comments section below.