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Premiership Promotion Preview No.1: Wolverhampton Wanderers

As is the usual preseason prediction, the three promoted sides are always the favourites to go straight back down. Last season gave us something of a novelty in recent years, with two of the three sides that came up in 2007-2008 staying with us for another year, as close as Hull tried to throw it all away. With Wolves returning to the Premiership after an absence of 5 seasons, they’ll be keen to hang in there for more than one season.

Let’s not forget that Wolves won the title last season and regardless of what anyone says, The Championship is the hardest league in the world to get out of in the right way. Leeds United, Charlton Athletic, Norwich City, Leicester City, Sheffield Wednesday and Barnsley have all gone the wrong way out of the league and the division is littered with sides that have big grounds, big squads and plenty of Premiership experience. Sure they faltered at the end, but not many clubs get up without a blip or two along the way. Newcastle United and Middlesbrough beware!

The 1990’s saw Wolves consistently challenge at the top of the Championship table, only to miss out in Play offs and falter in the final straight. Sir Jack Hayward, after taking over in 1990, spent plenty of money upgrading Molineux and attracting high calibre managers to the hot seat. For some reason, Wolves have a reputation as sacking club, but since 1990, they’ve only had 7 managers. Hardly the situation you would see at some other clubs in the same period who you would consider lesser sides in the scheme of things. Barnsley have had 12 managers, Sheffield Wednesday 11 and neither side has come close to returning to the Premiership this century.

The last experience of the Premiership for Wolves in the 2003-2004 season was one of gallant failure. The side was made up of aging pro’s who had plenty of Premiership experience but not necessarily the legs or skill required to keep them up finishing 6 points adrift of Everton. In the five years since they last played top flight football, the league has changed somewhat. 6 of the teams that finished above them have now been relegated, 3 of them suffering further with Leeds United and from next season Southampton and Charlton Athletic having another relegation out of the Championship.

The key factor this time around is the away form for Mick McCarthy’s men. Last time round, they didn’t manage to win a game away from home, conceding 4 or more goals 7 times and going 7 games without a win in two separate runs. The strike force of Miller, Blake and Iversen didn’t deliver and whilst Ganea, Cort and Camara tried their best once they came in, it was too little, too late.

This close season has seen Wolves smash their transfer record with the £6.5 million capture of Kevin Doyle. If they can get Doyle and the promising Sylvan Ebanks-Blake working in tandem in friendlies, that could be the relationship that keeps them up. With the promising Sam Vokes, Andrew Keogh and Stephen Ward in reserve, they need another striker who can get them goals if injury effects the first choice line up.

What he would give for discovering another Steve Bull on a bargain price from West Bromwich Albion again. Don’t forget though that Ebanks-Blake has hit 37 goals in 63 games since he joined them from Plymouth Argyle. He won the Golden Boot for being the league’s top scorer two seasons in a row, so he’s no mug and graduated through the ranks of Manchester United.

McCarthy has also added Andrew Surman, Nenad Milijas, Bobo Balde and Ronald Zubar as well as former Reading players Marcus Hahnemann and Greg Halford. I’m not surprised they went for an experienced goalkeeper, as solid as Wayne Hennessey and Matt Murray are, Hahnemann knows exactly what to expect in the Premier League. A strong character between the sticks is crucial and as highly rated as both current goalkeepers were, confidence can be shattered by a 4 or 5 goal mauling at Old Trafford or Stamford Bridge.

There will be no doubt that Molineux will see Wolves and their fans celebrate wins, of that there is no doubt. Last time round, the home form wasn’t too bad all in all, keep things tight at home and go after teams like Stoke, Hull, Burnley, Birmingham and renowned travel sickness sufferers Spurs, Portsmouth and Fulham.

Don’t forget that Manchester United left with their tails between there legs after losing 1-0 last time they visited Wolves in the Premiership. Stoke City’s home support last season showed just how important crowd backing can be. It is crucial when you’re up against it and can make all the difference. If the crowd sense you’re giving 100%, they’ll match you all the way.

The other factor for Wolves now is the backing of owner Steve Morgan. Wolves have money to spend, but need quality over quantity. McCarthy had his hands tied with a miniscule budget whilst at Sunderland, but brought in too many players who simply couldn’t cope with the rigours of Premiership football. He’ll know that another striker is the crucial signing, but I don’t see Wolves struggling this time.

It’ll be tight but I think they’ll stay up. They’ve got money, passionate noisy fans, the nucleus of a hungry, keen side and the fans should be looking forward to a steady season. A couple more signings are needed but they’ll be fine and with plans to expand the stadium, Wolves could be about to enter a new era in the best shape they’ve been in since 1960.

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  1. Andrew

    July 30, 2009 at 12:51 am

    Wolves have always been the team that after learning more about the league I supported. I had already been a united supporter when that was all I could see in the 90s since 2000 however I have always been a fan of wolves work in the championship, pirate feeds and espn360 let me watch more matches than ever over the past few years. Ebanks-Blake is my favorite player

  2. Jedda

    July 28, 2009 at 5:28 pm

    Edmonton Alberta – FB Done

  3. Jedda

    July 28, 2009 at 4:50 pm

    As a former season ticket holder and supporter of Wolves since 1974, I am ecstatic about them being in the Premiership. I went to every game in their ill-fated 2003-04 season and the scars are still there. This time with a nucleus of hungry young players desperate for success I think (hope) we’ll be ok although it will still be a struggle. I now live in Canada and their promotion means I get to watch the games on the TV instead of listening to them on the internet! Out of Darkness Cometh Light! Come on me babbies!

    • Adam Childress

      July 28, 2009 at 5:10 pm


      Where at in Canada? If your on facebook add me adambchildress

  4. Adam Childress

    July 28, 2009 at 4:28 pm

    I started my football fandom off by listening to the Wolves online via their website. My boss whom was a big facto in me becomming a football convert in 2008 hales from Wolverhampton. I met him at work here in Detroit and playfully mocked his sport of choice. That was until I witnessed Euro Cup 2008.

    My Wolves hat just arrived in the mail Monday, and will be proudly displayed utop my head on August 15th. Having both FSC and Setanta, I expect to see most of their games and predict them to finish around the 13th spot.

  5. AtlantaPompey

    July 28, 2009 at 3:50 pm

    The first time you mentioned teams that had been relegated from the Championship to League One, you forgot to mention Southampton, but later in the piece, you mentioned that Southampton had been relegated from the Championship to League One.

    I really enjoyed typing “Southampton has been relegated from the Championship to League One.”


  6. Paul(No1Fan)

    July 28, 2009 at 3:05 pm

    I’d like to see the Wolves do well. They are a big team with a great history and Mick McCarthy has done well to bring them up. I think they will stay up – just…

  7. RaiderRich2001

    July 28, 2009 at 2:46 pm

    Gotta love the champs of the only season of the United Soccer Association 😉

    (Wolverhampton played over here for 1 summer back in the ’60s as the LA Wolves and won the league)

  8. steve

    July 28, 2009 at 2:25 pm

    that was the first year i caught on as well, and Wolves were quickly one of my favorites. Been waiting for them to get back since.

    And I think they’ve come up at the right time too….in my opinion, there are now 2 groups separating themselves in the EPL. The Big Four (Five?) followed by another group that is starting to distance themselves from the rest…..Everton, Tottenham, Villa, Man City, West Ham…..which is leaving the bottom half of the table as bad as I’ve ever seen it. The bottom this year is going to be really weak and I think part of that could be that there are quite a number of smaller clubs in the EPL right now….Burnley, Hull, Wigan, heck even Portsmouth, Bolton, Fulham, Wolves and Blackburn are not exactly “big” clubs compared to many in the Football League. They just don’t have the resources to get enough quality to make a real go at things. It’s become all about survival and 17th place each year, nothing more. For that reason, it should make things easier for the clubs coming up to stay up. It’s not hard to see Wolves beating out Burnley, Hull or Wigan, to name three.

    • Lyle

      July 28, 2009 at 4:01 pm

      The first year I took notice of the EPL was the last year Wolverhampton was in the Premier League as well. I didn’t start religiously following until a couple of years later though. I’m glad they are back in it and being that they are one of the original Football League teams, it’s good to seem them back at the top of English football.

      I agree with your take on the league this year as well. It’s “top heavy” this year. Of course the Big 4 are the Big 4 and there is never much change at the top, but this year thanks to Newcastle and Middlesbrough going down there as many small clubs as there has ever been in the league. The relegation battle should be an absolute mess.

      I disagree with you about Fulham though this year. I think they’ll remain “strong” this year. Hodgson is a great manager and he’s got a good team, maybe not the best talent, but they play as a team and want give up many goals. Fulham is like the new Bolton or Blackburn right now, perhaps. I’m a Fulham fan though, so I’m a bit biased.

      • steve

        July 28, 2009 at 7:08 pm

        I don’t mean to say Fulham are bad, just that relatively speaking, they are a small club compared to Leeds, Newcastle, Sheff Wed and others that are out of the PL. Because of a large number of clubs like that in the PL, it’s easier for the smaller clubs to survive, and even thrive (see Wigan and Reading a few years back). They don’t have to beat out 10-12 clubs below the Big Four that can draw 40,000 fans and just out-resource them. I root for Fulham too, but it is definitely helping them that there overall competition is not as strong as maybe it was in the past. It’s easier to finish 7th now than 5 years ago.

  9. The Gaffer

    July 28, 2009 at 2:21 pm

    I’ve got a soft spot for Wolverhampton Wanderers too. Nice to see them back. Their supporters are stellar. Bit too much of a space between their stands at Molineux and the pitch, but I’m looking forward to seeing what Mick McCarthy (always entertaining) can offer.

    The Gaffer

  10. edgar

    July 28, 2009 at 2:11 pm

    I for one am very excited to see Wolves back in the Prem. I watched my first season of the Prem when Wolves were unfortunately relegated. I hope they stay up for a few seasons.

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