Posted by: docdenbow | March 3, 2013

Wolves & Swansea – What Went Wrong & What Went Right

Captain’s Log – Stardate 2003.

That’s 2002-2003 season footie fans. That was a great and glorious season for Wolves. A play off victory at the Millenium Stadium in Cardiff sent Wolverhampton Wanderers into the Premier League. Up with the big boys. A return to the top with a chance to shoot for the stars. There was also a great victory for Swansea City as a final day 4-2 win against Hull City stopped the club tumbling out of the Football League and  into oblivion.

A couple of years before that the gates of the Vetch were almost locked for good as the club teetered on the financial brink. Yet, here we are 10 years on with Swansea Championed as the purveyors of true football – I even heard them called the Barcelona of the Championship a few years ago – with a manager who everyone in European football knows in Michael Laudrup. They have won the League Cup and attained a place in the Europa League and the sky is seemingly the limit. Yet none of this is down to good fortune. Little has been left to luck or chance.

Dave Jones’ Wolves had their year in the sun before dropping back to the Championship to regroup for a fresh assault. Indifferent results led to him being shown the door and he was replaced by the former Swindon, Chelsea, England, Southampton and Spurs manager Glenn Hoddle. Hoddle was disappointing as a manager at Wolves and walked away having enhanced only his reputation for boring football and draws. Hoddle was replaced at the helm by Mick McCarthy who in five and a half years led Wolves on a rollercoaster ride of fortunes that led to a three season stay in the Premier League.

Last season with Wolves on a losing streak McCarthy was sacked and a fiasco followed. Manager after manager was linked with the job, and manager after manager wasn’t appointed. This farce came to a conclusion when Terry Connor, McCarthy’s clipboard wielding sidekick was appointed to replace his old boss. Naturally the season more or less ended there and then as Wolves crashed into the Championship with a resounding thud. Connor like his old boss was relieved of his duties and given his clipboard back.

Another appointment was made, this time Ståle Solbakken, a former protege of Roy Hodgson. Unlike Mick he was a proper football man. No shifts to be put in and no more hoofball. Steve Morgan could see that the McCarthy template was unsuitable for the Premier League and was prepared to give a manager time to build and mold a squad capable of holding its’ own in the Premier League. That task was given to Ståle Solbakken, a man about whom most Wolves said, “WTF?” Unknown in the main on these shores, but what little was known seemed to indicate that he was a man whose teams played proper football. He was given money to spend and bought in Bakary Sako, Razak Boukari, Georg Margreitter, Slawomir Peszko, Tongo Doumbia and Björn Sigurdarson (sorry if I’ve left out anyone important) and a new era was anticipated. As we all know it didn’t quite work out as planned as there were injuries to some of the new players and the old ones……….,well, they don’t know how to play “football” do they? Dressing room unrest fuelled by a clique of “senior players” ensued and after a terrible performance against non league Luton in the FA Cup, Ståle Solbakken became the third manager fired within a year.

This time there was a masterplan. A replacement ready to slot in? The good news was yes, there was, the bad news was that the new manager was to be Dean Saunders. Yes Dean, read this quote and memorize.

It is better to keep your mouth closed and let people think you are a fool than to open it and remove all doubt.– Mark Twain (1835-1910)

Wolves are now approaching a winless 10 game streak and through mismanagement and poor decision making the unthinkable looks likely. Mismanagement? In the first instance McCarthy should have been fired after the Blackburn game which Wolves contrived to lose, but somehow ensured that they stayed in the Premier League. Then having gone past the January transfer window McCarthy was fired. What could a new man do? The transfer window had closed! Appointing Connor was a mistake, need I say more. Firing Ståle Solbakken barely 6 months into a rebuilding period and replacing him with someone with less experience was idiotic. The appointment of Ståle Solbakken was questionable given his lack of experience in England, but the appointment of Dean Saunders in his place has been, and will continue to be, a disaster.

Then we come to Swansea City. Since the dark days these are the Swansea managers. Brian Flynn, Alan Curtis, Kenny Jackett, Kevin Nugent, Roberto Martínez, Paulo Sousa, Brendan Rodgers and Michael Laudrup. Given that Alan Curtis and Kevin Nugent just kept the seat warm for a few days then we’ve seen a fair amount of stability there. From Martinez on Swansea have had footballing managers whose ideas are variations on a theme. No big money was spent until Laudrup took over and the money was available and the purchases have been uniformly astute.

Perhaps hitting rock bottom has allowed for the Swansea fans to have patience and appreciate all of the things that have come their way in the past 10 years. The progress has been steady and continuous.

2011-12: Premier League – 12th
2010-11: Championship – 3rd. Promoted through play-offs.
2009-10: Championship – 7th
2008-09: Championship – 8th
2007-08: League One – 1st
2006-07: League One – 7th
2005-06: League One – 6th
2004-05: League Two – 3rd (promoted)
2003-04: Division Three – 10th
2002-03: Division Three – 21st

So how was it done? Who was the driving force, the facilitator? Step forward and take a bow Swansea chairman Huw Jenkins?

Can you imagine any of these statements being uttered by Steve Morgan or even Jez Moxey?

“With Kenny Jackett we’d go through hours of discussions on tactics, why he wanted to sign who and to play where. The same with Roberto. It’s a build-up of experience and understanding.

After four or five years here, with the players we had, we had to get something different.

Initially in League One we didn’t really play with that system, but when we got into the Championship with Roberto we asked ourselves how we were going to compete with sides spending a lot of money, who had physical players.

Trying to monopolise possession was our answer.

There was always a vision of a passing game. Our crowd accept that, it’s not just some of us. Our crowd want the ball to come out from the keeper, they want us to take eight passes across the back.”

That’s the vision of a real football man. Huw Jenkins, who On his 10th anniversary in the job, has a straightforward answer to the question why he agreed to become Chairman of Swansea City: “I was the only one dull (daft) enough to do it.”

It seems than Wolves need someone dull to to kick Steve Morgan in the right direction.That is if Steve Morgan is truly committed to making Wolverhampton Wanderers a success.

He needs to take advice from outside the club as to the strategy needed to sort out this unholy mess.

There will be no quick fixes now, but Steve Morgan as a builder will surely know, any edifice needs to be constructed on firm foundations and principles. In my opinion the slate must be wiped clean and financial investment made as relegation appears inevitable and wholesale changes need to be made without sentiment to the playing and the managerial staff.

We can then move forward.

Ciao For Now




  1. Nice post. As a fan and a twat I have to correct your statistics: McCarthy gave us three seasons in the Premiership, not two, even though it feels like two as the last one was a total fiasco from August to May. It is sadly 12 games not 10 since we won (including the Luton cup game) and lastly, Dean Saunders cannot read so it’s pointless offering him quotes of encouragement. Reading blogs about Wolves just makes me angry these days and please don’t adopt Swansea as your first choice, stick with Wolves first and foremost (even though you can do what you want!) Glenn Hughes lives in LA and still gets excited and angry and follows the Wolves. A Yamyam in the South of Wales could be a Wolves season ticket holder, home and away! I’m just ranting cus this whole affair makes me cross. Sorry. Good job I’ve got good old Bilston Town, never let me down. I’m in awe of you being able to keep writing about them, I’m lost for words. This post is probably the soundest review though of Wolves I’ve seen. We need a clearout, top to bottom. 🙂 Take care mate.

    • Ok, so my grasp of stats basically sucks, and although I am in awe of Swansea and follow, when it comes to Wolves they are my number 1. I am 1st last and always a Wolves supporter.

      I know how fed up, depressed and everything else besides that my LA mate gets overs the Wolves, I feel them same way. I just find trying to write something reasoned and reasonable helps me get past the sheer frustration I feel at seeing a club under achieve to the extent that they are right now.

      As I sit here know I can still see in my mind’s eye Phil Parkes’ huge throw to Waggy on the halfway line, watch in awe as he beat a defender or 2 and float a cross for the Doog to nod down for King John to smash into the net.

      Happy Days

      • Those were the days! I’d take two wins in the next three as a successful turnaround. Its gotta happen!

      • GH likes your blog post matey

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