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Saturday, 7 July 2012

Welcome to the Championship (6/6): Wolverhampton Wanderers

The final episode of the Exiled Robin’s series of six posts introducing you to the Championship’s newest members focuses on perhaps the most familiar of all to City fans, with regular clashes against Wolves over the past 10-15 years.

 

Find other posts in the series here:

Welcome to the Championship (1/6): Blackburn Rovers

Welcome to the Championship (2/6): Sheffield Wednesday

Welcome to the Championship (3/6): Charlton Athletic

Welcome to the Championship (4/6): Bolton Wanderers

Welcome to the Championship (5/6): Huddersfield Town



About……Wolverhampton Wanderers
Nickname: ‘Wolves’        Manager: Stale Solbakken

Play at: Molineux, 99 miles from Ashton Gate
Capacity: 31,500; Last Season Avg Attendance: 25,682

Interesting Facts:  Wolves led the way in many aspects seen as standard in the modern game – although others had dabbled, Wolves hosted a series of floodlit matches against illustrious European opponents and were shown live on the BBC, paving the way for regular evening matches, European competition and regular televised football >>> Wolves were proclaimed ‘Champions of the World’ when they defeated Puskas’ Magyars in 1954 >>> Wolves followed Manchester United’s Busby Babes as the second English team to enter the European Cup in 1959 >>> Wolves followed City as only the second club to suffer three successive relegations from top to bottom of the football league in the mid 1980’s
Notable match vs City: City 1 Wolves 6, 7th November 1998
Not just the scoreline was notable…http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=kQokPUt8J8g
2012-13 Fixtures: 1st Dec (H), 16th Mar (A)


Graham is always looking for other fans to write and connect with so follow him on Twitter if you want to get in touch.  Ex-City favourite Terry Connor was given the unenviable task of saving Wolves from near certain relegation last season but couldn’t produce miracles, but as Graham explains it’s not all doom and gloom in the Black Country

How are you feeling about playing in the Championship, a few weeks following your relegation?
Playing in the Championship doesn’t actually bother me too much. I’ve been watching Wolves since 1990 and, with the exception of four seasons in the Premier League, that time has been spent in the second tier. In some ways it’s more like a homecoming than relegation.


What does your club bring to a tight, competitive and entertaining division?
Experienced heads; players and staff who know the division inside out. We’ve since added an extra dimension with the appointment of Stale Solbakken, all eyes will be on Wolves this season as it’s a very interesting gamble.


What style of football/formation do you play?
It’s become increasingly difficult to second guess Wolves in recent years when it comes to tactics. Even in the season we won the league, our style of play was bereft of consistency – one week we’d play free-flowing football, the next it would be long ball. Towards the end of 2011-12 I remember Danny Kelly saying the biggest problem with Wolves is their lack of identity.

Now, Solbakken has come in and has the opportunity to create an identity which we have desperately missed under Mick McCarthy and Terry Connor. At Copenhagen, his team started games by playing 4-4-2, but were able to change their formation in a heartbeat to a 4-2-2-2 or 4-5-1 setup. The tactical flexibility made them notoriously difficult to beat, and Wolves fans will be hoping he can replicate this formula in the Championship.

Who are the star players we should all look out for?
At the moment, we still have Matt Jarvis and Steven Fletcher at the club – although, I don’t think they will be for much longer. If either were to stay, they would definitely be the focal point of Wolves’ promotion push.

More realistically, I can see Michael Kightly (as also predicted in this excellent take on Wolves’ situation on the excellent Two Unfortunates site http://thetwounfortunates.com/no-oblivion-for-wolves/) and Jamie O’Hara playing huge roles next season. Plus there is the impending arrival of Bjorn Bergmann Sigurdarson – a very exciting prospect from Lillestrom.

And is there an up-and-coming future star in your midst?
One of the few pleasing things to come out of last season was seeing some of the youth players get a chance. David Davis slotted into our midfield towards the end of the season, and looked like he had played there for years. Anthony Forde, an Irish winger, was given some game time and looked fairly competent. Matt Doherty looked good at right back against Liverpool, and Johnny Gorman got five minutes of action away at Norwich. But, there are two standout prospects for me.

The first is Danny Batth, who will be looking to break into the first team at Molineux following an impressive season on loan at Sheffield Wednesday. At 6’3” Batth is a commanding centre back, who is good in the air and is able to read the game very well. He is exactly the type of defender Wolves have lacked in recent years, and I hope he gets his chance.

The second is Jake Cassidy, a 19-year-old Welsh striker who joined Wolves for a nominal fee in 2010. Cassidy made a huge impact in League One last season during a loan spell at Tranmere, scoring five times in ten appearances. Tranmere’s fans were hugely impressed with his pace and lethal finishing ability, and Solbakken has stated that he age will not influence his selections next season. With Steven Fletcher set to leave, Jake could get an opportunity to show his capabilities in the Championship.

What are your views of your manager?
Simply put, the arrival of Stale Solbakken has made this the most exciting pre-season in recent memory. He is an unknown entity in English football and despite his impressive record with FCK; this is the biggest gamble in Wolves history.

We needed a fresh start after a disastrous 2011-12 campaign, and the board have made a very ambitious statement with the Norwegian’s appointment.

….and of your owner/board/Chairman?
Steve Morgan deserves a pat on the back for bankrolling our promotion push, and three subsequent seasons of Premier League football. However his decision to invest heavily in the stadium, but not in the team, has destroyed his popularity with a lot of Wolves fans.

I can play devil’s advocate with Steve Morgan; he is a businessman at the end of the day and is looking to futureproof his investment. On the other side of the coin, this investment will also have an impact on the long-term sustainability of the club. By expanding the stadium it increases potential profitability, upgrading our facilities can lead to us attracting and developing better players.

Relegation has cost the club, and Steve Morgan, millions in revenue. I am sure he has realised the mistake he made, and will be better prepared if we are able to secure promotion.

What are your expectations for the upcoming season?
Promotion would be nice. I think we have a squad full of very good Championship players, that weren’t quite good enough for the top flight. A new man in charge with a fresh ethos might provide the inspiration needed to revitalise the squad after relegation.

However, they could potentially need a transitional year to get used to such radical changes. So it could go one of two ways; it’ll either be a brilliant success or we won’t be in the running at all.

One of my friends (Aston Villa fan) has been particularly vocal about the prospect of us going down again, pointing at Leeds and Leicester, I will go on record and say this will definitely not happen. We have no debt, a competent team and players capable of providing moments of magic – whatever trouble we find ourselves in, we will be able to get out of it.

Who will be your big rivals in this division?
Crikey, where do I start? There are some huge clubs in this division, and pretty much every team is capable of beating each other.

First fixture – Leeds United away – Neil Warnock sides are always a force in this division. Cardiff have made good signings and with further investment on the way, they could be in the running. You can never rule out Blackpool under Ian Holloway, Leicester City will be looking to erase last season’s disappointment, plus there’s our relegation companions Bolton and Blackburn to look out for.

A couple of surprise packages could be Sheffield Wedneday – Dave Jones is a very good Championship manager, and Lee Clark’s Birmingham City – who, like Wolves, have several experienced Championship warriors in their side.

What are your views on ex-Robin Terry Connor, who had a very tough baptism of football management last spring?
Terry Connor will never be blamed for Wolves’ relegation, but he should never have been given the job. Lovely man, but way out of his depth.

And finally, do you have any specific favourite memory of playing against Bristol City?
I have two, Saturday 7th November 1998 and Saturday 27th September 2008.

The 1998 game happened to be Colin Lee’s first as Wolves manager, and unfortunately that was about as good as it got for Colin! Wolves won 6-1 at Ashton Gate, with David Connolly notching four goals. Even more impressive is that they were Connolly’s first goals in a Wolves shirt; after he was unable to hit the barn door in his first 3 months at the club!

(ER: There was another notable incident during half time of this match – the infamous Wolf vs 3 Little Pigs fight as linked via YouTube above!)

The more recent fixture was a 2-0 Wolves win at Molineux. It was a good game of passing football, but the substitution of a Michael McIndoe was the most memorable moment. During the previous summer, McIndoe had quit Wolves for Bristol City and upon exit declared that he was signing for a better club. The Scot missed sitter during the game, prompting Gary Johnson to take him off – a fairly silly decision. McIndoe looked utterly humiliated during his walk off the pitch, as he was deafened with jeers and chants of “this club’s too big for you” by the home support. I have never seen like it.

Many thanks again to Graham for his answers – don’t forget to follow him here if you want a good chat about football!






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