More Black than Gold
Wolves surely have a lot of work to do if they are to make any sort of noise in the Premier League. The Golden boys never really looked in danger of dropping out of the top two last term after cantering to the summit of the Championship early on, winning all but one of their opening eight games, but in truth their near-dominance owed as much to their stuttering rivals than to their own quality.
While they boast the brawny Sylvan Ebanks-Blake, unquestionably one of the Championship’s hottest prospects in recent seasons, in their vanguard, they are prone to gelatine-free blancmange-like wobbles; perhaps the most abject being a 5-2 reverse at Carrow Road last season when Leroy Lita, as useless as he is miserable most weeks, helped himself to a hat-trick. February was a melancholy Molinuex month too as the Wolves yielded just 2 points from a possible 15; 3 of which were surrendered meekly to a desperately out-of-sorts Argyle side that I had followed up to the Midlands more to tick off another ground than in expectation.
A poor record against their two main challengers, Birmingham and Reading, which saw Wolves bear just 1 point from 12 further indicates that Mick McCarthy, Barnsley’s famous son, will have to be busy in the transfer market if his team are to stand a chance against regular quality opposition. McCarthy’s Championship-winning team, carefully assembled over the past 3 seasons by plucking developing players from the lower leagues, will most probably have to be upset with regulars such as Richard Stearman, Andrew Keogh, Stephen Ward and Chris Iwelumo likely to struggle with the step-up in class.
Recent memory of McCarthy’s ferret-in-a-bag sideline posture combined with the criminally paltry £1.5m that Wolves paid Argyle to activate Ebanks-Blake’s release clause means that I will likely look on a Wolves struggle with a little schadenfreude but, having said that, I do think that Wolves have a fair chance of survival if current activity is anything to go by. While double M has already beaten off stiff competition to sign Nenad Milijas, a goal-scoring Serbian midfielder from Red Star Belgrade, he has also brought in Marcus Hahnemann, who you’d imagine would be a good character to have around. Moreover, McCarthy has shown clear signs that he is willing to break Wolves’ transfer record by chasing Hahnemann’s former Royals team-mate Kevin Doyle, who is in dire need of a fresh challenge, as well as showing interest in Craig Gardner, the Villa benchwarmer.
Potential new signings aside, the Wolves support will play a significant part in their team’s final standing. Legendarily known for their hypomanic approach to football-supporting, they showed both sides of their character in the two games that I witnessed Wolves play last year. While a packed and ear-splitting away end at a soggy Home Park on 2008/09’s opening day very nearly sucked a late winning goal in to the Argyle net, it was a different story at Molineux in February as the home support chewed up and spat out any chance of a home equaliser through their dogged determination to whistle and boo anything that didn’t result in a Wolves goal. Record-breaking transfer fees or not, the Wolves fans will have to be more patient this year.