19 October ~ The signing of Roger Johnson was widely regarded as a significant coup for Wolves in the summer – not least by the club itself. Chief executive Jez Moxey doubtless revelled in the fact that he’d bagged his man from Birmingham for just £4.5 million after being quoted an astonishing £14m a few weeks earlier. But only eight games into the Premier League season, Johnson’s Wolves career is already at crisis point. Mick McCarthy’s decision to hand Johnson the captaincy seemed a curiously bold decision at the time. The professional Yorkshireman is a manager who places huge importance on loyalty and has worked tirelessly to create a sense of dressing-room unity at Wolves.
Taking the armband off Karl Henry, one of his first signings for the club back in 2006, was a surprise with Henry himself admitting he wasn’t happy with the decision. Of course, this should not have been a huge issue. Johnson appears to be a strong character and was soon organising his defence as Wolves kept consecutive clean sheets against Fulham and Aston Villa. But barking orders is a tougher task when your own game is struggling and Johnson has endured a difficult start to the season.
At home to QPR, Wolves were 2-0 down within a matter of minutes with Johnson partly culpable for Joey Barton’s opening goal. Next up against Liverpool, the defender diverted Charlie Adam’s hopeful effort into the net and a week later against Newcastle he was made to look foolish by Jonas Gutierrez. There was no upturn in form at The Hawthorns either, where Shane Long gave Johnson the runaround for 90 minutes – even beating him in the air at will.
This dismal run of form has seen Wolves lose five games on the bounce for the first time in more than a quarter of a century and it’s at times like these that players and managers come to rely on their good relationship with the fans. Favourites like Matt Jarvis and Kevin Doyle, for example, are struggling for form but have built up years of goodwill with supporters through their attitude on and off the field.
Johnson, however, is yet to build these bridges. Indeed, his most notable example of engaging with the fans was in calling them “a disgrace” and “disgusting” after large numbers cheered McCarthy’s decision to substitute Henry against Newcastle. Coming to the defence of his predecessor was probably something Johnson had to do as captain of the club – but antagonising the fans represents a gamble when you’re a big-money signing who is turning in below-par displays.
There’s still plenty of time for Roger Johnson to turn his Wolves career around. But with back-to-back games against Manchester City coming up, time is a luxury his manager can ill afford. Mick McCarthy needs his captain to deliver – starting at home to Swansea this weekend. Adam Bate