THE HALF DECENT FOOTBALL MAGAZINE

31 March ~ "We have been in deeper holes than this before and got out of them," said former skipper Karl Henry earlier this month. In some ways it is true. Wolves looked to be heading for relegation with just three minutes of last season remaining when Stephen Hunt's strike curled into the corner to lift the club out of the relegation zone. But this is a different Wolves. That fighting spirit appears to have gone as they head limply towards the Premier League exit. The obvious reason cited for this surrender is the decision to axe battle-hardened boss Mick McCarthy.

The visit of Bolton to Molineux today provides a convenient narrative for this argument. While Wolves labour under Terry Connor, Bolton are now out of the relegation places and appear to have reaped the rewards of sticking with Owen Coyle.

That being said, the sacking of McCarthy might just be the only board decision that Wolves supporters have agreed with in this most tumultuous of seasons. McCarthy’s much-vaunted team spirit had hardly been in evidence during a run of three wins in 23 games that culminated in home defeats to rivals Birmingham, Aston Villa and West Brom in the space of a month.

Should the decision have come sooner? Wolves were bottom of the Premier League when Sam Allardyce was sacked at Blackburn. They were bottom when rivals West Brom moved for out-of-work Roy Hodgson, and they had taken only four points from ten games when Martin O’Neill elected to return to management. Wolves owner Steve Morgan decided to ignore these options only to sack his man just two weeks after the January transfer window shut.

If that is a frustration, the choice of replacement is a source of bewilderment and anger. The Mirror’s Oliver Holt sought recently to imply a racist element to the lack of support for Connor’s appointment and while that may be merely imagined, the team’s ongoing struggles have been very real.

Five-goal thrashings at the hands of both Fulham and Manchester United, together with a dismal home defeat to Blackburn, have given weight to chief executive Jez Moxey’s original assertion that this is “not a job for a novice”, let alone a faithful assistant during the McCarthy regime.

“We could all be perfect managers with the benefit of hindsight,” said owner Steve Morgan. But it did not require hindsight to know this appointment was folly; that storming into the dressing room to berate the players is inappropriate behaviour from a chairman; that spending big money on transfer fees while maintaining one of the smallest wage bills in the league was a flawed business approach; or that constructing a new stand and grandly announcing plans for a 50,000 capacity Molineux was nearer to reckless fantasy than ambition.

It will be fitting if Coyle's Bolton should put the final nail in Wolves’ coffin by 5pm this afternoon. Many neutrals will enjoy the delicious contrast. But Wolves fans know there is more to this particular disaster than a simple case of not sticking by their manager. Adam Bate

Comments (4)
Comment by JimDavis 2012-03-31 20:51:59

About the only thing Moxey has got right all year

Comment by ian.64 2012-04-01 15:23:33

Planning the installing of a replacement was also crucial in most of the above cases. When the failing incumbent was shown the door, the clubs involved usually ensured that the new man was, if not instantly ready to take his place, on the cusp of stepping in. Wolves went through the process like a tramp shaking a tin cup and made a complete balls-up of it.

Comment by jameswba 2012-04-02 06:34:31

Good article, and the 'should the decision have come sooner?' question is an interesting one. I wonder if McCarthy was given longer because of sth that seems to me to have been underestimated - how far he'd taken Wolves in his five-and-a-bit years in charge.

When he was appointed in 2006, optimism at the club was lower than it had been for years, following the Hoddle era and the end of parachute payments following the 2004 relegation. But he got to the play-offs at the end of that season, promotion was achieved in 2009 and then there was that creditable first year back in the Premier League.

I'm not saying that does, or should, disguise the fact that the last 18 months saw rapid backward steps being taken but it's enough to suggest to me that McCarthy has a bit more managerial ability than the 'likeable but limited Yorkshireman' cliches would indicate.

Still, his sacking and what's happened since prove a couple of things :
1. You have to be Alex Ferguson to survive a home trashing by your bitterest rivals.
2. Appointing the 'faithful assistant' just doesn't work at the higher levels. Les Reed and Sammy Lee were already proof enough of that.

Comment by jonmid 2012-04-05 11:59:55

Looking back if wolves had lost to Swansea back in October wolves could then have sacked McCarthy on the spot. The real sadness about the Bolton game was how close Wolves came to beating Bolton until Mark Fucking Davies did his dying swan act

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