Cardiff City v Wolverhampton Wanderers, 2pm
2 September ~ It is a strange time to be a Wolves fan. Nobody at Molineux will admit as much but many of the virtues the club espoused during Mick McCarthy's six-year reign as manager have been tossed aside. Pride in the club's stability has given way to uncertainty following relegation with the likes of Steven Fletcher, Matt Jarvis and Michael Kightly leaving the club in order to stay in the Premier League. Jarvis and Kightly were the poster boys of Wolves' "young and hungry" policy – talented British players with a point to prove. McCarthy's dabbles in the foreign markets varied on a scale somewhere between decent and desperate.
Lanky wildcard Stefan Maierhofer was a £2.3 million flop, while big-money signing Jelle van Damme returned to Belgium within a matter of months. Wolves fans became accustomed to expecting few players to be signed from the continent due to McCarthy's insistence that foreigners required at least six months to settle in. Now it's all change at Molineux and in a sense we will find out whether the former boss was right or wrong. Stale Solbakken has taken over and he has a very different way of approaching the challenge.
The new arrivals in Wolverhampton this summer have included Slawomir Peszko, Bjorn Sigurdarson, Tongo Doumbia, Georg Margreitter, Razak Boukari and Bakary Sako. Some fans view millions being spent on players they have never heard of with suspicion. Others feel it is a breath of fresh air to lift the gloom surrounding the club.
Most at least agree that Solbakken has thought this through. Those who know the players generally suspect the Wolves boss has bought well and, with three of the signings coming from Ligue 1, it appears there is a method to the strategy. "Sometimes it's a good idea to get players from the French league because it's a very physical, competitive league," Solbakken explained.
After a transfer window in which it has become particularly fashionable to mock the vast sums being spent on seemingly overpriced British players, knowledge of other markets looks more important than ever. It is worth remembering that two of the players most regarded as overpriced are Fletcher and Jarvis – and Wolves made a profit of over £15m on the pair.
After a win, a draw and a defeat to begin their Championship campaign it is too soon to tell whether this new policy will be more or less successful than the previous one. Wolves fans may end up bemoaning the appointment of a man who doesn't know the division while McCarthy, a two-time winner of this league, watches on from a television studio.
Or the likes of Sako and Doumbia might power through the Championship, showing what can be done when a manager has fresh contacts and a vision beyond mere graft and toil. For the hardy souls travelling to Cardiff on a Sunday afternoon, it's going to be an interesting journey finding out. Adam Bate