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Wolves' decline shows few signs of stopping

Dean Saunders has had little impact

icon deansaunders23 February ~ As tomorrow's visitors Cardiff City continue to saunter to the top flight, Wolves fans can only look on in envy. It wasn't so long ago – August 27, 2011 to be precise – that Wolves were, albeit briefly, top of the Premier League. But their decline since has been remarkable. Eighteen points from the next 35 league games followed and now a ten-game winless streak has taken them into the Championship danger zone, seemingly destined for back-to-back relegations. The obvious conclusion is that the club should not have sacked Mick McCarthy.

He's gone from Mad Mick to the reincarnation of Stan Cullis in the eyes of some revisionists, despite presiding over a haul of 14 points from 22 games and five straight home defeats, culminating in that 5-1 thrashing at the hands of arch-rivals West Brom. His exit did not make disaster inevitable but the subsequent appointments of owner Steve Morgan most certainly did.

Firstly, Wolves made the baffling decision to replace McCarthy with the one man they knew would not be bringing new ideas to the club, his assistant Terry Connor. No wins in 13 games did for him, the novice they swore they would avoid. Stung by this failure, Morgan opted for something different with the appointment of Norwegian coach Stale Solbakken. Here was a man with new ideas. Whether they would have worked we'll never know as the confused players soon gave up listening.

So Morgan turned to Dean Saunders as part of a back-to-basics campaign. The man who took Doncaster down may lack anything approaching an impressive managerial CV but we're told he more than makes up for it in terms of press-room japes and after-dinner banter. And yet, such is the Molineux malaise, Saunders instead has the air of a clown attempting to stir the clinically depressed into battle armed only with a whoopee cushion and a party hat. Seven games into his reign, he is still waiting for his first victory.

Finally the focus is shifting to the players. Could all these different managers be rubbish? The short answer is yes but it seems likely that if the players were vaguely competent they'd have won more than four home games in 15 months, even by accident. As Saunders is discovering to his cost, the names may ring a bell but that's no guarantee Kevin Doyle can find the net or that Karl Henry can find a team-mate. After all, this is essentially the fourth-worst team of the Premier League era stripped of its best two players.

It looks a tired team and what's left of the dwindling supporters are tired of watching them. It wasn't always that way. Six of the current regulars were part of the team that won the Championship in 2009 but as fans and players would testify, a lot has happened since then. Both could be forgiven for allowing themselves to reflect on that when high-flying Cardiff come to town. Adam Bate

Comment on 23-02-2013 08:42:51 by TonTon #766065
Odd start to the piece - any football fan would rather be following Wolves than the "Red Dragons", surely?
Comment on 23-02-2013 11:09:06 by jameswba #766084
Yes, I'd like to think at least some among the Cardiff contingent at Molineux today will be thinking, 'well you might have a useless team and have made your third inexplicable managerial appointment in a year, but you still play in a proper ground and in a proper strip. You're still, in fact, a proper club.' Perhaps they won't, though, cause they're going to the Premiership and that's all that matters.

Hope Wolves hammer them - and as an Albion fan it's not often I say things like that.
Comment on 23-02-2013 17:19:21 by jonmid #766197
I'm afraid to say with our current form that's unlikely James. Christ the last couple of years have made me want to give it up
Comment on 23-02-2013 20:32:10 by jameswba #766263
Keep the faith Jonmid. I remember when Albion were as awful as Wolves are now - back in 1999/2000. They stayed up, then things got better. I'm convinced to this day that part of the reason was the togetherness between fans, manager and a bunch of players who were far, far more limited than those you've got now. Thing is, though - and I think it was more accident than design - we hit upon the right manager in Gary Megson. There's no sign yet that Saunders is Wolves' equivalent. Then again, if Bolton can beat Hull so convincingly, perhaps tomorrow's not such a foregone conclusion....
Comment on 23-02-2013 20:41:52 by jonmid #766265
good point we'll try our best against the bastards though
Comment on 24-02-2013 10:01:45 by JimDavis #766411
Is the inability to hold onto leads the fault of a manager or the players?
Funny how Wolves took far too long to replace Mick and ended up with Terry Connor. Then not to fall into that trap again, employ Dean Saunders hours after removing Stale Solbakken, only to hear days later that Southampton had made Adkins available. Bad luck or bad management?
Comment on 24-02-2013 12:12:34 by Wolfman Jack #766432
Bad management, not just under Morgan - tho' thats been atrocious - but for well over 40 years now. How is it that a club which statistically has the 14th best gates in the country (even when struggling in Div 2, as I still call it) has been unable to even begin to establish itself in the Premier League whilst clubs with far less resources (Fulham Wigan, Swansea, Reading) saw the riches to be picked and made sure they got up there to take their share ?
Comment on 24-02-2013 13:04:02 by jonmid #766439
What happened with the appointment of Saunders was following the Connor farce Morgan decided to make a quick appointment and he did except he din't go for Sean O'Driscoll he went for Saunders
Comment on 24-02-2013 15:07:57 by ian.64 #766478
Jameswba - I think WBA's resurgence was a bit more than you make out, James. Megson's appointment started something approaching a plan whereby every relegation brought parachute payments that weren't, as clubs often do, spunked on a huge influx of new players, but put back into the club's infrastructure, beefing up the scouting system, bringing in new facilities and generally revamping the club as a whole. Ironically, every time Albion got relegated from the Premier League, we all moaned about why the money wasn't spent on buying new players. As it turned out, the 'reward for failure' funded a strengthening of the club that, in turn, improved matters on the field. It went for managers, too, with each boss - starting with Megson - adding to the side (along with the club's fortunes) with every season. Even that hollow-headed old has-been, Bryan Robson, furnished The Great Escape (an unsurpassed event of jamminess that still warms my heart) and boosted the Hawthorns coffers as a consequence. As seasons have progressed, the club has acted with a shrewdness and intelligence that's caught out moany old bastards like me and made the task of watching West Brom grow and develop both a fascination and a pleasure. Here's an example of how far its effectiveness has worked: voices on behalf of Villa and Wolves now regret not using the January transfer market to bring in new faces to ease the task of fighting their current and respective malaises. Albion are now on 40pts and seventh in the Premier League and never needed to use the transfer window.

I'm not trying to be smug, however, our current position took quite a few years to get to, and wasn't done by taking a gamble of QPR proportions. It's obvious that a truckload of planning and foresight was involved, even if it looked like a lack of ambition on face value for many a season.
Comment on 24-02-2013 19:52:36 by jameswba #766636
Ian, you're right about everything that's happened SINCE Megson's appointment. I was talking more about the appointment itself. It probably wouldn't have happened when it did (if at all) if Brian Little hadn't had his outburst at the board after the 0-3 home defeat by Blues and got summarily sacked(how long ago this all seems now). And I recall writing a letter to Grorty Dick after we beat Tranmere in the next game, saying we should let the caretaker team of Regis and Evans carry on till the end of the season. When Megson took over, I thought he was a panic appointment, and I don't think I was alone in that view.

I'm certainly not disagreeing with your view that his appointment 'started something approaching a plan', though we shouldn't forget his fall-out with Paul Thompson, the event that brought Peace to the chairmanship. What I'm unconvinced by is the notion that the appointment itself was part of any sort of plan!
Comment on 25-02-2013 08:48:33 by ian.64 #766829
Fair points all, and I suppose I should've made the point that anything that resembled a plan happened AFTER Megson's appointment and with Peace's installation as chairman. What followed was a long process that ended up with us where we are now - which makes me appreciate in a strange sense the previous 'yo-yo' past seasons that were at the time a bit of a trial, to put it mildly. On Megson, I didn't really think he was a panic appointment. With the exception of Ardiles, the line of managers we had were, in my opinion, indifferent and unsurprising, with Megson offering the virtue of defensive, unified solidity. Sadly, at the price of anything approaching what could be classified as football. An honest, principled man who didn't suffer fools gladly - but whose ideas had the shortest shelf-life.
Comment on 25-02-2013 12:21:59 by jameswba #766903
Definitely - and that initial judgement of mine on Megson was way wrong. He actually seemed to me back then to be just the latest in a line of gruff, dour, uninspiring types. After all, after Ardiles there was Burkinshaw, Buckley, Harford, Denis Smith and Little (the dourest of the lot). In fairness, Smith's football wasn't dour, it was just that, for all his career as a lion-hearted centre-back, he hadn't the faintest idea how to organise a defence. The real points about Megson are what you said - basically that he wouldn't take shit from either players or boardroom meddlers. He got the better of Thompson but not of Peace. He was what we needed in 2000, by 2004 his day had gone.

Doesn't seem quite right for WBA fans to hijack a Wolves thread to discuss where our club has got things so right, so I guess I ought to add that I just don't see Saunders as a Megson equivalent. Even though, as Albion fans sometimes forget, Megson did follow victory in his very first game with a seven-game winless streak.
Comment on 25-02-2013 13:29:27 by ian.64 #766944
At the risk of sounding smug again, Wolves and Villa share the same flaws that Albion have so far avoided in that their recent histories have been based on gambles rather than any overall vision the chairmen of those clubs have had. Managerial appointments that weren't thought through, squad replenishment based on quantity of players rather than quality, and a general haphazard steering of ships through league waters. In the 90's, Wolves had Hayward's money to steer them to promotion bids that didn't work out, and in the end, unless I'm wrong, fans' pressure led to Hayward selling to Morgan, whose managerial appointments have so far seemed not the stuff of inspiration. Villa were once in a position to buy players and have the luxury to leave them on the bench and not think about the cost. That luxury is now seen as a monumental risk.

I can't help but think that the 2008 globally financial fuck-up has a little something to do with both clubs getting a little bit of a kick up the arse in some respect. Posts telling me I'm talking out my butt will be respectfully tolerated.
Comment on 26-02-2013 08:30:01 by jameswba #767206
Saunders is turning into the gift that keeps on giving though. 'We played the right formation against Cardiff,' he says, 'we only changed it because they scored.' 'We created more chances than them, but they scored from our mistakes.' After all these eight games he's failed to win, it's been the same. Wolves had the right formation and the right tactics. They played better football and created more chances than the opposition. All would have been OK - if only the opposition hadn't scored more goals.
Comment on 26-02-2013 09:00:31 by ian.64 #767211
Sounds like a certain Tony Mowbray. They won yet they were rubbish. The teams above us above the drop zone are worse than us.

To be honest, all is not lost for Wolves, as the 'mathematically impossible' aspect of a relegation struggle has not been reached (a bit like Villa). For all our joshing, it's not over yet.

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