Wolves' decline shows few signs of stopping
Dean Saunders has had little impact
23 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