Preparing for life in League One
2 August ~ "There is no doubt that the relationship between the players and the fans had broken down somewhat over the past couple of seasons," said Wolves boss Kenny Jackett this week. "But it's the players' responsibility to fix that. Supporters react to what they see on the pitch." What Wolves fans have seen in that time has been about as woeful as it gets, with back-to-back relegations making a mockery of the recent stadium expansion and holding the club up as an example of how not to do things.
The new manager has the awkward task of rebuilding Wolves on the field and healing those wounds off it. Jackett has struck the right tone so far, winning popularity thanks to his tough stance regarding the divisive figures at the club – exiling high earners such as Roger Johnson, Jamie O'Hara, Karl Henry, Stephen Ward and now Kevin Doyle. The latter three may have played their part in the good times but their mere presence had become symbolic of the old regime.
The remnants remain but there are enough youngsters around to excite supporters – and a resilient bunch those fans are too. As many as 5,000 will travel up to Deepdale for Saturday's season opener against Preston North End, a fitting show of support for a game between two founder members of the Football League that will form part of the 125th anniversary celebrations of the competition. Clearly, the mutinous mood of Molineux in May is starting to fade from the memory.
The situation is a little reminiscent of 2006 when Mick McCarthy came to the club amid low expectations, building a young team from scratch that forged a bond with those in the stands. Or perhaps there is inspiration to be found in the heroics of Steve Bull, who fired Wolves to the title the last time the club was in the equivalent of League One back in 1989.
Supporters will be anxiously hoping those are the templates replicated rather than a repeat of the last time the club dropped into the third tier in 1985 – and promptly made it three consecutive relegations the following spring. Which scenario Wolves repeat will depend much on whether Jackett can manage the club's players as well as he has already managed the fans. Adam Bate