THE HALF DECENT FOOTBALL MAGAZINE

Manager moving on high earners

icon wolvessad17 January ~ Thanks to the best defensive record in the division, Wolves have an impressive 52 points from their 26 matches so far in this League One season. As a result, with 60 points still to play for, manager Kenny Jackett has already surpassed the club's tally in each of the past four seasons. Crowds have held up well too, averaging just a shade under 20,000, with the 28,598 attendance against Leyton Orient more than anything from their last season in the Premier League, let alone the Championship debacle. And yet, the revival has hit a problem.

Wolves are now two points adrift in third with the teams in the automatic promotion spots each boasting a game in hand. Such is the relentless brilliance of Brentford and the refusal of Orient to go quietly into mid-table, what was supposed to be a flying visit to the third tier is threatening to become an extended stay. Wolves have won just two of their last eight games and there is a nagging suspicion that the wobble is linked to the reopening of the January transfer window.

It's a reminder of the off-field disruption that provides the backdrop to Jackett's quiet efficiency. The former Millwall boss has been asked to safely negotiate the club through a potentially messy transition process by offloading or marginalising many of the high earners, while continuing to address the more immediate priority of picking up three points each and every weekend.

Occasionally, tensions reveal themselves. Wayne Hennessey's refusal to play at Gillingham was apparently the result of off-field manoeuvrings to secure his release. Meanwhile, Jamie O'Hara continues to pick up his pay cheque and there is an unspoken acceptance that the likes of Kevins Foley and Doyle are being ushered politely to the exit in favour of cheaper alternatives.

For the most part, those alternatives have been well received. James Henry, signed from Millwall, and Scott Golbourne, previously of Barnsley, have made positive impacts. Ex-Derby winger Michael Jacobs looks a talented player, while academy product Jack Price has some potential and Danny Batth has boosted morale by agreeing a new contract. Slowly Jackett is forging a new team on more manageable salaries than Doyle's reported £40,000-per-week sum.

The fact that the Irishman's wage is greater than many squad budgets in League One is an indication of how quickly Wolves have slumped through the divisions. Although some will suggest that assets such as Bakary Sako should make Jackett's job a straightforward one, galvanising a disparate group of players on wildly different pay packets presents a tricky man-management challenge.

Claw their way back to the Championship at the first attempt and Jackett will have the club on an upward trajectory again. Fail to secure immediate promotion and Wolves risk the prospect of seeing the parachute payments disappear while still in the third tier of English football. As they visit Crawley on Saturday, Jackett's balancing act is on a knife-edge. Adam Bate

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