Wolves' promotion to the top flight is going to cost them. Jim Heath explains how

Wolverhampton Wanderers’ return to top-flight English football has come at a cost. In addition to the well publicised investment club owner Sir Jack Hayward has made over the last decade, he is now having to make pay­ments to Swindon Town, Charlton Athletic, Sunderland and Coventry City – adding up to the tidy sum of around £1.5 million. Not bad for a now depressed market. This all stems from add-on clauses to the original fees Wolves paid for players, which would only be activated if and when promotion was finally achieved. So, Shaun Newton suddenly be­comes a million-pound player overnight – his original £850,000 fee from when Wolves bought him from Charlton in August 2001 has just in­creased by some £300,000. Similar increments are due to the others for George Ndah, Alex Rae, Paul But­ler and Cédric Rous­sel. Which is fair enough, as during the season they have all made a big contribution to the overall objective of promotion. Except, that is, Cédric Roussel.

Signed from Coventry City for £1.53m in February 2001, the Belgian striker has star­ted just six league games, scoring twice, including absolutely zero this sea­son. In fact he has spent 2002-03 on loan in his homeland with RAEC Mons. But he was more than happy with Wolves’ success. Apart from the windfall for Coventry (reportedly something in the region of £300,000) Roussel has had great pleasure informing all and sundry that under the terms of his contract his wages are to dou­ble.

Greeted with jaw-dropping amazement by Wolves fans still coming down from their play-off ecstasy, it should not come entirely as a shock. At the time of the transfer from Cov­entry City (then battling against relegation from the Premiership), chief executive Jez Moxey stated the deal was “heavily incentivised for Wolves to win promotion”. Even so, Roussel was rumour­ed to be one of the top earners in Molineux history, which stacks up well against the striker’s wages at Highfield Road, agreed at the height of Gordon Strach­an’s big spending days there.

Nevertheless, Dave Jones was thrilled with his acquisition: “He’s honest, hardworking and has a lot of attributes,” he cooed to the press. Un­fortunately it transpired Roussel was unfit, overweight and lacked match practice. But his arrival was equally heralded by Wolves fans who turned up in such numbers for a Tuesday night match to see his debut that the kick-off was delayed by 15 minutes. Sadly he didn’t even make the bench. When he eventually did make an appearance in the old gold, his presence was underwhelming.

But, with a summer in which to sort himself out, Wolves fans were assured Roussel had put his “problems” behind him. Indeed when he scored in the opening match against Ports­mouth he seemed vindicated, but there was to be no happy ending as Nathan Blake, Kenny Miller and Dean Sturridge were soon drafted in to pep up the attack.

Roussel ended playing out the season at the unlikely back­drop of RAF Cosford against the likes of Bury and Huddersfield Town reserves in the Pon­tins League. Mindful that his con­tract still had another three years to run, a season-long loan deal was agreed with Mons – even if it meant his wages would be sub­sidised by Molineux coffers. On a personal level it’s been a great arrangement for Roussel  – he’s ended up as joint leading scorer in the Belgian league with 22 goals, forced his way back into the national squad and has been able to go home as often as he likes.

With the loan over and a substantial hike in his wages imminent, it looks as though Wolves will have to lower their asking price of €3m (£2.1m) or reintegrate a player who is under contract until 2005. I wonder how the latter scenario would be greeted in the Molineux dressing room.

From WSC 197 July 2003. What was happening this month

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