By Mihir Bose,
Wolves have to come to terms with reality.
The old saying goes that when fans shout, “sack the manager”, the board does nothing. But when they start shouting, “sack the board”, the board sacks the manager.
The hierarchy at Molineux may deny that is the case. But that is undoubtedly what happened after the defeat at the hands of West Bromwich Albion at the weekend. There was a fan demonstration against the board and Mick McCarthy, manager for five and a half years, had to go. The Wolves denial on this must be taken with a large pinch of salt.
McCarthy’s departure has produced the usual regret such football sackings do and the familiar speculation as to who might take over. But whoever does, the larger question for the board and the fans is, can Wolves come to terms with reality? Where does this once great club fit into the set up of the Premiership? Indeed, does it fit in at all?
Wolves pedigree cannot be denied. This is a club whose great past helped create our present. It was Wolves triumphs in Europe at club level immediately after the war that led to the English claiming that Wolves were the champions of Europe. The response came from the French, indeed from two French journalists. They suggested the idea of a European Cup to determine the real champions of Europe. Not only did it prove a winner, but it also showed that we journalists do not just pry into other people’s lives, but can come up with worthwhile, workable projects.
The tragedy for Wolves has been that while their deeds may have prompted a European institution that has proved more long lasting than many others, on the economic front they have not benefited from it. Their decline has been long and painful and they have just not discovered a route back to that glorious, but now sepia coloured past.
It is interesting that some Wolves fans are realistic enough to accept that. As Andy Sahota, chairman of Punjabi Wolves, which claims to be the biggest ethnic supporters group in Europe, put it to me, “We were famous and we are not famous any more and we are not going to recreate those days.” Sahota, who first went to Molineux as a five-year-old perched on the shoulder of his uncle, confesses that, “Not many fans share my realism. Expectation levels are very high.”
However, he probably reflects the views of his fellow fans when he acknowledges that “the manager did a fantastic job with the resources we had”. But he had to go. “Everything got stale and he could not take us any further after five and a half years.”
Having stayed up on the last day of last season, the criticism against McCarthy is that he bought journeymen who were squad players, but could not get into the team straightaway or take the club to the next level. This level is between 11th and 15th in the Premiership, which would realistically be the height of the club’s ambitions.
It could be argued, as Sahota and some fans are doing, that the change should have been done before Christmas. “It is a little too late. We are second from bottom and have to win six games out of last 13. I do not think it will happen.”
An intriguing question is, why the change now? Fans have to renew on the early bid season ticket by the beginning of March. This saves money, but given that the club does not know which division it will play in next season, the board must have thought that not many fans would renew. The club must be hoping that a new manager can effect some immediate improvement, new managers usually do, and that this will help with season ticket sales.
But whether Wolves stay up or not, for the fans, the wider question of what Steve Morgan wants with the club has started. A man who was denied his dream of owning his boyhood club Liverpool, Morgan has been building at Molineaux. But this investment is in stands, having knocked out the old Stan Cullis Stand. Fans would have preferred more investment into the playing side, and some fans are now beginning to mutter that he is only there for the money. They point to the land he has bought round the ground and an old school near the training ground where houses are to be developed. But then, he is a builder by profession and the accusations being made may well be unjustified.
The problem is, unless a new manager can quickly find Wolves a secure place in the Premiership, these voices will grow. Unfair they may be, but they reflect modern football.
Follow Mihir on Twitter @mihirbose