By Aaron Bains | Diary of a Wolves optimist
The 2011/2012 campaign proved to be one of the saddest in the modern history of Wolverhampton Wanderers. Having defeated ‘second season syndrome’ and beaten relegation two seasons running, there was a real sense of optimism around Molineux. Everybody was excited to see what the future had in store.
Owner Steve Morgan put his multi-million pound fortune towards the redevelopment of both the stadium and Compton training complex, and the signings of experienced Premiership players Roger Johnson and Jamie O’Hara gave everyone the belief the club was taking things to the next level.
However, after a catastrophic season, both on and off the field, Wolves find themselves back in the Championship for 2012/2013. Wolves finished rock bottom after picking up just five wins over 38 games – with two of those coming in the first two games of the season.
Mick McCarthy was replaced by his ill-experienced assistant Terry Connor after a string of bad results, and new captain Johnson managed to single-handedly destroy the fighting spirit which had previously served the club so well.
Johnson went from potential hero to zero after a series of bad decisions – including turning up to training drunk, publicly criticising the manager and board, arguing with fans and most recently, arguing with fan favourite Wayne Hennessey on the pitch during a crucial home game against Bolton.
So what does the future hold for Wolves? Funnily enough, further optimism. Norwegian Stale Solbakken was the surprise choice to take the vacant manager’s job: and the man comes with a history of silverware.
He led Danish side Copenhagen to five league titles in six years, and also created history by leading them into the last-16 of the Champions League in the 2010/11 season.
Don’t Tank me yet…
Solbakken has already acted quickly in the transfer market, bringing in promising centre-back Jamie Tank (18) from Walsall, as well as former Chelsea and West Ham winger Frank Nouble (20) on a free transfer. His biggest coup so far, however, has been the capture of Iceland international striker Bjorn Bergmann Sigurdarson.
Sigurdarson has scored 11 goals in 13 games in all competitions this season for Norwegian club Lillestrom, and he fended off interest from Everton after claiming he only wants to work under the Norwegian manager. The pacy 21-year old is set to join Wolves after their last league game in mid-July.
In addition to this, there are still players at the club which played such a huge part in their Championship winning 08/09 season, such as Sylvan Ebanks-Blake and Michael Kightly.
However, there are inevitably reasons for concern as the club approach the upcoming season. Star striker Steven Fletcher and prize asset Matthew Jarvis both look set to leave, with Sunderland and Stoke showing strong interest in them respectively.
As well as losing key players, the Championship is no easy league. It already hosts clubs such as Birmingham, Leicester, Cardiff and Leeds, as well as the recently relegated Blackburn and Bolton. All of these clubs, along with the usual ‘surprise packages’, will believe they can achieve promotion to the Premiership come next summer.
It’s going to be a gruelling 46-game campaign for Wolves – but they’re approaching it in the right way, and the foundations are being positively set for a successful period under Solbakken. Paddy Power is offering odds on 9/4 for Wolves to win instant promotion back to the Premiership next season, and they are 8/1 to win the Championship outright.