The story of Wolves’ sad seasonBy: DJ | May 16th, 2012
It all ended sadly for Wolves in 2011/12 but not really in tears because long before the end their fans had resigned themselves to a return to the Championship. There are lots of reasons why Wolves ended up on the bottom of the pile but this story is not so much looking at that but just recalling how the season went from beginning to end.
The summer of 2011 – in many ways the new season started as soon as the final whistle blew on the 2010/11 season. Wolves had scraped survival by the skin of their teeth and Morgan was quick to quote ‘we can’t go through that again’. And there were many Wolves supporters that were of the view that a change in management was what was needed even then. But I think those were the views of a minority, and many were seeing signs for optimism that things could get better. In the latter stages of 2010/11 O’Hara was making a difference in midfield and Fletcher was scoring goals and there had been some encouraging performances in the latter stages of the season. McCarthy was allowed to carry on, O’Hara was signed permanently and Roger Johnson looked to be just the kind of signing Wolves needed to improve the back line. There was some disappointment that no further addiditions were made to the squad but there was a fair degree of optimism by the time the season started. And after Karl Henry had his 2010/11 season disrupted by bad publicity over TV focus on his tackling, it was decided to take him out of the spotlight by making Johnson captain.
August 2011 – and the pre-season optimism was almost over flowing in August as Wolves got off to a winning start at Blackburn and followed up with a home success over Stoke. The fringe squad was given an outing at Northampton in the Carling Cup and won 4-0 and an away draw at Villa rounded off an excellent start to the season. Wolves were 3rd in the league and McCarthy felt the need to temper the enthusiasm of the supporters by saying he didn’t feel the squad were yet ready for European football.
September 2011 – there was a first defeat of the season at the beginning of September when Spurs won at Molinuex but Wolves played ok and hopes were still high. The next game was also at home and with Fletcher and Ebanks Blake unavailable through injury McCarthy made the surprise decision to move Ward from left back to striker and recalled Elokobi to left back. It was a change that backfired badly as Wolves were 2 down in ten minutes and were completely outplayed in a 3-0 defeat to newly promoted QPR. The game served as a harsh reality check for Wolves although some confidence was then restored with another resounding Carling Cup success as Wolves goal of the season from Guedioura was the highlight in a 5-0 win over Millwall. The month ended in a narrow defeat at Anfield and although they had slipped to 11th in the league it was only the QPR game where performances had fallen below par.
October 2011 – there was another defeat to start the new month although there was a feeling of daylight robbery about the 2-1 reverse to Newcastle. After falling 2 goals down Wolves were denied a penalty when a foul on O’Hara well inside the area was given as a foul outside. Krul in the Newcastle goal gave an outstanding performance as Wolves dominated but it was not until the 88th minute that Fletcher pulled a goal back before a last minute equaliser was disallowed after it had been judged that the ball had crossed the dead ball line before Doyle scored, with Tv proving it hadn’t. But the season was now turning against Wolves and after defeat at the Hawthorns, Wolves were outplayed but eacaped with a point at home to Swansea before suffering two home hammerings in a week to Man City in the Carling Cup and the league. After only 2 points in 8 games Wolves were suddenly down in 17th place and facing another survival battle.
November 2011 – some respite at the beginning of the month with a deserved home win against Wigan but then expected defeats at Everton and Chelsea left Wolves in 17th by the month end.
December 2011 – again the month started brightly with a home win against Sunderland after a vital minute that saw Hennessey save a penalty and then Fletcher equalise for Wolves within a minute, and the scotsman getting the winner 8 minutes later. There was no joy at Old Trafford in the next game and then it was one of the worst performances of the season that saw a home defeat to Stoke and by now the pressure was growing on McCarthy as it was clear that for the third season running survival was as much as the fans could hope for. The logical time to change a manager mid season is before the January transfer window and there were increasing numbers wondering if the time had come for a change. An entertaining home draw against Norwich was followed by battling draws at Arsenal and Bolton and you suspect those results were enough to persuade Morgan and Moxey that McCarthy was going to do enough to keep Wolves heads above water again as they headed into the new year in 16th place.
January 2012 – Wolves were perhaps unfortunate to start the new year with a home defeat when a last minute winner for Chelsea came from Lampard who should probably have not been on the field following a poor two footed challenge on Hamill earlier. And what followed in the next couple of weeks was pivotal in Wolves season. They gave two dreadful FA Cup performances against Birmingham with a dreary draw at St Andrews followed by a tame defeat at home in the replay. But in between those games there was real promise from an away draw with Spurs achieved with a 4-2-3-1 formation that had, probably in the most successful way in their three seasons in the Premier League, given both effective protection to the defence and good support to the attack. The loan signing of Frimpong was a major factor in Wolves looking more the part and there was also some boost from a long awaited return from injury of Kightly. That same 4-2-3-1 line up started again in the next game against Villa at Molineux and Wolves played their best football of the season in the first half and lead 2-1 after falling behind to an early penalty. Kightly was outstanding and the pairing of Henry and Frimpong ahead of the defence looked a real winner. But it all went Pete Tong after the break. Two Robbie Keane goals won it for Villa after Frimpong was injured and Henry sent off, and we never saw that line up again. A comprehensive home defeat to Liverpool followed and Wolves were now in deep trouble in 19th place.
February 2012 – there was a welcome away win at the beginning of Feb. QPR were flying in the first half with new signings Zamora and Cisse looking good. But after Zamora put them ahead, Cisse got himself sent off and the half time introduction of Doyle as a sub changed the game for Wolves as he made one and scored one to secure the win. But what followed was a disastrous day for the club. A goal by Fletcher on the stroke of half time sent Wolves in undeservedly level at the break in the Black Country derby at Molineux but Wolves capitulated in the 2nd half to an embarrassing 5-1 defeat and the majority of Wolves supporters that left the ground that day wondered how much longer McCarthy could survive if there wasn’t a quick improvement. The answer was that he didnt last any longer at all and his reign as manager of the club was ended that weekend. What followed was an even bigger embarrassment to the club and its supporters as it soon became clear there was no plan of what to do next and who to bring in as McCarthy’s successor. And although it appeared likely that either Curbishley or Bruce would end up in charge, the incredible decision was taken to put coach Terry Connor in the hot seat for the rest of the season after he has inspired a fightback from 2-0 down to grab a shock draw at Newcastle. After Moxey has said it was no job for a novice, Connor was set for his first managerial experience.
March 2012 – the McCarthy reign had ended with Wolves in 18th place and on the same points as QPR in 16th. But any hope Wolves had of staying in the top flight was ended in a disastrous March that saw them lose all five games and concede 17 goals in the process. Roger Johnson had been lucky to keep his place for so long in the early part of the season given his poor form and it was clear that his appointment as captain was one of the biggest mistakes of McCarthy’s era as it clearly did much to ruin the team spirit on which his teams are built. And in the home game against Bolton at the end of the month that impression became very public when Hennessey and Johnson almost came to blows in an onfield spat. The season had not been going well for a while but to see the club sink to being no hopers in such a dramatic way was heartbreaking for the supporters, and by the end of the month Wolves were 6 points adrift at the bottom of the league.
April 2012 – things didn’t get any better going into April with almost inevitable defeats at Stoke and at home to Arsenal. But then when it was all too late there came a few spirited performances with a goalless draw at Sunderland followed by a battling home defeat to Man City and a sparkling 4-4 draw at Swansea. Jarvis got two of the goals at Swansea and it was to his great credit that he was maintaining a high level of performance over the final months of the season when so many around him were struggling. The introduction to the first team of academy product David Davis was another late season positive, but there weren’t many of those.
May 2012 – the season had long since died for Wolves and it ended with a bore draw at home to Everton followed by a fairly entertaining 3-2 defeat at Wigan.
There were some positive moments in the season but you would have to be a real glass half full person to not feel pretty depressed at the way the season went as a whole. For a game and a half in January when they played Spurs away and then Villa at home, it really looked like Wolves might have got it right. But that and August apart, the 2011/12 story is a pretty sad tale for Wolves supporters.