Wolves midsummer preparationsBy: DJ | June 19th, 2013
The issuing of the fixture list this week brought home to Wolves what a disastrous last 16 months the club has had and although the new season is always something to look forward to for the enthusiast, it’s one that will only be enjoyable if the team can get back into the habit of winning games.
It seems like a long time ago that Wolves were promoted to the Premier League in 2009 after a superb season of attacking football with lots of goals and 27 wins in 46 games (59%). The following 4 seasons did include three in the Premier League but watching Wolves win has become a much less regular occurence and over those 4 seasons it has been only 39 wins in 160 games (24%). Following the relegation from the Premier LEague I remember a lot of Wolves fans saying that at least we will now see the team win more often. Well that didn’t happen last season but surely it will be the case in 2013/14.
Now that we know who the manager is, and we know what dates we need to put in the diary for the thrillers against Crawley and Stevenage, the interest will now turn to finding out what players will be making up the squad for the new season. It has always been inevitable that a number of the first team squad of last season will be moving on. Some will be missed and some won’t, but the important thing is who will be left.
There is an abundance of riches in the goalkeeping department. There will be interest in whether Wayne Hennessey will move on. He was one of the success stories of the Premier League and is good enough for that level but after a year out with injury his value will have decreased significantly and the club will be hoping that he stays for a while yet to both aid the promotion push and re-establish his transfer value. Ikeme and De Vries are able deputies but it is unlikely Wolves will retain three keepers of this quality especially as Aaron McCarey, who had a successful loan spell at Walsall last season, looks more than ready to step up to be third or even second choice.
Defensively there are likely to be changes. Berra has moved on after his contract expired, Gorkss has returned to Reading at the end of his loan and Johnson is thankfully ‘being encouraged to find a new club’. That will surely open the door for Danny Batth who impressed in his opportunities last season to the extent that it was a major surprise, probably a major mistake, when Saunders decided to leave him out of the team after some man of the match performances. Whether Foley, Ward and Elokobi will still be at the club remains to be seen and althought there is a general call for youth to be given its head next season, there will be a need for a blend of youth and experience needed to ensure promotion. So a new face or two is likely in the defence as well as a possible opportunity for the impressive academy product Michael Ihiekwe who is a confident scouser, good on the ball , and rated a good prospect. And Ebanks Landell will have benefitted from his loan at Bury last season.
Midfield is an area that the club has not got right for a long time and a new face would be welcome here too, especially in the centre. We wait to see whether Karl Henry and David Edwards will stay, hope that O’Hara doesn’t and presume Sako won’t. That should leave a chance for David Davis to cement a place and then we wait to see what a couple of the Solbakken signings can do. Boukari hardly played last season through injury but as a £3m signing from the French top flight it would be a disappointment if he wasn’t outstanding at League One level. Sheffield United, the next biggest club in this division have not spent more than £100k on a player for three years so a £3m player should be the equivalent of Messi and Ronaldo rolled together against this level of opposition. Then there is Doumbia who was the best player early season in 2012/13 but lost his way and fell out with Solbakken and didn’t produce the goods after the opening months, but he is surely good enough if he stays. From the youngsters we wait to see if Anthony Forde can finally fulfil his promise at this easier level. Then there is Jack Price who is a good passer of the ball and one of the better U21 players. And also Zele Ismail who certainly has talent and has been very highly touted, and his time must come next season if he is to make the grade with Wolves.
In the striking department it looks quite promising even after the expected losses of Kevin Doyle and Ebanks Blake. Leigh Griffiths looks like he will finally get to show the Molineux public what he can do. he got 23 goals in 36 games for Hibs on loan last season, became a Scottish international, and can surely transfer that record to League One. Bjorn Sigurdarsson showed promise last season in fits and starts and could be ready to make his mark with his electric pace although it is still unclear whether he is best as a striker or on the right of midfield. Jake Cassidy didn’t make much impact when recalled by Wolves last season but he had scored 16 goals on loan at Tranmere in League One so should be another option. And Liam McAlinden may well prove to be better than any of them. He has impressed at youth and U21 level for Wolves and a number of Premier League teams are known to be tracking his progress and its just a question of whether he is yet ready to make a first team place his own.
So despite all the negativity and disappointments there is still the nucleus of a team that can make its mark at this level and begin the long climb back towards a better status. It would be good to say to new manager Kenny Jackett that a season of consolidation is what is needed and that expectations are low. But Wolves dont belong at this level and its not a division they should be looking to stick around in for more than one season.