Of all Manchester United’s recent victories, the one that was most comprehensive, the one that stood out as a mere doddle, a walk in the park, was their 5-0 victory over Wolverhampton Wanderers at Molineux. Such was the margin of victory, it was actually hard to believe that the Champions didn’t score more. But then, that’s the plight that Wolves find themselves in. The corresponding fixture last season saw the men from the Black Country end United’s unbeaten run in a vibrant 2-1 win, a stand out result from a number of key home performances in the last campaign. Sadly, this season has seen nothing of the sort, quite the contrary in fact – the bottom club have failed to amass a single point from their home games in 2012 and are staring ominously down the barrel.
A key moment in a season of many struggles for Wolves was in February when, after a devastating 5-1 home defeat to local rivals West Bromwich Albion, then manager Mick McCarthy was shown the door after five-and-a-half years in charge. Speaking at the time, club chief executive Jez Moxey stated “If we continued in this way we were definitely going to be relegated.” The club acted swiftly, giving manager’s job to McCarthy’s number two, Terry Connor – a man with no managerial experience to his name (something Moxey said Wolves would be looking for in McCarthy’s successor). Now, hindsight is a wonderful thing, but if Moxey were to foresee the state his club would be in six games down the line he may well have been hesitant in who he chose to take charge of the troops.
Connor, a respected coach in his own right, had started his post reasonably well – clawing back a 2-0 deficit against Newcastle United to draw 2-2 at St James’ Park in his first match in charge. This was a game in which Wolves showed spirit and tenacity, something which was sadly lacking from previous fixtures. Sadly though, the players and indeed the manager, have failed to build on this and as teams around them picks up points, Wolves are drawing blanks. Five straight defeats have followed and, despite the manager’s claims that they can still stay up, it’s hard to see any other outcome on current form. Take their latest defeat to Bolton, 3-2 at Molineux on Saturday just.
Wolves were the better team for an hour of the game and took the lead through a fine Michael Kightly strike. However, their fragile confidence crept in and Bolton exposed this with ruthless efficiency, storming back to take the points. At one stage in the game the Wolves players were fighting each other as goalkeeper Wayne Hennessey and defender Roger Johnson squared off in a heated exchange of words. Connor said he was pleased to see some passion from them but this was merely papering over the cracks in what looks to be a troubled dressing room.
It seems harsh that with a flash new stand ready to be built (the two-tiered Stan Cullis end) and a loyal group of supporters backing them, Wolves may only get to showcase their football in England’s second tier. But they can surely only have themselves to blame.
McCarthy’s sacking, whether correct or not, should have ushered in a new beginning at Molinuex but instead chairman Steve Morgan opted to play it closer to home and nominated McCarthy’s number two as his successor. Surely Connor’s methods and tactics couldn’t have been much different to McCarthy’s as he would have watched and learned what the Yorkshireman was doing in his tenure as boss.
Next up for Wolves is Stoke City at the always intimidating Britannia Stadium – anything less than three points and their fans can surely start planning their away trips for Peterborough and Burnley. A sad state of affairs, yes, but one for which the board must take much culpability. Failing to replace Mick McCarthy with an Alan Curbishley (who incidentally turned down the job) or a Steve Bruce – someone with proven Premier League experience – may just have sounded the death knell for this proud Black Country football club.
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