Of late, I have had cause to wonder; who is the most myopic sports fan? Is it the barstooler stuck to his seat watching Sky Sports, cursing, shouting and giving out at the TV? Could anyone forget the man standing outside Jones’s Road before Ireland played England at the 2007 Six Nations? He was holding a banner stating “NO FOREIGN GAMES AT CROKE PARK” while wearing a Glasgow Celtic football shirt.
Then there are the Irish fans of English clubs who spend thousands of euro a year travelling over to support what are effectively multi-national companies. When quizzed as to why they don’t support their local League of Ireland club, I have regularly been told; “Ah, they’re sh*t. I wouldn’t support them,” – when surely it’s clear to see that the one way the domestic game will improve is with local people putting money it. Surely that’s a damn sight better than putting your hard earned cash into the bottomless pit that is Manchester United PLC?
The above population, however, pale into insignificance next to the stupidity of the men who stood on the terraces at Molineux this season and who, any time anything went wrong for their club (Wolves) on the pitch, would lay into the manager Mick McCarthy specifically and also the players as if they had committed an act of treason. This was particularly evident during the club’s home game with Swansea at the end of October. The visitors were winning 0-2 and McCarthy made a double substitution to try to rescue the game with some 20 minutes remaining. All that could be heard around the ground were chants of “You don’t know what you’re doing.”
For an accusation like this to be levelled at a manager who had given the club their most successful period in the Premier League era was absurd. Wolves eventually got a 2-2 draw from that game but Mick McCarthy was, rightly, at pains to stress the importance of not giving the baying mob any praise for the result.
McCarthy, of course, eventually paid for Wolves’ poor run of results (14 points from 20 league games) with his job last month. There is a sound argument to state that Wolves needed to change their manager at that point. Having guided the club for almost six years, there was the possibility that the same voice could have become stale and that a new face could be needed to freshen things up.
The chairman Steve Morgan was well within his rights to act and make the move he made in relieving Mick from his post. What was not right, however, was the bile that Mick and the players received from fans during his last match in charge, following what was an extremely disappointing 1-5 defeat to their closest Black Country rivals West Brom. I remember thinking immediately after that game when the booing and whistling drowned out the match commentator’s voice: “Does Mick need this any more?” and I thought the obvious answer was ”No.” The next day he was gone.
The looks of pure hatred and the abuse many Wolves’ “fans” were spewing towards Mick McCarthy at times throughout this season were truly shocking. McCarthy was, by some distance, Wolves’ most successful manager of the modern era. In fact, I believe there is a very good chance that the same idiots who were so manically and grotesquely gesticulating at Ireland’s 1990 World Cup captain will, in years to come, look back on the period he reigned over (from July 2006 – February 2012) as a golden era in the history of Wolverhampton Wanderers. They will remember the man they ran out of town as the guy who kept them in the Premier League longer than any other manager in their history.
Managers are regularly accused of being “victims of their own success,” men like McCarthy who guide a club up to a higher division with meagre resources, then need financial investment from their chairman. If they don’t get it, suddenly the knives are out when the club starts to lose more games than it wins. Before McCarthy, Wolves had never spent longer than one season in the Premier League.
The most vocal critics conveniently forgot this detail this season. Mick McCarthy had the best winning percentage of any Wolves’ manager since Graham Turner in the mid 1980s. Back then, Wolves were trawling around the old Third and Fourth Divisions. Too many of their followers seem to have forgotten that it is more than 50 years since Wolves could be considered an elite club or even a regular fixture in the top flight of English football.
Their record signing is Irish striker Kevin Doyle who cost the club £6.5 million (Steven Fletcher has since been signed for the same sum) back in summer 2009 and has been one of many (15 in the first team squad) Irish players to be signed by Mick McCarthy during his time in charge. Doyle enjoyed a busy first two seasons with Wolves – being voted the club’s 2009-’10 Player of the Season – and whilst not having been a prolific goalscorer, he was the go-to man when Wolves relieved the pressure from their own penalty box. Doyle was regularly the lone striker holding the ball up, waiting for support to arrive. The Wexford man’s contribution on the pitch was a major reason why Wolves stayed in the top flight for two consecutive seasons.
Doyle has not enjoyed a good campaign this time around. He’s endured a few injuries. His form has gone cold and he’s lost his touch. It happens. Form comes. It sometimes goes. This does not make him a bad player but of course the Republic striker has also felt the wrath of the Molineux faithful. Many are suggesting he would be more suited to a Championship club, though he will very likely have plenty of Premier League suitors come the summer.
One final word on Doyle; his cost of £6.5million is the same as the VAT on Fernando Torres’ £50million transfer from Liverpool to Chelsea. That statistic alone shows Wolves’ true standing.
Wolves simply don’t have the financial muscle to compete in the Premier League. It’s arguable as to whether they have the resources to even be in the top flight. In January last year, Deloitte revealed a report into English club football which found that only one club in the top flight, Burnley, had a lower wage bill than Wolves. Burnley were of course relegated six months before that report. West Ham were relegated six months after its publication with a wage bill of £59million, more than double that of Wolves. When considering those figures, it’s fair to say that the former Ireland manager worked miracles in keeping the club in the Premier League for two seasons and giving them a fighting chance of doing the same this season.
Since sacking McCarthy on 13th February; the Wolves board have gone through a long and laborious process to find his successor, eventually settling for Mick’s assistant at the club; Terry Connor or ‘TC’ as he is known. Owner Steve Morgan and his board have made themselves look rather foolish in this process and their cluelessness is a further indication of the oracle that Mick McCarthy worked at the club.
Wolves’ have garnered one point from four league matches played under their new boss; scoring two goals and conceding 14 in that period. They look now to be a Championship club in all but name. With Mick McCarthy in charge, they had a chance of staying up. With Terry Connor in the hot-seat, they don’t. Such was the Irish influence at the club (they regularly fielded four Irish internationals in their starting XI under McCarthy) that the club was easy for Irish football fans to root for.
Such has been the behaviour of many so called Wolves’ supporters this season however that when I next turn on the TV and see the club in the old gold shirts losing – or indeed when their demotion to the Championship is surely confirmed – I won’t be nearly as disappointed as I would previously have been.