What Now for Wolves’ Irish Pack?

Wolves’ defeat at home to title chasing Manchester City on Sunday confirmed what all at Molineux have been resigned to for weeks now; their relegation to the Championship. James Clancy asks what lays in store for the considerable Irish presence at the club and will Giovanni Trapattoni be able to call on some of them as Premier League players next season?

It was somehow fitting that Wolves’ battle against relegation would end under dark clouds and pouring rain.  What was out of place, however, was Wolves’ fans unanimously cheering their team.

It was something of a contrast to large portions of the season where a sizeable minority of the Molineux faithful were more than vocal in their dissatisfaction with what was happening at the club.  Whilst those supporters were well within their rights to boo, it hardly helped the team on the pitch.

Many will look back on the day that Mick McCarthy got the sack in mid-February as the moment that Wolves’ relegation was confirmed.  Some 11 days later his successor was confirmed as assistant Terry Connor.  They’ve not won a game since.

Two points from 11 games (including the 1-5 pasting by bitter Black Country rivals West Brom which eventually saw the rug pulled on Mick’s time in charge) is damning evidence and Wolves’ relegation has been something of a certainty for some time.

As a club who started the season as the English outfit with the most Irish players (Midlands neighbours Aston Villa have since rivalled them on that front); many of those at Wolves hailing from the Emerald Isle will be wondering where their future in the game now lies.

For many, it won’t be at Wolves, for all but a very small handful, it won’t be in the Premier League either such has been the dearth of most of their performances this season.

Relegation of course brings with it much change at any football club.  New (less expensive) players come, more players go, coaches, back-room staff and everyone from club shop assistants to dinner ladies are let go as wage bills have to be slashed despite the comparatively small cushion of parachute payments.

Charlton Athletic were relegated from the English Premier League back in 2007; with their captain

(former Ireland international Matt Holland) confirming that during their stint in the top flight they had, all told, more than 300 staff.  Following the drop, that number was immediately cut to under 100.

With Euro 2012 approaching and as many as five Irish Wolves players having realistic chances of being on the plane to Poland; the Old Gold club’s Boys in Green face a far from certain future.

KEVIN DOYLE:

Having signed as Wolves’ record £6.5million signing back in June 2009; the Wexford man was a big part of the reason why Wolves stayed in the Premier League the following two seasons (having been promoted at the end of the 2008-’09 season).  Such was the quality of Doyle’s performances at Wolves that he was linked to numerous higher profile clubs with Arsenal said to have tabled a bid for his services last season.

This campaign has not gone so well for the former Cork City star.  Whilst never a prolific goalscorer, he became known for leading the line on his own up front until the start of this season when Stephen Fletcher regularly took Doyle’s place in the starting line-up and the now 28 year-old Irishman’s role has regularly been limited to that of “impact sub” for the latter half of this season.

PROSPECTS OF STAYING AT WOLVES:

Difficult to say.  Doyle is one of Wolves’ highest earners but he would probably admit that his performances for much of this season, while full of endeavour, have not been up to the standard of his first two campaigns with Wolves.

PROSPECTS OF PLAYING IN THE PREMIER LEAGUE AGAIN:

Good.  His salary will be cut as Wolves enter the Championship next season, though the club will want to keep him as he could help their promotion push back to the top flight.  His newly promoted former club; Reading could well make a bid for him also as the club look to stay in the Premier League next season and ‘Doyler’ is still well known, well respected and well liked by all at the Madejski.

PROSPECTS OF GOING TO POLAND and Euro 2012:

Certain. Barring injury in the last few games of the season; Doyle will definitely be in Giovanni Trapattoni’s 23 man Ireland squad flying to Poland at the start of June.  Not guaranteed a starting role but will definitely get game time.

STEPHEN HUNT:

Having signed in summer 2010; Hunt has been prone to injury, making just 41 league appearances in the near three seasons since and is currently still recuperating from a groin operation following a hernia problem.

PROSPECTS OF STAYING AT WOLVES:

Slim.  As one of Wolves top Premier League earners, Hunt faces a huge cut in wages if he is to stay at the club and Wolves will likely cash in if another side comes in for his services.  Plenty will be interested in him but at drastically reduced terms from his current circa £35,000 per week wage.

PROSPECTS OF PLAYING IN THE PREMIER LEAGUE AGAIN:

Decent but by no means certain.  Turning 31 in August, Hunt is clearly prone to injury, a fact which will now only increase with the passage of time.  Many clubs will be frightened off by this but many club managers will also be taken by Hunt’s tireless work rate on the left wing/left midfield as well as his selflessness and willingness to play for the team.

Another Wolves player to come from Reading, Hunt is also well known by Brian McDermott and with Stephen’s brother Noel still with the Championship champions, the Waterford man could well be offered a role at the club, if on reduced terms from those he enjoyed in Wolverhampton.

PROSPECTS OF GOING TO POLAND and Euro 2012:

Very good but again, not certain.  He needs to fully recover from groin surgery and will likely need to feature in one or two of Wolves’ remaining three fixtures this season if he is to be certain of being on the plane to Poland.  Hunt himself has said he will return to training next week, but time is now running out for him at this late stage of the season.

STEPHEN WARD:

A man moulded very much in the likeness of Mick McCarthy; the man who brought him to the  club back in 2007 from Bohemians.  Mainly thanks to his tireless work rate, the Dubliner, while never the most talented of players has become a Premier League and now, senior Republic of Ireland international, regular.

A most versatile of players, his  ‘preferred’  position would be left back but he has done a job in several roles, including left wing and even up front.

He has also chipped in with some important goals; famously scoring the only goal at Anfield back in late December 2010; a result which was eventually the difference between relegation and Premier League survival for the Midlands club.

PROSPECTS of STAYING AT WOLVES:

Good.  If Ward wants to stay at Wolves, the club would be happy to keep him, though on reduced terms.

PROSPECTS OF PLAYING IN THE PREMIER LEAGUE AGAIN:

Good but not certain.  A real workmanlike player who has made the absolute maximum of his talents, there will likely be a few bottom half Premier League clubs interested in his services.  Whether they would be willing to pay up the remaining three years left on his Wolves contract however, is another matter.  It is likely that the Dubliner will start the 2012-’13 season at Wolves.

PROSPECTS OF GOING TO POLAND and Euro 2012:

Certainty.  A late bloomer; Ward made his international début three months short of his 26th birthday in May last year and has established himself in the Ireland squad since then.

As an ever present in the Wolves’ line up this season; he is one of a few players whose head has never dropped throughout a difficult campaign and he will be on the plane to Poland, with an almost certain starting berth.

KEVIN FOLEY:

Having hardly missed a Wolves’ game since being signed by Mick McCarthy back in August 2007;  Foley has established himself as a solid if unspectacular Premier League right back.

A Luton native; with both his parents hailing from County Kerry; Foley achieved his ambition of representing Ireland first at Under-19 level before establishing himself as the first-choice right-full in the U21′s when Stephen Kelly became over-age.  In 2005 he was named the FAI under-21 Player of the Year.

PROSPECTS OF STAYING AT WOLVES:

Good.  Having settled in Wolverhampton, Foley is likely to be happy to stay.  With the club hopeful of mounting a promotion push next season, Foley will likely want to play a part.

PROSPECTS OF PLAYING IN THE PREMIER LEAGUE AGAIN: Largely dependent on Wolves’ prospects.  If Wolves are not challenging at the top of the Championship table, Foley will likely want to move on.

PROSPECTS OF GOING TO POLAND and Euro 2012:

In the balance.  Having been an ever present in Giovanni Trapattoni’s Ireland squad since the Italian took charge back in 2008;  Foley finally made his competitive début last March against Macedonia.  He impressed enough to play the full 90 minutes as well as friendlies against Scotland and Northern Ireland in the weeks following that game.

Stephen Kelly is ahead of Foley on the right back pecking order and Foley is one on the fringes of the squad, who will however have his fingers crossed that he’ll be on the plane to Poland in early June.

ANTHONY FORDE:

The Limerick man is one for the future having made his Premier League début shortly after his 18th birthday back in November and has made four league appearances since together with Carling and FA Cup appearances.

He has played at numerous levels for the Republic of Ireland and will be confident of forcing his way into Giovanni Trapattoni’s plans for the World Cup qualifiers in the autumn.

PROSPECTS OF STAYING AT WOLVES:

High, certainly for the time being.  Having come up through the Wolves’ Academy, he will start the 2012-’13 season at Molineux.

PROSPECTS of PLAYING IN THE PREMIER LEAGUE AGAIN:

Forde’s Premier League prospects are, for now, dependent on Wolves’ progress next season.  Should he become a regular in the starting line-up and the indications are that he will, the likelihood is that bigger clubs will come looking for this exciting wide midfielder.

PROSPECTS OF GOING TO POLAND and Euro 2012:

Slim.  In all reality; young Anthony won’t be on the plane, but he is definitely one for the future and having played at various under-age levels for Ireland; he will be confident of forcing his way into Giovanni Trapattoni’s plans for the 2014 World Cup qualifiers.

MATT DOHERTY:

The 20 year-old is currently on loan at Pat Fenlon’s Hibs, having joined Wolves from Bohemians back in summer 2010.

Despite never having played a first team game for Bohemians, the right back was spotted playing for during a pre-season friendly against Wolves and invited for a trial before signing a two-year deal (with the option of a further year) to move to the club.

PROSPECTS OF STAYING AT WOLVES:

Very much Mick McCarthy’s man (he sent the former manager a consoling text following the sacking of the former Ireland boss); Doherty has made one Premier League appearance for Wolves in his two years at the club.  With Wolves needing to reduce the size of their squad following relegation, the Dubliner is in danger of being offloaded at the start of next season.

PROSPECTS OF PLAYING IN THE PREMIER LEAGUE AGAIN:

Unlikely; certainly for the foreseeable future.  Doherty is only 20 years-old however so things could change.  He has settled well at Hibs and they will likely want to keep him at the club for next season.

PROSPECTS OF GOING TO POLAND and Euro 2012:

None.  The full-back is not experienced enough as yet to play at senior international level.

AARON McCAREY:

McCarey was a highly regarded goalkeeper with Monaghan United and joined Wolves back in January 2010.  The 20 year-old is Wolves’ fourth choice goalkeeper (though third choice now that Wayne Hennessy is out injured for the next six months).

He has played at several under-age levels for the Republic of Ireland and featured in a number of reserve, friendly and Cup matches for Wolves.

PROSPECTS OF STAYING AT WOLVES:

Poor.  He is likely to be a victim of Wolves’ squad cutting measures, a necessity now that the club have been relegated to the Championship.

PROSPECTS OF PLAYING IN THE PREMIER LEAGUE AGAIN:

Difficult to say.  Will likely join a Championship or League One club in the summer and will need to establish himself there before Premier League aspirations are even considered.

PROSPECTS OF GOING TO POLAND and Euro 2012:

None.  If the tournament was in 18-24 months’ time, McCarey could well have a chance of a squad place, but Ireland have enough goalkeeping cover at the moment.  With Shay Given likely to be retiring at the end of the 2014 World Cup campaign, that could be when the undoubtedly talented McCarey really emerges.

 

So, an uncertain future for all at Wolverhampton Wanderers, none more so than their sizeable Irish contingent.  With a number of the aforementioned seven Irish first team squad members likely to move on, the half-a-dozen Academy players hailing from Ireland also face an anxious few weeks and months.  Welcome to the life of a professional footballer many will argue.

As for Wolves as a whole?  With the proud history of the club, most with an interest in football will hope that the club bounces back from its current plight and the clear displeasure amongst their fans, to return to something approaching their former glories. However, it will likely take some time as well as considerable investment for that to happen.

 


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