If you happen to be out roaming the Antarctic, one of the last things you would want to encounter is a hungry and desperate wolf. If you did it would be sly and wily, looking for any opportunity to isolate you, wear you down, kill you and feast on your meat. Back to reality and when we talk about Wolves in relation to football it is a very different story…run in to a pack of Wolves in the Premier League and there is a fair chance you wouldn’t even be scared! But Wolves do share some common traits with the animal they share their nickname with…they are both fighting for survival.
Mick McCarthy’s side are struggling once again in this season’s Premier League, a scenario that’s all too familiar to the Wolves fans. Molineux used to be a tough place for any team to visit, but this season Wolves haven’t fared too well at home, saying that they have also been poor away. At least Wolves’ home record is better than their away record; they have picked up 7 points out of a possible 18 at home, whilst they have picked up 4 points from a possible 21 on the road – relegation form if ever I saw it and it is no surprise they lie 4th from bottom.
Wolves are struggling and are a team that, in my opinion, lack real Premier League quality. If we look at their best players on reputation, I would name them as Kevin Doyle, Jamie O’Hara, Roger Johnson, Stephen Hunt and Matt Jarvis, but none of these players are performing. The two shining lights who are performing for Wolves this season are two players that general football fans would have to Google just to find out who they are; David Edwards and Stephen Ward. Funnily enough if you do Google Edwards you have to have a look around Google just to find him.
Wolves could well be bottom if they didn’t have determined and hardworking performers like Ward and Edwards, playing well in a side that is a long way off where McCarthy wants them to be. Other performers haven’t gone unnoticed – although he loves the occasional ‘Rohan Rickett’, Welsh international keeper Wayne Hennessey has kept a few out this season and should also take credit for this season’s current points tally. In a losing team you are never going to have many star performers, but if there is one thing a losing team can do correctly, it’s the basics and this is what this trio have been doing.
Wolves cannot rely on three players all season and perhaps one of the biggest players that needs to step up is ‘big Rodg’ Roger Johnson. One of the summers most talked about defenders, he has struggled to settle fully at Wolves, despite being captain and no doubt desperate to lead by example. The wide-boy that is ‘cockney Rodg’ (not actually a cockney btw) is full of confidence about having England ambitions, but has himself admitted he needs to up his game. It is players/leaders like this that are pivotal to any team, none more so than a team fighting for survival.
With January on the horizon, Mick McCarthy may well be salivating at the thought of bringing another unknown player to the club, to add to the likes of the Berra’s, Milijas’ and Elokobi’s of the football world, who seem to find a home at Wolves. Is it a good scouting network that unearths gems or is Mick McCarthy is an agents dream, as he can be sold pretty much any player on the back of a few YouTube videos? Maybe I am being OTT, but some of the other teams in trouble, like Sunderland, have a lot more established names in their squad, who have proven track records and footballing pedigree’s compared to Wolves.
In my opinion, as much as I like watching his interviews and listening to his quirky comments, it is time for Mick to go. I like the man, there is no vendetta from me, Wolves just scream out to me as a team that have been taken as far as they can go with McCarthy in charge. Let’s not beat around the bush, their players are average and only a handful could go on to occupy Premier League teams in future if Wolves were to be relegated. The players no doubt like Mick, but it seems like the players, fans and the club in general needs a lift. So far the players have rallied around McCarthy and said they are to blame not him, but from the outside something needs to change and it isn’t going to be the squad, chairman or fans.
Mick McCarthy took the reins at Wolves in July 2006 and has done well to a certain extent. Level’s of achievement in football are straightforward to me – Wolves were in the Championship when Mick took over, within a couple of seasons, given the right backing, you would expect a club the size of Wolves to reach the Premier League. Tick for Mick he did that. Once in the Premier League, survival is key for at least two seasons. Tick for Mick…just. Once survived and slightly established, it is then time to aim for a finish of 14th place or above…on current form, Mick McCarthy and his Wolves team are struggling and for me this level has to be reached to signal any progress.
You can earn extra time in your job if you are close to achieving what you need to, but most managers and clubs will have 5 year plans, so for example the building of Wolves XI squad may be a continuous project, but it should be there or thereabouts now for Wolves to progress to the next level and sustain that level once reached. I just don’t think McCarthy can lead Wolves to become a mid-table team and he is in his 6th season in charge.
Wolves’ Premier League survival this season will depend on how good the clubs around them perform, plus the games that will now become ‘6 pointers’ to Wolves. They have already beaten Blackburn and Wigan which is ideal, but they have a tough December with Sunderland on Saturday and Bolton to play at the end of the month. After December will be the time the Wolves board will have to take stock and consider the future of Mick, especially with the transfer window in mind. I like Wolves and Mick McCarthy and there is no doubt the players have to step up…but it just leaves me ‘wander-ing’ if things have gone a bit stale for Mick and change is needed.