On the 25th April 2009 Wolves fans were on the pitch, celebrating an astonishing promotion to the most prestigious league in Britain.
Five years later, a minority of thugs besmirched the name of my great club by committing acts of mindless violence in front of the countries cameras. Hoardings were strewn across the pitch and holes were left in the home dugout as the police rounded up the large minority of predominantly south bank ticket holders back to the very stand they sit in every two weeks. The 2-1 loss to a Burnley side that have got one foot on the beach, and essentially condemned Wolves to a second relegation in as many years, became insignificant as extra police were called in to contain the supporters who entered the field of play. Things were to get even worse as the disgruntled thugs set about their own stadium by smashing up the monitors and causing further chaos.
This was all in response to an astonishingly limp and lifeless performance from a Wolves team who played as if they were in mid table and were not looking over their shoulder at another relegation. Sean Dyche’s men came to the Molineux in very poor form, with only 2 wins in their last 10, they them selves were looking over their shoulders and hoping not to fall down the slippery slope of relegation. In contrast their opponents, Wolves, came into the game with a rather contrasting run of form, in the last 10 games, the men in gold have drawn just 1 and have either won or lost the remaining 9 matches. Dean Saunders had two games to save the club from an unprecedented consecutive relegation to England’s third tier of football after Jonothan Obika’s last minute, gut wrenching, strike snatched a point away from the Wolves at The Valley last Saturday.
Dyche made three changes from the draw at Turf Moor against the now champions, Cardiff City. Martin Paterson, David Edgar and Michael Duff came in for Ross Wallace, Junior Stanislas and Michael Duff as Burnley looked to get 3 points to quell any sort of fears about the “R” word. With that in mind, Burnley lined up with Lee Grant in goal, a back four consisting of Kieran Trippier, Jason Shackell, Michael Duff and Daniel Lafferty. In front of them were Danny Ings, Chris McCann, Dean Marney and David Edgar, Sean Dyche’s front pairing were Martin Paterson and the former Wolves man Sam Vokes. An appendix operation kept the Clarets’ record goal scorer, Charlie Austin, out, something that was seen to be a blessing for Wolves’ backline.
Wolves were unchanged from the 2-1 loss in southeast London last Saturday. Meaning Dean Saunders lined his team up with Dorus De Vries between the sticks. Jack Robinson and Matt Doherty sat in at left and right back respectively, the Latvian, Kaspars Gorkss, partnered former captain Roger Johnson. Wolves’ midfield was Sigurdarson, Henry, Doumbia and Ward with Stephen Hunt “in the hole” behind Kevin Doyle. 3 full backs, 2 defensive midfielders and 1 striker, quite a negative line up considering Wolves had to win to have any sort of chance of staying in the Championship. Morale was lifted when player of the season, Bakary Sako, was named on the bench along with academy graduates Liam McAlinden, Danny Batth and Aaron McCarey. In addition, a player, who sadly, just missed out on the coveted player of the year by what must have been only a few votes, Eggert Jonsson, was named amongst the substitutes.
The weather had been mixed before kick off but the sun burnt through the dense, black clouds as Kevin Doyle and former Derby man, Jason Shackell, led their men out to rapturous applause from all four corners of the ground. Wolves applied early pressure in the first phases of play, Lee Grant’s misguided kick eventually fell to the feet of Tongo Doumbia who unleashed his right foot on the North Bank’s goal, his shot landed inches wide. A few minutes later Stephen Hunt’s back post header was saved well by Lee grant, the nerves were, dare I say, settling as the last few fans took their places. These late comers were in for a shock when Kieran Trippier found him self down Burnley’s right hand side, Stephen Ward continued to stand off him as he advanced forward, cut inside, and found Danny Ings just inside Wolves’ 18 yard box. Ings turned on a sixpence and dispatched his shot past Dorus de Vries’ right hand side. Cheers and applause came from a small corner of the north bank as Wolves’ very bruised chin was taken another battering.
After 10 minutes of taking stock and defending some Burnley half chances, including a tame Sam Vokes header, Hunt drove through the heart of Burnley’s midfield and directed his mazy run to the left of field, the resulting cross was headed out, yet again, to an oncoming Tongo Doumbia whose rasping, venomous drive went left of Grant’s right hand side. Darren Sheldrake gave Michael Duff the first yellow card of the afternoon when he was found to have cynically tripped Kevin Doyle. The short free kick found Stephen Ward whose accurate ball was pushed out for a corner, which came to nothing in the end. Burnley found themselves on their left hand side, the ball in found Sam Vokes whose point blank, 2 yard header, was expertly saved by the big Dutch man in goal, his fingertips prevented Wolves’ misery from getting any worse. The ball bobbled around Wolves’ goal after Danny Ings had whipped the it back in once more, fortunately Roger Johnson took charge and smashed it out of danger.
At around about the half hour mark, Karl Henry broke up play and fed the ball to Sigurdarson who had the chance to make his mark on the game after being relatively quite up until now, he slipped the ball out to Kevin Doyle on his left hand side who found Stephen Hunt, his ball in found the head of the oncoming Roger Johnson, his header rippled the back of the net, sending Wolves fans crazy, for about 10 seconds or so. Unfortunately, the linesman’s flag was up and the supporters joy was short lived. With around 5 minutes to go Dorus De Vries’ pin point long ball found Stephen Hunt who turned and drove at Burnley’s backline, unfortunately, his ball did not have the required fizz needed to make Sigurdarson job easier, his header went wide. The home team’s pressure continued when Stephen Ward’s cross was fumbled by the Burnley keeper and the ball fell to Kevin Doyle who had an empty net to fire at, he did, but a defender was on the line to halt his shot.
The teams arrived, unchanged, for the second half as the supporters took their seats. The start of the half was staggeringly dull, scrappy in the middle of the park, the ball was always in the air and the fans were getting frustrated. With 10 minutes gone Burnley took a corner, it was cleared away, parallel to the touchline, Ings saw the ball come back to him, with no one within 5 yards of him, his powerful, low ball fell to Martin Paterson who thundered it in to the top corner. It took Wolves’ defenders 2 or 3 seconds to react to ball in by which time Paterson had wheeled away to celebrate with the travelling away support, there is no excuse for that sort of defending, it was terrible. There were 9 Wolves players in the box, including De Vries, for the second goal and only 1 of them even attempted to block Paterson’s shot. Scenes then turned vitriolic and angry, “Morgan what’s the score? Morgan, Morgan what’s the score?” was the chant of choice from the Wolves fans as De Vries picked the ball out the net once again. Saunders, after seeing the 2nd go in, decided to make a change, Stephen Ward and Bjorn Sigurdarson came off for Nouha Dicko and Bakary Sako, who ran on to an elated crowd, overjoyed to see their talisman back. Wolves registered their first 2nd half shot on goal at around about the 65th minute when Stephen Hunt’s header was flicked over the bar. Wolves were handed a lifeline when Duff cynically tripped Kevin Doyle, once again, and Darren Sheldrake gave the Northern Ireland man his marching orders, ironic cheers ensued as Duff pulled his boarding pass out of his sock. (That didn’t happen, but I like to think it did)
Absolutely nothing happened until the introduction of academy starlet, Liam McAlinden. He came on for Stephen Hunt, who looked utterly exhausted and deserved his ovation from the crowd. Since the Millwall game at The New Den, Stephen Hunt’s game has picked up, his hard work and endeavour gave Wolves some sort of hope of staying up. Hopefully he will be here next year to help the youngsters that are coming through. One of these youngsters nearly had an instant impact, McAlinden’s curling 25-yard shot evaded Lee Grant in goal, sadly, it went straight past the post. It was an exquisite shot from such a young player that fully merited the standing ovation it got by the fans, it was the highlight, for Wolves at least, in the whole of the 2nd half.
Hopefully he will be here next year to fire Wolves back into the Championship, McAlinden optimises the philosophy Wolves simply have to put into practice next year, young players, desperate for the shirt, in a league where the pressure will be great. They have to be trusted to save Wolves, because, lets face it, all the other senior players have been utterly abysmal for the past 2 seasons.
There was so little quality in the last 15 minutes, Wolves offered nothing, and Burnley looked comfortable to contain us. We played as if we were in 10th place and already planning for next season, where as, in reality, we had to win in order to have any hope of staying up. That was the worst thing about it, Wolves did not even try, Gorkss and Johnson passed it around the back like they were 2 nil up. With time almost up, Bakary Sako showed a glimpse of the quality that has stopped Wolves getting relegated earlier, when his rasping 25-yard drive went inches over the bar, seconds later the outstanding Jack Robinson cut inside unleashed a low drive that Lee Grant tipped around the side of his post. The resulting corner eventually found the substitute, Nouha Dicko, whose volley from 5 yards nearly took the net out of the ground. Cheers were there, but they were minimal, as hope had all but faded from the Molineux faithful.
The referee’s whistle was blown after the 4 minutes of added time had elapsed and the scenes at our beloved ground turned angry and bitter. It started with one youngster who ran on. And as the saying goes, “when it rains it pours”, soon almost 300 fans had entered the field of play, with their fingers pointing firmly in the direction of Steve Morgan and Jez Moxey. Roger Johnson had to be restrained by stewards and his team mates as one fan decided to square up to him. Mindless. The players were all safely taken back to the dressing rooms as a solid brick wall of orange high visibility jackets stopped fans who would have no doubt wanted to go to the players dressing room and give them what for.
Grown men, with women and children watching, took their anger out on the dugout as punches were swung, Solbakken style. In addition the hoardings took a battering as the boards were bashed thrown around. It was a sickening scene to see, defenceless stewards were pushed to the ground and kicked by a small number of fans. It can never be condoned, ever.
We are all emotion and passionate Wolves fans, we are all angry at what we have seen on and off the pitch for the past 2 years, but I fail to see how smashing up your own ground, in front of the countries media, is going to achieve anything, it has just dragged the clubs good name through some mud that is certainly not welcomed, it is in enough trouble as it is. The fall of Wolves has been incredible, since Peter Odemwinge’s strike finished us off in the 5-1 derby defeat, we have been on the slide ever since. The decision-making has no doubt, been naïve and wrong, but blaming Moxey and Morgan for absolutely everything is wrong. They are partly to blame, but look at the squad that has been assembled, using Morgan’s money lest we forget. A squad with Sako, Doumbia and Sigurdarson along with current players like Johnson, Doyle and Henry should have never been in this awful situation. You do not need that coached into you, we have a talented bunch of players who should easily be a top 10 team.
Wolves are down, barring a miracle, and frankly, I do not want that miracle to come, we deserve to go down, it is as simple as that. If it takes Wolves a year or two in the third tier to rebuild the squad, remodel the philosophy and reassess the objectives of the club then so be it. A losing mentality has been running through the club like a cancer for a long time now and it needs ripping out, it is corrupting the heart and soul of our beloved club. It is a collective effort, open and frank talks are needed by everyone, the owners, the fans and the players in the close season to stop this historic club slipping further into the abyss.
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