For what it’s worth I wasn’t in the least bit surprised to see Wolves dispense with the services of Mick McCarthy on Monday. The fact it took them until mid-February to finally pluck up the courage to sack their manager of five-years after a torrid run of results was arguably more perplexing. 16 points from 22 games and only three wins since October culminating in the 5-1 defeat at the hands of rivals West Brom proved to be the final straw for chairman Steve Morgan and chief executive Jez Moxley. With two weeks to spare until their next fixture away at Newcastle the Molineux board have a small window in which to operate as they search for McCarthy’s replacement. The temptation to jerk the knee should be avoided at all costs. Signing up any Tom, Dick or Harry will only end in tears. It’s a decision that requires a level head and a sensitive touch. It’s a job for an individual bursting at the seams with Premier League pedigree. But who exactly do Wolves turn to in their hour of need?
McCarthy’s departure was high on the inevitable list of events to occur in 2012. It’s a miracle he managed to hold out so long before the board finally bit the bullet and axed him. Many fans have questioned whether the decision to sack him at this stage of the season is appropriate. It was evident that the wheels were slowly starting to come off after five-consecutive defeats from September overlapping into October. The question being asked is why not wield the axe there and then? The timing leaves both Morgan and Moxley with a choice that will put their judgement skills to the test. Options are limited for the duo who need a man capable of galvanising a playing squad critically lacking in morale. Survival is the only objective for whoever picks up the reigns from McCarthy. But, to be honest, there aren’t a lot of managers roaming free that look up to the test of keeping Wolves in the top flight.
Twitter was awash with speculation and Chinese whispers with triumphant Zambia coach Harve Renard receiving a substantial amount of public backing although a majority weren’t Wolves fans. Alan Curbishley was the first man to officially throw his hat into the ring declaring his interest before McCarthy had managed to clear out his office. Talk about jumping into a friend’s grave before it’s cold! Steve Bruce has also emerged as a contender to fill the gaping void in the Molineux dugout. Whilst neither manager has set the Premier League alight in the past they do possess the necessary experience to inspire the players into saving their top-flight skins. Bruce, in particular, took under-performing Sunderland and transformed them into a mid-table side during his two and a half year spell on Wearside. He’s the kind of manager Wolves are crying out for. Someone with that extra dollup of top-flight knowledge to dig them out of a hole that is consuming them at an alarming rate. Avoiding the impulse to install a stop gap won’t save the club from what looks like an unavoidable fate at this current moment in time.
Should they turn to Bruce, or someone of similar ilk, the task of stimulating the playing squad will determine their fate. With the Championship trap door opening wider with every passing week instant results are essential if survival is to be achieved. It’s a feat that’s not totally inconceivable considering the players currently at the club. The likes of Steven Fletcher, Kevin Doyle, Jamie O’Hara, Matt Jarvis and Roger Johnson are all quality performers on their day but simply lost their fizz under McCarthy. A new manager with new methods and fresh ideas could invigorate them, but it’s up to the club’s hierarchy to determine who could provide the stimulus. Sunderland have benefitted from a change in personnel with Martin O’Neill turning the Black Cats into European contenders since taking charge at the beginning of December.
It’s a tricky time for Wolves right now as they enter a new chapter in their history. A new leader could define their fate in the coming weeks with 13 games left to play and put a survival plan into action. Dropping into the Championship could cripple the Midland’s giants and bring them to their knees. Birmingham City know the financial cost of a club losing their Premier League status and the Wanderers board will want to avoid that scenario at all costs. Ensuring they select the right man to fill the void left by the likeable McCarthy will be, arguably, the biggest decision Morgan and Moxey will ever have to make. But is it too late?
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