In May 2009, the jubilant army of Wolves fans poured onto the pitch in ecstasy having watched their side clinch the Championship title having secured promotion to the Premier League a week before at Molineux.
Almost four years on, a very different scenario came to fruition. Furious fans berated their beaten side, who succumbed to a 2-1 defeat against fellow Championship strugglers Barnsley, in a game they controlled and led in the early stages. A result that sees them slide into the red zone, once again, and closer to a disastrous second successive relegation.
This time last year, Wolves had slipped into the relegation zone of the Premier League for the first time in the campaign after a humiliating 5-1 demolition at home to their black country rivals West Bromwich Albion. What followed was the removal of Mick McCarthy, without doubt Wolves most successful manager since the 1970s, and Armageddon has ensued since.
Dean Saunders is the third man to take on the job which is fast becoming a rather poisoned chalice under the maligned Steve Morgan and Jez Moxey. The players, many of whom have experienced success in this league before, just aren’t responding.
Can Wolves avoid the drop? Of course they can – on paper they’re nowhere near one of the worst three sides in this league. But will they? That is a very different question. The evidence suggests they won’t. Saunders is yet to pick up his first victory since succeeding Stale Solbakken in January. His passion is amicable but his methods are not proving radical enough to turn the tide.
If anything, the team that not so long ago found solace in pluckiness and resilience resembles a wounded and self-pitying animal. Last night’s tactical suicide is a good example. Having taken the early initiative with an early strike from Sigurdason, they snatched defeat from the jaws of victory, abandoning the manful, positive approach for an almost cowardly retreat.
Tactics is a strange and misleading entity to blame misfortune on though. The fact that Wolves played better last night when deploying David Edwards in a wide right position, where he has never proved himself functional, is testimony to that. Ultimately, the players just aren’t working hard enough to see results out.
I’ll rephrase that – working hard doesn’t mean chasing lost causes and making inane tackles in your opponent’s half just to please the crowd. It’s about making angles for your team mates in possession, thinking a few steps ahead of yourself when you receive the ball, making your first touch count, closing down space and making the opposition work harder than you.
None of it is rocket science, but a team that gets it right will beat a team that doesn’t. And we haven’t got it right all season. The bile from the terraces about money hoarding chairmen is a smokescreen for a group of failing footballers who seem to think they are good enough to survive life in a tough but not particularly mind-blowing league.
If Wolves are to get out of this complete mess, they need to start believing that they absolutely can go down. This isn’t a bad patch. We’re not down on our luck. These players are performing worse than any of their counterparts in the league right now.
When he first took the job, Dean Saunders said that football is about “good players working hard.” It’s a simple mantra but one that is hard to argue with. In the context of this league, our players are quite good. Half of our match day squad from last night has won it at some point! As for the working hard part – I remain unconvinced.