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The New Stadium: Pros and Cons

After giving the go-ahead for the redevelopment of Molineux, Steve Morgan may feel somewhat bewildered today if he has taken time to read the mixed reactions from supporters with regard to his decision and its timing.

Most Wolves supporters across the land would welcome the news, delighted with an owner who promised change and continued development upon his arrival, and who has kept his word by rubber-stamping a significant investment, while maintaining the financial stability of the club. But this, of course, is the world of Wolverhampton Wanderers and few could be criticized for comparing this news with memories of so many days gone by - the Hayward era, in particular, springs to mind.

From a club, a matter of hours away from extinction, we were catapulted to Football Focus features, mainly thanks to a young striker by the name of Stephen George Bull. He played under the guidance of Graham Turner, to whom we shall forever be in debt for having the sense to splash out £64,000 on the Tipton striker. Life at Wolves suddenly felt better. As a club on the rise, Sir Jack stormed in and, with funds at his disposal, built us a brand new stadium to replace one falling apart. Moreover, year after year he 'invested' in the team and willed great successes upon it.

Sadly, elsewhere, another Jack - a Mr. Jack Walker - took the same resources we managed to waste over the course of a decade, and hazarded it all on an all or nothing gamble at Blackburn. Never the most fashionable of clubs, their fans will never forget the two euphoric years that followed, while Wolves fans were left in a state of perplexed frustration to add to the fifteen 'lost' years in what proved to be the old Second Division.

Comparisons are surely inevitable. Even if Stephen Morgan is not exactly a 'new' owner and is one set in a very different mould to Sir Jack, both have ventured millions of their own money and have been instrumental in the redevelopment of the old/new Molineux. So, we cannot be blamed for drawing similar thoughts and emotions, based, as they are, on our often painful memories of the fluctuating fortunes of the club.

Anyone who wants to criticize Sir Jack - and there are plenty who do - should ponder awhile. Little did we know at the time, but the funds invested were on a loan basis which Jack, with one of two final bows to the club, wrote off. Similarly, whereas he could have asked for between £15m. and £20m. for WWFC, Jack not only sold the club for a tenner, but only did so on the promise from his successor that he would invest heavily to secure a bright future for the club. For the record, Jack is still paying the price, as he is facing a court case brought forward by his own family, peeved at being written out of our club`s stock (they are effectively claiming he is of unsound mind.)

Anyway, here we stand today: another chapter in our history.

While fools among us will tittle-tattle on that Morgan is a Liverpool fan, who only took Wolves over because he couldn't get his 'dream team', cast your mind back to the day when we won promotion. Ecstatic, he declared that his colours had changed forever and that he looked forward to beating Liverpool, which we recently did, to our mutual joy.

Cast your minds back to the oddly quiet character of significant wealth, who need not have compromised his self-made fortune by taking on, and investing in a football club, that (let's face it) needed 'a bit of work`. Steve Morgan passed on his tenner with a broad grin and a great dream. He is a football fan the same as the rest of us, and while few of us could imagine ploughing our hard earned cash into the coffers of another, Morgan saw a club of rich tradition and history and drew up a plan to return it to its former glory.

When we first read the story as it broke, we were thrilled to see that Morgan was keeping his word and that his vision for the club is now, literally, being set in stone. At the same time, we are being torn by a very simple issue, based on two key questions: the timing of the decision and the inference that a bigger stadium is more important than improving our squad.

Many fans, ourselves included, were hoping for significant signings (or loans) in January as our chances of survival were precarious to say the least. I (NYCW) argued several weeks ago, based purely on assumption, that to keep us up Morgan had handed Mick a £20m. budget for the season with a licence to 'spend it as you will`. Considering our lack of investment during the transfer window, I (NYCW) believe that Mick saw weaknesses in certain areas that required attention and spent the money accordingly during the summer. Arguably, he was looking to get off to a decent start and, building from that, hoped to avoid the situation we currently find ourselves in.

Leading into the season we thought that MM had made some astute signings. Fletcher had scored a significant number of goals in a team ultimately relegated and nets for us whenever he plays. So, why he has played so few games?.

Over JVD we differ, though agreeing that his signing reflected Mick`s realization that he had to strengthen the left back position. NYCW felt it was a mistake to play the bloke on the left of midfield and, had he selected him in his natural position, he would have played week in week out and would have stayed. Perhaps, he would have helped us move up the table. SB60, on the other hand, argues that the friendlies proved to MM that he was not the answer to the left back problem. Even so, he could have fought for the shirt, as did Milijas and Zubar (and, we hope, Fletcher). Others have been struck down with injury, Hunt, who arrived injured, has shown signs of repaying MM`s belief in him.

Ultimately, last season, we finished 15th. (8 points clear of relegation) and having spent £18m. during the summer, another relegation battle was never going to be acceptable to many of us … and never will be. Even so, Mick kept his job while others, who can boast greater achievements, have lost theirs.

The three Ms have transformed the club and its culture in a remarkably short period of time. As the January window indicates, long gone are the days when we would charitably pay out hefty pay cheques to those of former glory. Indeed, we have made progress through investing in young and hungry players with potential. Following our promotion, therefore, we fans could anticipate a very exciting future, one to be utterly proud of.

Sadly, the reality is that we still face relegation and, if we do go down, the heart of the club will be torn apart. Doyle and Jarvis will leave within days, quickly followed by Fletcher, Hennessey, Hunt, Milijas and Zubar, SEB could attract interest, as will the likes of Kightly and Hammill (as he did just before we signed him) and even Berra and Stearman might attract offers. In addition, Everton were apparently interested in Henry. Initially, we calculated that we might lose three or four crucial players but, on closer examinination, concluded that many members of the squad might be keeping their options open.

Relegation will spell doom for the club: for instance, they will not be able to maintain the inflated wages the star players have received, a bonus for promotion and for ensuring a second season in the Premiership. Of course, it was wise to protect our investment in our players by giving them long contracts (Jarvis, in particular) but we will not be able to afford the luxury if we end up in the Championship.

This season, both of us gave up making predictions long ago. There is no logic to it at all. We may stand a mere two points from safety, with a real chance of matching last season`s finish of 15th place, but, as SB60 points out, there is every likelihood (based on our results against lesser teams and our closest rivals) that we might sink without trace.

Regarding the stadium: NYCW doesn't think it is brave or silly for the following reasons. It may not be such a bad thing to reduce the capacity to 24,000 next season because if we are relegated, we will be lucky to attract that many to matches. The announcement finally proves that Morgan truly supports MM and that he really believes that we could beat the drop. SB60, on the other hand, feels that he is taking a helluva risk. Perhaps over the months he had decided, come what may, that he was going to build so why wait (he has said as much today).

The flip side of the coin is the cost. We are dismayed that we appear to have put up an initial £16m: whatever the payment arrangements, it is still a significant investment. Surely, it would be preferable to turn the priorities round: improving the facilities as the team progresses on the pitch.

The more we look at the phasing of this operation, the more it makes reasonable sense on paper, as well as being very clever in design. We will suffer reduced capacity and, with relegation still a genuine possibility, it will not matter because we will be lucky to attract 24,000 people for any game, on the assumption/fact ticket prices will not be reduced.

We also fear that relegation, if not anticipated, is being prepared for. Thus, the argument goes, with further planned investment, significantly funded from the proceeds of selling our best players (those mentioned above could bring in somewhere between £30m. and £40m.), we can bounce straight back. And, we will do so with enough seating for a Championship audience. If we do win promotion at the first attempt, capacity will be increased to meet yet another wave of hope and optimism.

If we do stay up and strengthen our squad to enable us to climb the table, we will be reduced to squeezing in 24,000 people each week. Fans will complain that they can`t get a ticket. In this case, management can argue that the timing was right, pointing to this season`s attendances, which shows that we can`t even fill fewer than 29,000 seats. Yet, as the team improves, seats will become available.

Considering the variables, there was never going to be a 'right time` to hit the green button. So, we are happy that we have someone at the helm who set out a mission statement, promised to invest and who kept his word. Even so, if Steve Morgan had invested this (stadium) money in our squad, we would have eased our way to safety this season and future development would have proven apt, with regards timing and probably more in tune with our expectancies and reasoning.

In the meantime, those, who think relegation will prove the demise of MM, should think again. He was and remains part of the blueprint with regards our club and future planning, as orchestrated from the very top. This decision underlines Morgan's faith in his manager. No knee jerk reaction occurred despite the rare abundance of highly regarded managers during our times of greatest concern. How often will the likes and quality of Martin O'Neill and Sam Allardyce be available at the same time (as they still are)?

McCathy has demonstrated his absolute confidence that he will be in charge at the start of next season, regardless of which division we find ourselves in, and, for us, such confidence can only come from assurances from the top. In reality, with such a grand vision in place for 'his club`, Morgan will stick with McCarthy for the foreseeable future.

Nonetheless, everyone has a limit and the day he feels his - and our future - is being jeopardized will prove the day our manager leaves, rest assured. Rolling back the years, Kenny Dalglish reacted to the Torres sale by insisting, 'no player is bigger than any club`. The goes for managers and owners, but, as decision-makers, owners outlive several managers by their own judgment.

Speaking of management, judgment, planning and vision, we are glad we have Steve Morgan at the helm. For ourselves- and all true Wolves fans out there - we hope to enjoy and witness the realization of his dream. Regarding our future, the next thirteen games may prove to be the most important in decades. But SB60 is a little less sanguine of our chances than NYCW is!




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The Journalist

Writer: southbank60 Mail feedback, articles or suggestions

Date:Friday February 11 2011

Time: 6:45PM

Your Comments

Keep mick and you will stay up, sack him and you could go down, it was the same with hull, if they had of kept phill brown there is no doubt in my mind that they would still be in the premiership.
nel yid
the only con is that the capacity will be temporarily reduced.. other than that there are none. the club isn't going to be in debt unlike so many other clubs that build new stadiums or redevelop current ones. if we didnt do it now when should we?
SmithyWolves
You're right Smithy, just as long as the development plans do not prejudice funds for new players. Moreover, if we go down, we don't need any extra capacity. Of course, it will be nice to have better facilities but, if I have to choose, I would prefer better players.
Southbank60
Thanks for dropping by Nel, and sharing- you raise a good point about Brown but neither of us here are calling for a sacking. However, having proven the third biggest spenders last summer, on the back of staying up, ultimately with relative comfort (8 points) relegation will go arm in arm with tremendous losses. If the club faces such loss, the fans, who will be expected to pay at least the same money if not more to watch Championship football, then the man at the helm should expect to face a relative loss- his job. I have said until I am blue in the face that I truly hope Mick can sort this out, and keep us up, but based on the quality we already had at the club, and the money spent trying to improve it, relegation simply is not acceptable and he should go. He won't, but he should. On a brighter note, I actually think we will stay up- my main concern is that we may face a third relegation battle but at this point in time, that is too far ahead to give much thought to. Smithy, you raise a good point' when would have proven a good time to develop? I wasn't being critical- I have respected Morgan and his approach since he arrived, and this delivery is typical of him- you hear nothing for months, and okay we were waiting for the decision, but instead of flipping backwards and forwards over reecent months he has quietly figured it out and gone for it. My main point is that the decision, and timing is 'clever'- for those that rule the roost all arguments can be met. Am I annoyed by this 'clever' plan? It's not Dr. Evil & Austin Powers so no. I'd rather have smart thinkers running the club, and investing in it 'wisely' (I shall return to this point) than idiots who crave success/survival yesterday and will jeopardize a clubs existence in order to put their names in the history books. What does rankle, as Banksy and myself put forward from different angles, is that we should have concentrated on the team first, stadium second. It's a grand plan that could lead to a restoration of our great past but if I want a cafe and a museum I can visit one any time I want. Let's put it this way- I took my new wife, who has quickly proven a dedicated and passionate Wolf, to her first ever football match on Boxing Day. We were both annoyed that it took fifteen minutes to get a cup of Bovril- but I think she was more upset than me that we had just seen Wolves made to look foolish, and lose, to Wigan Athletic. I can't sum it up better than that. If we can spend that much money on the first phase we could and should have spent more in January to ensure this dream walks hand in hand with Premiership football. If a pie and a pint is the answer to upsetting 5,000 plus season ticket holders I trust the new facilities will include a 7 course dinner against Doncaster, and a cake with your name on it against Colchester- delivered to your seat on the assumption you can secure one.
New York City Wolf
yeh but if u look at teams that have gone down that have big stadiums they always bounce back because they can generate enough revenue to invest in the team. newcastle, sunderland, west ham. and its only a matter of time til leeds will be back. i think that while we only get 28,000 a game (at most) we will always have the salary cap and spending restrictions because we have to be careful. with a bigger stadium we should be able to make that step of investing big money money on big players. i don't think its completely worth it if it gets left at 36,000.. thats not a great improvement capacity wise.. 50,000 is worth it for definate so i hope they go ahead with that.. i just hope we can fill 50,000 seats too
SmithyWolves
We took 50,000 to Wembley when we were a 4th division side so there is no question we have a massive fan base; I can't say too much about attendance because, whilst having had plenty of season tickets when I lived in the country, I am of course restricted to making a couple of games per season when I get home; the main point is that we are in the Premiership now and we have filled the stadium once. Newcastle and Sunderland have maintained 40,000 + crowds for as long as we care to remember, but whist such numbers should in theory amount to continued financial stability and growth, taking continued transfer investment into account, it has not always proven the case based on stupidity of ownership- Newcastle have twice in recent times found themselves in the financial mire thanks to spending well beyond their means and being lumped with silly wages no one else will pay, hence finding themselves stuck with players and literally paying for it. I wouldn't trust Ashley to manage a raffle, but for all his stupidity, he has slowly began to recoup a percentage of the debts ran up, the sale of Carroll who's injury persists was a master stroke. During the ongoing survival series, I asked Everton why they don't have any money despite the fact they have been in the Premiership forever and a day, and have always maintained big crowds- I don't know exactly when the damage was done but apparently they ran up huge loans and use the Sky money every year just to keep up with payments and ever increasing intrest. Back to the Wolves, we can be thankful our club is being ran in a sensible financial manner. Regarding the salary cap, it is in place as we know, but the majority of the players who got us promoted and kept us up have been granted improved contacts as they should- although Stearman is reportedly on more than 30k per week and Henry close to, if not 40k. I would say that some players wages over the course of almost 3 years have almost doubled their salaries which we have been able to match with the fifty or sixty million we have earned from two Premiership campaigns. Attendances will plumet if we do get relegated, and the wages would outstrip revenue, but I am not even concerned about that because hardly any of them will stick around- Doyle and Jarvis are Premiership players and in the event we go down both will have at least half a dozen sides lining up for them and I would not hold it against them in leaving- Doyle is 27 now; when Reading got relegated he was loyal enough to give it a season to get back when he could have moved, and they happily let him go after they failed to do so. I can't see him spending another season outside the top flight. Hennessey, Foley, Stearman, Henry and Milijas you can add to the list, and I can see teams coming in for the likes of Ebanks Blake and Kightly if he ever proves fit. 7 of the 9 mentioned have had interst reported at some point or another over the past couple of years- I don't think relegation will mean the club 'having' to sell any of the players mentioned, especially if there is an assumption (a dangerous one) that we would get back up at the first attempt. The reality is the clubs will come in for those players and if prices are met they will go. Relegation will tear this squad apart- as mentioned in the article it is all well and good pulling in thirty or forty million but if we can't attract big game players, established quality when we are in the Premiership there is absolutely no chance if we are in the Championship- the club would not change the blue print anyway, it will continue with young quality with big futures and whilst it is the best cultural policy we have employed since I have been around, it proves redundant if we lose those very players we have developed because we have somehow failed to maintain Premiership status. Getting promoted did not happen overnight, all credit to Mick he built something great but its fair to say the wheels have been seriously wobbling for some time. You can't expect to put a new squad together over the course of a short summer and expect it to run away with the title. I really am glad of the development plans but if we can't fill the stadium now the team is going to have to be producing something pretty special if it ever expects to entertain 37,000 let alone 50,000. We are in a position where we could be two or three years away from returning to some great times, which only increases the despair regarding our present situation. Mick has my support and I truly hope we do stay up, because relegation could put us back three years which would be a disaster considering the progress we have made over the past four years.
New York City Wolf
Its Mr. Morgan´s money, so he can choose what to do with it. I think Wolves can attract 36 000 to a match without problems - if I would be living up to 200 km within the area, I would be comming to every match. But I live 1800 km away :P - so I can come only once or twice a year :) Btw guys, I remember a month ago Mick said, that even if we get relegated, there will be no players sale-off, that the players know, if relegated, they will stick with him - Big Nose :P - and they will have to get us back........ Am I too naive to believe that ?
PanFiluta
Probably ... but it depends on the size of the offer. With the inflation in transfer fees, who knows what Doyle would be worth. For sure, it's a lot more than £9m.
Southbank60
we . simply. have. to . stuff. the . *****.
Ad Mant
yes panfiluta, i think its pretty obvious that hammil was bought in to replace jarvis when liverpool make their silly money bid in the summer. thing is, hammil is really good so im not even sure it would be such a big loss - and if we could pump that cash into a decent LB then wahey !!!
Ad Mant
Blimey! I got a lot of aggro when I tentatively suggested this scenario. And the more I see of Hammill, the more I think it will happen. I am worried that Liverpool will switch their interest!
Southbank60
If Ronaldo had shown the fancy footwork that Hammill did on Saturday, leaving Asharvin looking like a complete Arsenal, it would have been shown thirty times on Match Of The Day but at the same time, whilst he had the ball in their left hand corner late in the game, he managed one of the most accurate passes of the day which went to a red and white shirt, and they nearly scored from it- I think we have signed a quality player but I think he has a long way to go. Shame our thoughts are dominated by Championship football. Can't help dreading it myself but I still think we will stay up- I've had an oddly happy Monday. Perhaps tomorrow I will gripe.
New York City Wolf
 

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