A defeat too far?
Sod the stats for the moment. I`ve just shared a carriage back to London with a load of Ipswich supporters and I have more important things on my mind.
If losing to our bitter rivals last year was enough to end MM`s career at Molineux, how much worse is it for his successor to lose - and in such an abject fashion- to the team which Mick is currently managing? Whereas he has revived Ipswich`s fortunes, we are sinking ever more deeply into the mire.
In normal circumstances the Ipswich fixture would not be a must-see at any cost event but because it brought MM back to Molineux it achieved iconic status. For the same reason, it became a must-win game because more than three points were at stake. The outcome would measure how far we had progressed since we sacked Mick after the WBA game.
In my last report I stated that if we lost, it could have a retrograde effect on our thinking because it would imply that we would have been better off had we kept our faith in MM. I still feel the same way. It`s not that we were wrong to sack MM (though he should have gone when it would have made a difference, preferably at the end of our second season in the PL or at worst in the January 2012 window) but rather the response of all the club`s constituent elements: the board, the coaching team, the players and the fans.
Even if MM is proving at Ipswich that he is an excellent Championship manager, I accepted the argument that we should build for the future by appointing someone who would not only take us back to the PL but who would mould a team capable of staying there. The latter is something that MM patently cannot do, even if the ten Ipswich fans I spoke to on the train this evening firmly believe the opposite. Good luck to them!
I also bought into the Solbakken revolution, focusing on his success at Copenhagen rather than on his failure at Cologne. Under him, I thought, we would play attractive football, pinging the ball precisely and at pace around the pitch to players running into position. At the back, defenders would patrol their allotted sector of the field, effortlessly swatting away any incursion into their space. Units, moreover, would work in unison, moving up and back in tandem, thereby putting added pressure on the opposition in attack and providing greater strength in depth in defence.
That`s the theory but in practice it`s an absolute shambles. Is it, as I posed in my last report, the fault of the players, either because they are incapable of executing the plan or because they do not believe in it? Or, is it the fault of the manager (and his coaching team) either because he (they) cannot explain the system properly, because he is too dogmatic and abrasive in his approach or because he does not fully understand the nature of the Championship game?
That a manager like MM can turn round a team like Ipswich and get them to run rings round a side like WW indicates the chasm that exists between Continental sophisticates and British pragmatists. Something has gone dreadfully wrong if a team, stuffed with players who got us into the PL a few short years ago (and improved with one or two foreign imports), could look so clueless on the pitch today. I suspect that the players do not believe in SS`s system and, even if subconsciously, are not really trying to make it work. And, with every defeat, their confidence drops and their resentment increases (as does that of the fans: inevitably the final whistle was accompanied by boos and catcalls). If this is the case - and there was little sign of real effort today- then Solbakken has to go. No manager (this side of Fergie) can buck the wishes of antagonised dressing-room.
If only I could see some progress I might be a little more forgiving but we have gone backwards. At this rate, we are heading for relegation. We were dreadful today and never looked like scoring (as the stats will show when I get round to them).
The players were tentative, couldn`t string passes together and were constantly giving the ball away. Before Ipswich scored their first goal we made several attempts to clear our lines but only succeeded in presenting the ball to the opposition. When we attacked, the movement invariably broke down because of a miscued pass or the potential receiver was not operating on the same wavelength as the passer. If we managed to get a cross in there was no-one running in to slot it home. The only times that SEB ran at pace into the box was when he was fruitlessly chasing back passes.
If we cannot pick up points against average sides like Ipswich, I can see no way forward short of a new manager ... or a massive 'restocking' of our squad. It`s clear that, for whatever reason, relations between SS and the team have broken down and that they are unlikely to improve. A fresh start is needed but the board have to act decisively, either bringing in a new manager or chucking a lot of money at the problem while the January window is open.
If the board does not provide SS with the necessary funds, he has to go because he cannot work with this lot. SM mustn`t make the same mistake as he did with MM and wait too long before sacking him. And,this time there are good candidates available. I favour Sean O`Driscoll as a replacement perhaps with Craddock as cover until the deal is concluded. Come to think about it, why not give him an official position now? He does enjoy the support and respect of the players. My worry is that our tight-fisted board will choose neither of these options but will keep SS on as manager, hoping with fingers crossed that the situation will improve, while giving him a paltry sum to play with.This will surely lead to disaster.
Looking across at the Stan Cullis stand, it becomes an ever greater white elephant as the defeats mount. Just think how useful it would have been to spend the money on players who could have covered the weaknesses in our side. And, that is to put aside the millions we have in our coffers. If we cannot claw back the millions it cost to build that stand, we shouldn`t waste the money we do have at our disposal. At the moment I make this plea not in a spirit of ambition but rather out of desperation.
In the next week or so we will truly see how concerned the board is for the future of Wolverhampton Wanderers FC. At this critical moment in our history, I only hope that its members are fully aware of the gravity of the situation and act accordingly. I'm off to Crystal Palace on Tuesday but I will be travelling more in hope than expectation.