Building Bridges to the Fans
In an interview yesterday our new manager prioritized the task of re-establishing good relations between the players and the fans. In this respect, he didn`t go far enough because many of us would set poor management at the top and an inept and spineless coaching team alongside the lazy, uncommitted and self-centred players as reasons for our precipitous decline.
However, it`s a start and one which he has backed up with positive action. For instance, he has emailed all season holders, individually inviting them to apply to accompany him on a tour of the club`s museum. A nice touch, it also aligns him with our glorious history. He`ll also be living in our midst, that is, if he can find a place big enough in the Wolverhampton area to soak up all the money he will receive from the sale of his house in St. Albans. He can get the Express & Star delivered to his door too.
Of course, it`s one thing to recognize a problem and another to solve it. Even knowing the solution- success on the pitch- is not completely under his control. Apart from the Herculean task of motivating a bunch of demoralized and/or disruptive players, he has to work within the ... er ... straitjacket of the board`s restrictive guidelines. Not only will it be difficult for him to offload the overpaid, underperforming and troublesome 'stars`, he will also have to fill the gaps on a tight budget.
At least, he has a partial solution to hand, in the shape of an excellent crop of youngsters, who will surely have a major influence on determining our fortunes next season. Ironically, it`s the ideal time and situation for them to come to the fore. And they will, unless, as in the case of Doherty, Davis, Forde, Cassidy, McAlinden and, especially, Batth, previous mismanagement has alienated them from the club.
It`s what we have been demanding for some time but, by itself, giving youth its head will not guarantee success. Indeed, if we could not keep our place in the Championship in spite of the 'quality` of our squad, what can be guaranteed in the footballing world? Moreover, we need to blend a degree of experience with the exuberance (and impetuosity) of youth. Of the old guard, only Hunt showed the attributes of skill, determination and commitment that is needed for a suitable role-model ... and he`s leaving. Personally, I would extend his contract so useful could prove to us. After all, he won over the fans with his positive approach and incredible work-rate.
If KJ is worried about the response of the fans to the calamitous events of the past two or three years, he is probably mostly concerned about the attitude of the crowd in the Jack Harris Stand, the resort of the infamous South Bankers. The fans on the stand`s 'terracing` (I legitimately stood behind the goal there in the 1950s) are both the embellishment of the club and its bugbear. Reacting to events on the pitch in basic Pavlovian terms, they raucously sing the team`s praises when it is winning but boo or shout abuse as soon as things start to go wrong.
Without wishing to bash those supporters, whose passion for the club is undeniable, their response to the shortcomings displayed weekly on the pitch did aggravate the problem. For all the inflated incomes, players like RJ and JOH are really sensitive individuals who need to be nurtured. One should only show dissent if one feels that the players are not trying ... um ... no,really, it is counter-productive to boo.
In a sense, the South Bankian view of events offers a distorted picture of the reaction of the fans as a whole because the atmosphere there is so heated and the crowd so strident that the noise drowns out the sedate clapping and the mild rebukes that emanate from the people around me in the Billy Wright Stand, for instance. It's our fault. The whole of Molineux should reverberate to a constant Sladian 'wall of sound`, urging the team on to greater endeavour. Then, we could drown out the boos ... or, better still, intimidate the opposition and improve the chances of a victory. As KJ admits in his message to the season ticket holders, the club needs the wholehearted support of fans if the team is to succeed.
Unfortunately, fans` attitudes are not only shaped by the current fortunes of the team but also by an awareness of our club`s illustrious history. It affects me. I personally witnessed the golden age of WWFC in the 1950s from my vantage point behind the goal on the South Bank, with occasional reallocation to the stand to watch the likes of Honved, Spartak and Real Madrid. When Swinbourne scored the winner against Honved in December 1954 one ten-year old boy got so excited that he jumped up and down and broke his seat.
Even so, I am a privileged supporter because for most fans the experience of following WWFC is one of declining fortunes, interrupted by rare highlights and false dawns. And, yet they, as well as me, cling to the notion that we are a great club and that we should rightfully be playing in the PL. Regrettably, it fuels our resentment of the team or certain individuals when things go wrong, as they have spectacularly done so recently.
Nonetheless, we are a great club and I say this not just because of our history or because I am a lifelong supporter of my local team. We could be great again: we have the fan-base, a modern stadium, excellent training and medical facilities and elite Academy status. Our name alone sets us apart from the run-of-the-mill teams, though we do have to temper our pride with a dose of reality.
We might even have unearthed a manager, who could start the revival. He`s trying to improve relations with the fans and he should be given a real chance to turn our fortunes round. Please give him time: don`t criticize him at the first set-back. I only hope that the board (aka JM and SM) adopt a more positive attitude to KJ than they have shown towards previous managers, facilitating the regenerative process by expediting the departure of the underperforming players and backing him up with the funds he needs to improve the squad. Well, I live in hope.