Champions of Division 1
On 18 December I posted an article entitled 'Living in the Past`, in which I churlishly compared our team with the one I saw in the 1950s. I did note that were lying in 2nd. place, only a point behind the leaders, Leyton Orient, but that was due more to luck than judgement. How did we beat Crawley and Swindon, for instance?
Now, as I contemplate the table we sit proudly on top as Champions, eight points ahead of Brentford in 2nd. place and Leyton Orient 19 points further back. So, what happened after Christmas? Well, I already knew the answer, having pointed it out in a post, entitled 'The Luck of the Draw` on 9 September. Given the shambles that was WW at the end of the 2012-3 season (I was at Brighton), we needed a thorough clean-out and a fresh start.
This would take time and a favourable fixture list enabled us to rebuild the team, comprising Academy youngsters and carefully chosen signings, without prejudicing our position in the league. Thankfully, Ikeme and our back four kept us in touch while the players gelled as a team. If, at first, we played poorly and won, by Christmas we were playing well and losing. Then, we started to play well and win, piling on the points while those around us faltered.
We also found the right combination in midfield, turning a weakness into a strength, with McDonald becoming increasingly influential as play-maker. We started to convert chances into goals, though I did have occasion to write that we were not always as ruthless as the reports said we were. We were just more ruthless than our opponents ... but that won`t be true next season. Dicko was the key acquisition. For someone so small, he is remarkably strong and pacy and almost impossible to knock off the ball.
With progress being made in all departments, WW were ideally placed to last the pace. We grew stronger while other teams fell away: first Peterborough, then Leyton Orient, Brentford and even Rotherham. Naturally, we had tough matches, especially against Rotherham and Leyton Orient, but we did score the goals when it mattered and stopped our opponents from matching us.
And we have succeeded by playing attractive football. We defend well, counter-attack at pace, pass the ball around sweetly, run into space and score goals. It`s so different from the situation last year and that`s down to our new chief coach, Kenny Jackett. Like many fans, I was dubious about his appointment but he has proved us all wrong.
We needed a calm, steadying influence at the helm after the succession of poor managers who had blighted the club before him. The way he dealt with the malcontents and brought on the young players emphasized his class and his man-management skills. In particular, I thought he accomplished a miracle when he induced Griffiths to sign a new contract. He also managed his sale with aplomb, when the lad had his head turned. Subsequent events have proved him right.
We would not be in this position without KJ. Indeed, we might still have been fighting against relegation. Things were so bad. I have read rival blogs sneering at the suggestion that he should be voted manager of the year across the four divisions. They clearly did not know how poisonous the atmosphere was at Molineux. But, we know better. Thank you, Kenny.