Wolves 2014/15 -The Preview
In truth I think most Wolves fans don't know what to expect in the coming season. The successive relegations are still fresh in the mind, but the 103 point haul in League One was a turnaround beyond expectations and while Kenny Jackett and his team have plenty to prove at Championship level, there is a fair degree of confidence that they will be good enough to make their mark in the top half of the table, and maybe even successive promotions is not impossible.
After the failed managerial reigns at Molineux of Terry Connor, Stale Solbakken and Dean Saunders, it's been quite an achievement by Jackett to win the confidence of the Wolves fans so quickly. He was supported in looking for a fresh start for the squad and moving on without the highly paid players still with the club from the McCarthy and Solbakken eras. And he bought in a team of young ambitious players to play alongside products of the Wolves academy and achieved success playing entertaining football. And his team had a tight defensive record the likes of which the club has not seen for many years, and a control in midfield that hadn't been seen for just as long. His 9th place in the Championship with Millwall in 2010/11 is the highest league position he has achieved so far as a manager but there are few at Molineux that don't believe he can better that with Wolves, and the foundations already look to be in place.
The strength of the current Wolves team lies in a spine that is surely good enough for the Championship and maybe a level higher than that. Keeper Carl Ikeme, centre back Danny Batth, midfielder Kevin McDonald and striker Nouha Dicko were all revelations last season and with the flair of Bakary Sako and Michael Jacobs they proved to be much too good for League One and none of those players will be out of place at the new level.
When we look at the wider squad, all the ingredients seem to be there in midfield and in the goalkeeper department. Ikeme following on from Matt Murray and Wayne Hennessey, represents another in a conveyor belt of top keepers produced by the academy. And Aaron McCarey is another product that looks more than good enough as number two and Jonathan Flatt is another one on the way.
In midfield McDonald, Sako and Jacobs are joined by James Henry and David Edwards who both have Championship experience, and by youngsters Jack Price and Lee Evans who both did well in their first season with the squad last season and will both improve. We can now add to them the two summer signings Tommy Rowe and Rajiv Van La Parra. Rowe who joined from Peterborough has missed much of pre season with a toe injury but looks a good addition. While Dutchman Van La Parra looks an exciting wide player that might make a real impact.
The regular defensive four last season was skipper Sam Ricketts, Batth, Stearman and Golbourne. They did well last season but the squad looks light on cover and competition in defence with youngsters Matt Doherty and Ethan Ebanks Landell the next in line, and a new face or two would be welcome in August.
The same applies in attack. Dicko had an excellent second half to last season playing generally as a lone striker in a 4-2-3-1 formation. Main cover is Leon Clarke who scored plenty for Coventry last season and has scored half a dozen in pre season. But he is yet to prove successful above the lower divisions and the only other cover is the inexperienced but promising Liam McAlinden. A new striker is also therefore on the August shopping list.
So far in the transfer window there has only been the two free transfer signings of Rowe and Van La Parra, and there would be some criticism of the club if some more investment were not made to keep the momentum of last season going. And there will be concern that the high paid players still on the books may curtail Wolves spending. Kevin Doyle, Stephen Ward, Jamie O'Hara, Roger Johnson, Tongo Doumbia, Razak Boukari, Georg Magreitter, Bjorn Sigurdarsson and Anthony Forde are all on the payroll but have not been given squad numbers for 2014/15. Hopefully all of them, including Jamie, will find a new home in August.
All in all it looks positive for Wolves and my prediction would be a finish between 6th and 8th for 2014/15. And after the downs and ups of recent years I think most Wolves fans would take that.