Mick McCarthy replaced Glen Hoddle as Wolves boss in 2006 and promised the club Premiership football within three years. They had just finished outside the play-off positions and were forced to sell a number of their first team players. McCarthy invested time in youth and made some good signings from lower divisions and fulfilled his promise of Premiership football, finishing top of the Championship in 08-09. They finished 8 points and three places above the relegation zone and are now preparing for the all important second season.
Thomas Baugh from Wolves Blog has had a chat with me about his hopes for the coming season.
Scott the Red: So, were you happy with your team’s performance last season?
Thomas Baugh: In a word – yes. We had a slow start and about November time I thought we were dead and buried. But some good results in December gave us a second chance and switching to a 4-5-1 in January made us much harder to beat, allowing us to grind out the points we needed for safety. 17th was the minimum requirement and we managed 15th, so can’t really grumble about that.
STR: So you did better than anticipated last season. What are your aspirations for this season?
TB: The same again please. We’ve spent a fair bit of dosh over the summer, but the Premiership will be that much harder this season, so survival remains the one realistic objective. There’s a fair few local derbies for us this season too and it’s about time we had some decent results against our near neighbours, and doing the double over West Brom would be like winning a trophy… well, not quite maybe.
STR: And if you are to survive, who are you expecting to be the most important player in helping Wolves achieve that?
TB: That’s a hard one. Kevin Doyle was easily our best player least season, when it comes to genuine quality. We could do with him repeating his heroics and perhaps chipping in with a few more goals. Steven Fletcher’s arrival from Burnley for £6.5 million should lighten the load on Doyle’s back and hopefully, he will also be an important player for us. After all, we can’t afford to waste that kind of money.
STR: It’s Mick McCarthy who has been splashing the cash. How do you rate his ability to take your club forward?
TB: He has already performed miracles for us; inheriting a below-par Championship side and building a squad capable enough to not only win that league, but also keep us in the Premiership with a handful of games to spare last season. We’re building something at Wolves and Mick is a huge part of that. I have every faith that he’s the man to establish us in the top division.
STR: What’s your favourite chant you’ve heard sung at your ground?
TB: The South Bank at Molineux come up with some good ones. Whether or not they’re completely original I don’t know. John Terry was subjected to a chorus of ‘You should have shagged Cheryl Cole’ last season, which was quite amusing. David James was also peppered with a chant of ‘There’s only one Tina Turner’ referring of course to his quite ridiculous barnet. Going back five or six years, when Rio Ferdinand was suspended for not doing that drugs test, I heard a chant of ‘Rio, you should have pissed in the cup’, which got a few chuckles from Wolves and Man United fans alike.
STR: Shouldn’t he just! Where do you think United will finish this season?
TB: Hard to say. When you sold Ronaldo and Tevez last season and didn’t really replace either player with similar quality, I all but wrote you off for the title, and yet you came within a whisker of winning it. Chatting with a mate who’s a United fan, he made the point that you have the experience and ‘know-how’ of how to win trophies, which I suppose does count for more than people think. You’ll be there or thereabouts again next season. In fact, I’ll tip you for the league, based on the teams as they are right now. Of course if something silly happens, like Torres to City, I might have to rethink. Their open cheque-book policy will eventually buy them a trophy.
STR: Well, we’re on 34 years and still counting, so hopefully not any time soon! If you could have any two players from United’s current squad playing for you, who would they be?
JB: Well, obviously Rooney. He had a disgustingly bad World Cup and regardless of the team’s failings, he’s too good a player to put in the kind of performances we were seeing in South Africa. But he’s still a fine player and devastating in the Premiership. Anyone who doesn’t say they’d want him in their side, is a fool. I really like Valencia too and think he could emerge as one of the best player’s in the league this season. I’d take him as my second player. Vidic and Fletcher also came close.
STR: Nice taste. So, what are your thoughts on United’s debt?
JB: You don’t need to be a financial expert to realise that it’s an unhealthy situation to be in, but being such a global brand, I suppose it was always inevitable that rich men would try to come in and become even richer by using the club. It’s sad to see, but as I say, inevitable.
STR: What is your favourite game your club have played against United?
JB: A few spring to mind. Needless to say I won’t be including the hammering you gave our reserves at Old Trafford last season as one of them. It might sound strange but a pre-season friendly around 1993/94 time was quite memorable. Steve Bull got an early opener for us, lobbing Peter Schmeichal a treat in the opening minutes. If memory serves, you came back to win 2-1 or 3-1, but it was a great atmosphere in Molineux that night, despite counting for absolutely nothing. We beat you 1-0 at Molineux back in 2003, which was a great day for us. You were top, we were bottom and nobody gave us a hope. Kenny Miller got the only goal of the game and Paul Ince rallied the troops as we survived a late bombardment.
STR: Ew, Paul Ince. Moving swiftly on, what is your worst game your club have played against United?
JB: Of games I’ve actually been to, you gave us a pretty good pasting in the FA Cup four or five years ago at Molineux. What was strange about that match was that you played Rio Ferdinand and Wayne Rooney in in the centre of midfield. We didn’t get a sniff all day. Park had a great game too. I think it finished 3-0. Pretty miserable for us.
STR: Yeh, Richardson got a couple, so I imagine that’s pretty depressing for any opponent! But on to another former United youth team player. Sylvan Ebanks-Blake scored almost 40 goals in two seasons in the Championship with Wolves. Did we make a mistake in letting him go when he was just 20?
JB: Not really, when you consider how badly he struggled to make any sort of impact in the Premiership last season. OK, he was playing in a pretty toothless Wolves attack, but two goals all season, and one of those was a penalty, is not good enough by any standards. He was a deadly weapon in the Championship but will probably struggle to even get into our side this season, which tells it’s own story. I haven’t written him off just yet though, so hopefully he can turn it around this year.
STR: We supported Wolves’ outrage at the ridiculous Premier League suspended fine. Just how bad was that decision or were you angry with McCarthy?
JB: Of course the decision was ridiculous. How can you punish us and then in the same season, see Fulham field their reserves at Hull ahead of their UEFA Cup semi-final, get beaten and then do nothing? That’s the big problem with Premier League, the contradictions. There’s no consistency. I’m guessing that the new 25-man squad rule means that you can pick any players out of that 25 and not get punished. Interestingly, we’ve got another important game right after our visit to Old Trafford this season. He wouldn’t, would he?
STR: I guess we’ll have to wait and see! Cheers mate. Best of luck for the season.