Wolves’ boo-boys – a monster of the club’s own making

26 10 2011

by Adam Bate

It’s been a tough week to be a Wolves fan.

The revulsion towards the behaviour of a significant section of Wolves supporters has been widespread – and the criticism has been coming from all angles.

The Guardian’s Barry Glendenning tweeted that the fans were “clowns”, ESPN’s Daniel Pountney suggested they “grow up” and the WSC message boards were alive with the hot topic: “Are Wolves fans fickle?”

But this was nothing compared to the assessment of those within the club itself. Mick McCarthy labelled his detractors “mindless idiots” while captain Roger Johnson had already called the fans “a disgrace”.

Everything points to the conclusion that Wolves fans are ungrateful characters who believe they have a divine right to success.

But there are two sides to this particular story. And although those within the club will now allow people to run with the idea of a small club and its over-demanding fans, for those living in this one-club city a very different picture emerges.

After all, there are many who remember the words of Jez Moxey, the club’s chief executive, back in March of this year when he told supporters:

“The aim is to get us back where everyone thinks we belong. We are kidding ourselves if we think we can usurp Manchester United, but we think we can get to just below that level – in the top three, four or five clubs where we can be competing in Europe.”

It was a remarkable claim as it far outweighed even the long-term ambitions of many a hardcore supporter. And while McCarthy was slightly more pragmatic, his comments in May appeared to buy into the idea of speedy progress:

“Every year I’ve been here we’ve improved. If we survive then I won’t be looking for that experience again – I’ll be looking for the experience of trying to finish in the top ten rather than out of the bottom three.”

When survival did come that month – with just three minutes to spare – the club was quick to announce a breathtaking redevelopment of Molineux that would see three of the four stands rebuilt.

To the surprise of many, it was reported that plans had been drafted that could see the capacity increased to an astonishing 50,000 seats.

The message was clear – this is a club going places – and supporters in a city badly hit by the financial crisis were encouraged to snap up the limited number of season tickets that would be available while Molineux’s capacity would be reduced due to the redevelopment.

Given these grand plans, there was some disappointment when only three players were signed in the summer.

Dorus de Vries joined on a free transfer as a reserve keeper, Roger Johnson arrived to much fanfare and Jamie O’Hara – a key member of the team that had survived on the last day – saw his loan deal made permanent.

But again the word from the club was emphatic. Chairman Steve Morgan told fans in an interview on BBC Radio WM earlier this month that Wolves were the fifth biggest net spenders in the Premier League over the past three seasons having spent more than £40million on new players.

It was a case of horrible timing. On the field, Wolves were embarking on their worst run of defeats in more than a quarter of a century.

Five matches were lost, with the team two goals down by half-time at home to QPR and Newcastle as well as losing the Black Country derby to West Bromwich Albion by two goals to nil.

When this scoreline looked set to be repeated against newly-promoted Swansea, things reached tipping point.

Nothing anybody says will convince people there was anything constructive about the chants heard at Molineux on Saturday.

But those season ticket holders did not pluck their grand ideas from thin air.

For the so-called 3Ms – Moxey, McCarthy and Morgan – this is a monster of their own making.


Rooney – Should he stay or should he go?

19 10 2011

This piece appears in full on TEAMtalk.

The last week has surely confirmed what we all knew already – Wayne Rooney is the most divisive figure in English football.

Wading through the views of journalists, ex-pros and – of course – the TEAMtalk Your Say boards, there appears to be no real consensus of opinion.

While Harry Redknapp and Alan Shearer have been quick to rubbish suggestions that England’s star man should stay at home for Euro 2012, others are calling for Fabio Capello to write him off as a talented liability.

Motormouth Stan Collymore and World Cup winner George Cohen believe Rooney should be dumped from the squad and seem to have the public on their side.

At the time of writing, a Sky Sports poll suggests 68% do not want Rooney selected for England.


Del Bosque right not to shoehorn in Silva

12 10 2011

by Adam Bate

This piece appears in full on TEAMtalk.

It’s easy to feel sympathy for David Silva when he speaks of feeling like a “supporting actor” with the Spanish national team. Silva has certainly been the star man in Manchester City’s ensemble cast so far this season.

But surely with the talent at Vincente del Bosque’s disposal, the Spain coach can be forgiven for not putting Silva centre-stage.

It is one of the curiosities of international football – teams are constructed that see world-class performers left out of the side while lesser lights in other positions are automatic picks.


What’s the Truth about Serie A?

5 10 2011

by Adam Bate

Sam Wallace (The Independent): “You go to Stoke, they’ve got an identity. You go to Bolton and that club’s got an identity. When I watch Serie A you don’t feel that so much about the smaller clubs there.”

Shaun Custis (The Sun): “You watch Serie A do you? I didn’t think people did that anymore. Genuinely, I didn’t.”

Neil Ashton (Daily Mail): “If you watch the last couple of weeks both the games have been 0-0 draws.”

Shaun Custis (The Sun): “Italian football has dropped off the map. You do get the feeling there is so much more competition in this country – you do feel that teams at the bottom can win the big games at any point.”

Sunday Supplement, Sky Sports, 25/09/2011

It’s quite an exchange and while it kicked up a storm on Twitter it may well have tapped into a common view among English football fans.

Thankfully, some of these views can be challenged by looking at the statistics.


Neil Ashton’s facile point that the recent televised games had ended goalless suggests he is of the view that there are fewer goals scored in Italian football. Is this true?

In short, yes it is. Over the past three seasons there have been 2935 goals in Serie A at an average of 2.57 per game. In the Premier League there have been 3058 goals at an average of 2.68 per game.

Interestingly, however, Ashton may be surprised to note that in two of the past three seasons there have been more goalless draws in the Premier League than in Serie A. In total, in the last three completed seasons there have been 98 goalless draws in England compared to 82 in Italy.

So why are there both more goals and more goalless draws in the Premier League than in Serie A? That may have something to do with the heavy beatings that the top teams in England are capable of dishing out on a regular basis – and it strikes at the heart of the debate about competitiveness…


Custis’s claim that the teams at the bottom of the Premier League can win the big games at any point is an interesting one.

If it were true that England’s weakest sides were getting better results against the top teams than their Italian equivalent then that would certainly indicate a greater competitiveness. But it isn’t true.

Comparing the results of the bottom three sides against the top three sides in both England and Italy is revealing in so much as what it does not reveal. It does not bring to light these miraculous results that justify Custis’s “feeling” he gets.

In 2010-11 the three relegated teams from the Premier League (Birmingham City, Blackpool and West Ham United) managed one win, three draws and 14 defeats against England’s top three (Man Utd, Chelsea and Man City).

That one win was for Birmingham against Chelsea (memorable for you Shaun?) and, admittedly, it’s one more than the Serie A sides managed. However, Italy’s bottom three (Bari, Brescia and Sampdoria) did get seven draws against Serie A’s top three (Milan, Inter and Napoli) meaning that they took more points off the top sides than their English equivalent.

Perhaps Custis and co were hinting at a more general competitiveness than is shown in the results. But a look at other key performance indicators only serves to highlight the competitiveness of the Italian league.

The spread of average possession stats for 2010-11 – per the WhoScored website using Opta statistics – show a greater disparity in England (38% to 60%) than in Italy (43% to 59%).

The pass completion rates tell a similar story. The spread in England is from 64% to 84% but in Italy there is remarkably consistent with Lecce bottom of the pile with a respectable 73%.

It’s a similar story so far in 2011-12 and the early indications are that Serie A is set for a wide open title race with just three points separating the top eight.

It adds weight to the argument of Italian football expert James Horncastle when he says: “At this moment in time Serie A is the most competitive it’s ever been.”


The notion of identity is a more difficult matter to prove. And yet, it should come as no surprise that an English person should detect a greater sense of identity among English clubs.

Sam Wallace points out Bolton Wanderers are a club that he sees as having a clear identity – but one wonders whether this identity resonates among the Italian public?

It’s tempting to conclude that this supposed contrast between England and Italy reveals nothing more than the journalist’s own ignorance.

Perhaps it’s best to leave the final word on this topic to James Richardson, former presenter of Football Italia on Channel 4, who says: “There is no country with a stronger regional identity than Italy and it is absolutely expressed through the clubs.”