Wolves: Facing the reality of relegation

“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.”

Jez Moxey, March 2011

In the hours before Wolves played their last home game of the 2012/13 season, the prospect of relegation did not leave me trembling.

I was unmoved by the possibility that, along with Walsall, Shrewsbury Town could really be a Wolves’ derby tie.

After a pathetic run of results that left the club dangling above League One, I uttered words such as: “we deserve to go down” and “it will do us good to get relegated, clear out and rebuild.”

May 2011 has become a cherished distant memory.
May 2011 has become a cherished distant memory.

But after 95 minutes of tortuous agonising against mid-table Burnley, reduced to 10 men after taking the lead, the salty tears welling up inside me gave away the truth.

I hadn’t feared relegation because, until today, I hadn’t accepted it as at all likely.

Perhaps like some of the players and the board, I had arrogantly believed Wolves would escape, would survive. My blind faith was based on nothing but the sheer disbelief that a club capable of beating Manchester United just two years ago could be looking third tier football straight in the eye.

I have seen Stephen Ward deal with Jermain Defoe like a seasoned top flight left back, not an out-of-position striker.

I have seen Stephen Hunt trouble many a back four with his quick feet and nippy endeavours, not being cowed by a booing home crowd.

And I have seen Karl Henry put his body on the line for Wolves, playing his fearless game, leading his fearless team.

Hence did my tears flow.

The numbness that came with the events surrounding the club’s Premier League relegation had prevented many from feeling the full force of a second impending drop.

From the heights of ecstasy to the depths of despair.
From the heights of ecstasy to the depths of despair.

Like a bad friend, the Championship was sufficient company for Wolves until the better times came calling once again.

But the gradual realisation that those good times had gone has finally dawned.

Wolves’ club history was played out in a matter of two short but breathlessly painful seasons. A sleeping giant once more after a spell of abject mediocrity.

Though Wolves could never be described as a “yo-yo team”, there was a widespread misconception that teams that are relegated from the Premier League were sure-fire candidates for promotion.

And while the club may be guilty of several cardinal mistakes on the route towards League One, many relegated teams have followed a similar trajectory after exiting the Premier League.

Leeds United, relegated in 2004, managed three seasons in the Championship before dropping to League One for another three years.

Similarly, Charlton Athletic, a Premier League side until 2007, were only restored to the second flight this season after finding themselves in League One for three years.

And in a similar vein, Bradford City were a Premier League club only 13 years ago. The side will hope to return to League One this year.

Those clubs, by no means small, are only now starting to find their way back to a position that their fans would properly deem deserved.

So the question is not “can Wolves get back into the Premier League?” but can Wolves shorten the inevitable downward spiral and start returning to a healthy position on the pitch as well as off it sooner rather than later?

Perhaps the answers lie in our previous successes. Against all odds, Wolves took a bunch of young and hungry players with a manager who has more popular appeal than tactical nous, and turned up in the Premier League like a footballing freak show.

And somehow, for a couple of years, the combination was such that it worked. That heady cocktail of a solid, honest manager, a hard-working, likeable squad and a board that kept its nose out of the business on the pitch provided us fans with some of our best supporting memories.

The inquest into our lamentable 2012/13 season must consider which of these elements has gone awry.

Granted, this only got Wolves so far. But so far is better than nowhere near. And once back there, it may well be possible to go one step further.

Then maybe Jez Moxey’s lofty ambitions of seeing Wolves in Europe might not seem so risible.

Moxey will require a bigger pair of these lucky pants next season.
Moxey will require a bigger pair of these lucky pants next season.

1 thought on “Wolves: Facing the reality of relegation

  1. I can see why the Telegraph snapped you up. Great writing!

    Not sure Wolves will find a way back though, League 1 will be tougher than many think, let alone the Championship. Still a lot of negativity at the club that will be difficult to ship with their bug contracts.

    Personally, I want the board to confirm we are financially viable for the next X seasons even if we stay in League 1.

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