Those of us packed into the Salopian for Wolves away game last Friday really thought Christmas had come early. Who were we to know this was the best it would get!
First of all Holden’s Golden Glow was on tap and tasting very nice (thank you Ollie!) Secondly it was a record attendance for Shrewsbury Wolves since our move to the Salopian. An estimated twenty odd Wolves fans mingled with the festive crowd on Builder’s Friday.
By the time Blake scored his second from the penalty spot the Wolves fans were in good voice drowning out the commentary blasting out from the four tv’s around the bar. A morale boosting victory for the local Wolves fans present was assured despite a nervy last few minutes. Man of the match Carl Ikeme making several class saves and stops to take all three points. But we should not have won. We should not have drawn. We should have lost. We all knew that. Still it was Christmas and our sense of reality was distorted by the Glow bitter.
And then a few days later reality kicked in with a crushing 0-3 defeat at Molineux by an improving but still bottom of the table Peterborough. After the third goal many of the crowd left in search of some Christmas cheer elsewhere. Several of the rest chanted ‘you’re not fit to wear the shirt’. There were many present who wondered (not for the first time) at Wolves pre match preparations. Did they spend Christmas day at a team hotel or where they allowed to enjoy the day with their friends and families. Most fans would guess the latter based on their overall demeanour and fitness levels.
Stale Solbakken remains resolute in his desire to make something of this season despite many of his players’ difficulties in adopting to a zonal style of defensive play. Those that are having the most difficulty have a chance of leaving in the January window as Mick McCarthy seeks to recreate his magical Championship promotional mix of hard work, loyalty and direct football through two wingers and a key striker (Blake?).
Who will succeed first? Not many would bet against McCarthy. If Wolves do succeed first it will be with a style of football far removed from that seen at the Molineux in recent years. Arguably it’s a Catch 22 situation. Solbakken’s way is not a short fix and could take three years and several more signings and departures. Unless he has a plan B. McCarthy’s way could pay off quicker – next season is my bet.
The appointment of McCarthy to Ipswich adds a fascinating backdrop to this season, with a sharp focus occurring on Saturday when the Tractor boys visit Molineux. Big Mick will get a good reception and why not? He took Wolves up and kept us there for three seasons – two more than when he last tried. This is the first really big game at Molineux since we went down. And it’s big because of what it may tell us about the respective futures of the two clubs involved and their managers.
If McCarthy is the ghost of Molineux past, Solbakken is looking distinctly ghostly at the Molineux of present with no real pattern or trend emerging except for his team to have a habit of making poor defensive errors. If they are fortunate to score the opening goal their confidence appears to fade rather than grow as they fall behind the ball in numbers.
Make no mistake McCarthy is coming…..his team is four points behind Wolves in the table before Saturday’s game. Ironically he could be mulling over making bids for several of the players who turn out for Wolves on Saturday. Despite Ipswich’s position being below Wolves there is no doubt which manager will suffer more from a defeat on Saturday. If Solbakken has a plan B now is the time to use it. My view is he hasn’t. His record at Cologne shows he will stick with his approach until he achieves the football style he seeks or is sacked. Either way neither will be achieved this season. Wolves fans should dig in for a season of trial and error.