Stale Solbakken today warned Wolves fans that if they start hankering to play percentage football now they risk “turning the clock back” and sliding further away from the game’s elite.
The Molineux boss, who is set to address season ticket holders tonight at a fans’ forum in the Stan Cullis Stand, believes the team must stick to the principles he has identified in his first four and a half months in charge to have a chance of winning promotion and retaining a Premier League place in the years to come.
Last Saturday’s opponents Brighton seemed more comfortable on the ball than Wolves before events turned the game into a see-saw affair, but it has taken the Seagulls three years to get to that point under Uruguayan manager Gus Poyet.
Solbakken believes it will take Wolves far less – providing they stick to his game plan.
“I don’t think it will take us three years to get that point – I think we’ll be much better in three years’ time,” said the Norwegian.
“We must have high ambitions and I agree with those who say results are the most important thing.
“But if we get carried away or panicked in the situation we’re in now and think we’ve got to do it the easy or quick way, it’s like turning back the clock.
“We could play like that (more direct) – it would be easy to do – but we shouldn’t forget football is moving on fast-forward now.
“If we maintained that style of play now, maybe we’d have two, three or four more points than we have; we’ll never know.
“But I do know we’ll only get to a certain level playing that way.
“We have to get the right mix, so that when we do hit a long ball, we hit it in the channel and not in the air.
“If we play like I want us to, we can go a lot further. We need points and everyone should demand that from us.
“But we also have to look long term.
“When you’re the manager of a big club like Wolves, the one thing that matters is to get results.
“But as we get results, we must also make progress in other areas, such as the way we play, the way the football is going and the future, so we can keep up.”
Solbakken maintains Wolves haven’t got the personnel to play a more direct style of football anyway.
“We’ll play entertaining football for periods – we want to play attacking, fluent football in every game,” he said.
“But we can’t keep the ball well when we kick it long because we haven’t got really big strikers and people to win that second ball.
“So it’s important to have a calm head now when people start expressing strong opinions, which is also normal and fair too.
“It’s dangerous to step backwards when we’re seeing we can manage this style we’re playing in some periods.”
Solbakken believes his own footballing education, from playing in Norway’s best-ever team in the 1990s which rose to third in the FIFA rankings at one point, as well as his six years in charge of FC Copenhagen with their regular forays into the Champions League, have given him an appreciation of how to compete with some of the best teams in the world.
“We must not be naïve, and coming from Norway, I’ve been educated in that,” he said.
“I played in the Norway national team that was always the underdog and we managed to climb up to the top three in the world and I also had 60 or 70 games in Europe for Copenhagen when we were underdog for the first three years before it changed slightly.
“From being a team defending and counter-attacking and using setpieces, by the end we were a team who could control the ball and put our stamp on the game.”
Solbakken realises he may not be talking from a position of strength with Wolves having dropped from third to 15th after three points out of the last 18 available.
But he hopes the Molineux masses can see the bigger picture.
“If we kick it long every time and the opposition kick it long every time, it’s a lottery. And I don’t want to be a part of a lottery,” he said.
“If we stick to the plan and do it well then we win, but if we don’t, we won’t do that good.”