As the Wolves players threw their shirts into the crowd at Brighton, the fans delivered a snub to Roger Johnson who has become a symbol of the club’s decline. Tim Nash reports.
Roger Johnson has disgraced the Wolves shirt so much he couldn’t even give his away – as boss Dean Saunders vowed to bring in a new breed of hungry players.
The £4m defender joined all of his team-mates – apart from the disgruntled Jamie O’Hara – in applauding the 2,000-strong sell-out travelling contingent at the Amex Stadium after the 2-0 defeat to Brighton which confirmed Wolves’ ‘double-dip’ relegation to League One.
Like several players, including captain Kevin Doyle, Stephen Hunt, Bakary Sako and the tearful George Elokobi, Johnson offered his jersey to supporters behind the goal as a souvenir, while clapping the fans.
But while fans snapped up the other players’ shirts, no-one wanted the No.14 which has been worn with little distinction since Johnson’s big-money move from Birmingham almost two years ago.
O’Hara was the only Wolves player not to acknowledge the fans after turning his back on them at the final whistle and storming from the field. The fans furiously turned on him when he remained on the turf behind the goal, punching the ground as play continued, before sarcastically raising his thumb when they chanted ‘£40,000-a-week, you’re having a laugh’.
Even Brighton’s fans joined in and sided with Wolves supporters, chanting ‘You stupid b------s, you’ve let your fans down’.
O’Hara was only back in the team following a three-match ban after he was sent off for violent conduct for shoving Huddersfield midfielder Keith Southern in the throat.
Johnson has plenty of ‘previous’ controversy with Wolves and the fans. After being dropped from the team and stripped of the captaincy by then boss Terry Connor, he infamously turned up for training showing the effects of alcohol following the 5-0 defeat at Fulham on March 4, 2012. Later that month he was involved in an angry clash with goalkeeper Wayne Hennessey then goaded fans from the touchline in the last game of the season at Wigan, applauding the Latics supporters when Wolves’ shouted abuse at him.
Last month, he petulantly kicked at an advertising hoarding after Kevin Doyle’s winning goal against Bristol City, then argued with protesting fans who invaded the pitch against Burnley last week.
Johnson, who was the club’s top earner on £42,000-a-week when they were in the Premier League, is one of the players Saunders will look to move on this summer, if he gets the go-ahead to carry on from chairman Steve Morgan.
And he repeated former boss Mick McCarthy’s pledge to build a young and hungry side.
“We need hungry players who will be delighted to play for Wolves and will roll their sleeves up and have no mental baggage,” said the boss.
“There is so much damage that’s been done mentally to the players that it will be hard to put it right. However I do it, I’ve just got to get the right culture at the club and build a team that works for its wages where they all want to win and they’re proud to play for Wolves.
“I want players who feel so lucky to be here and believe what I’m telling them.
“I need to get players into the club who are proud to wear the shirt and I need to get the culture right at the club.”
Saunders took 20 points from his 20 games in charge after being appointed in January.
But he appears confident of his chances of keeping his job.
“I’ve got a contract and no-one has said anything different to me,” said the boss, who has a rolling 12-month deal.
“I’ve been here since January and haven’t been able to get my team on the pitch yet.
“I’ll sit down with Steve and Jez Moxey in the next few days and start looking at things.
“I’ve got targets in mind to bring into the club.”
“It’s been difficult, because we didn’t know which league we’d be in.
“We’ve discussed it briefly, and we’ll have more discussions in the next couple of days.”
Did you turn down the chance to take Roger Johnson's Wolves shirt? Get in touch - email firstname.lastname@example.org