Video: Richard Stearman sale raises questions at Wolves
Picture the scenario. Your team's player of the season – voted as such ahead of a hugely talented goalscoring winger who is now earning global attention after producing heroics at Stamford Bridge – and current captain, who hasn't missed a league game this year, told he can leave.
Richard Stearman, unquestionably Wolves' most reliable defender over the course of last season, and a key cog in the club's revival under Kenny Jackett, is deemed surplus to requirements.
If, as expected, the 28-year-old completes a move to Fulham for £2million, it will be a surprising and sad end to a seven-year rollercoaster ride at Molineux.
Stearman is believed to be deeply disappointed at Wolves' decision to accept the Fulham offer – and who can blame him?
A true team player, who even as news filtered through at Molineux on Saturday of his imminent departure was tweeting a good luck message to him team mates, and congratulating David Edwards on inheriting the captain's armband.
With Stearman one of the few to survive Wolves' jaunt to the Premier League and back along with Edwards and Carl Ikeme, he is likely to be on a decent wage, but are Wolves that hard up that they need to save a few thousand a week and pocket £2m for a centre back in his prime?
Well Kenny Jackett insists the sale is for footballing reasons only – and that makes even less sense.
Either Wolves have a replacement for Stearman on the way – and in this scenario they must be very confident of getting their man after accepting Fulham's bid – or they don't believe the player is good enough.
Publicly, Jackett stated on Saturday that Wolves had enough quality in the young defenders in his squad, so Stearman was expendable.
Why then, has Stearman been selected for every league game in 2015?
And what has changed since Jackett made these comments about Stearman (and Nouha Dicko) on June 26?
"It's correct to say both of them have futures at the club and we're very happy with both players.
"I'm very keen to retain their services. They've been picked on a consistent basis and I would see them as having very strong futures at Wolves."
There is potential, huge potential, in Ethan Ebanks-Landell and Kortney Hause, aged 22 and 20 respectively, while the classy 20-year-old Dominic Iorfa was raised at centre half, even if he had yet to play there for the club. All have the potential to play Premier League football, with or without Wolves.
But no team wins promotion on potential.
Wolves looked inexperienced and vulnerable at the back before Stearman's imminent departure, and Saturday's solid defensive performance – the first of the season – was in spite of Stearman's absence, not because of it.
Bakary Sako, whom Stearman pipped to last season's player of the year award, was replaced by an 18-year-old winger on loan.
And with Jackett saying it will be 'difficult' to bring players in before tomorrow's deadline, there is a growing sense that Wolves are trying to get promoted on the cheap.
Their recruitment strategy, headed up by Kevin Thelwell, has proved very successful in the past two seasons, with very few permanent and loan additions not making a positive impact on the club.
Wolves have therefore banked a lot of credit, respect and patience from their supporters, who have bought into the club's young and hungry strategy.
The imminent sale of Stearman is the first major test of that new-found trust.
The next 24 hours will be very telling.
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