Comment: Playground sniping won't worry Wolves – it will only spur them on

By Tim Spiers | Wolves | Published: | Last Updated:

"It's not fair," bleated Andrea Radrizzani in his bizarre and frankly childish Twitter rant, presumably while wearing a pair of schoolboy shorts and blowing a raspberry in Wolves' direction.

Nuno, Jeff Shi and Jorge Mendes

What an odd twist this whole affair has taken, writes Wolves correspondent Tim Spiers.

Leeds United and Aston Villa, two grand old clubs with huge, passionate fanbases and glorious histories, have adopted the role of green-eyed telltales, sniping away on social media with emotionally-charged and irresponsible tweets from extremely senior and handsomely paid bosses who should know better.

Radrizzani's was on very dodgy ground when he ill-advisedly suggested Wolves' links with Jorge Mendes might not be legal (expect some comeback from that), using all the foresight and vision of a mole in a very dark cave.

Villa chief executive Keith Wyness adopted a more subtle – but no less infantile – approach when casually tweeting a story from May reporting that Paul Lambert had been sacked. Quite what this was meant to achieve ahead of Saturday's eagerly anticipated derby remains unknown.

Meanwhile Wolves have kept their counsel and probably had a good chuckle at the rather bitter catcalling their rivals have lowered themselves to as we approach the business end of the season.

Publicly they won't respond – and why on earth should they? A war of words has no benefit to Wolves.

Senior officials are known to be perplexed at the behaviour of the two clubs in question. While Radrizzani was happy to take to Twitter to express his disgust at Wolves' actions (or perhaps to try and mask the alarming failings of his team after a punishing and flattering 3-0 defeat) there were no such barbs in the director's box at Elland Road. Indeed Wolves, Leeds and Villa enjoy a cordial relationship behind the scenes.

The timing is particularly peculiar. Wolves last night played the first of two games that could well define their season. They did do under mounting pressure – from Cardiff City who had reduced their lead at the top from 13 points to three in the blink of an eye, from an unknown club who had drafted a letter to the EFL regarding Mendes, from media questioning that their bubble may have burst, from their latest accounts which revealed just how necessary promotion is this season and from an increasingly flapping fanbase who have all-too-fresh memories of the 2002 collapse involving they who must not be named.


So surely the last thing the likes of Villa want to do is help create a siege mentality at Molineux, or boost the team spirit of players who can close ranks from the outside world and adopt an 'us versus them' mentality, focusing purely on the beautiful football they can play – which is exactly what they did last night.

If you look past the undesirable methods of Leeds and Villa there are serious points to be made here.

First of all what must be stressed above all else is that there is absolutely no evidence of wrongdoing. On the contrary, my understanding is Wolves are entirely comfortable with the EFL, the FA or whoever looking into their methods. Every transfer they've made has been fully ratified by the FA, none of the aforementioned bodies have queried the way Wolves have gone about their business and the club firmly believe they have done nothing wrong and have adhered to all rules and regulations.

Mendes' relationship with Wolves is a potentially uneasy one, morally and ethically, despite legally passing the EFL's tests (and despite today's league statement will surely do so again, although in two months it may start becoming a Premier League issue) and the debate over whether an agent should hold such influence at a football club is a legitimate one to be had.


However there is no doubt that every Championship club would dearly love to reap the rewards of working in tandem with the most powerful man in the game.

Funnily enough though there were certainly no such complaints or calls for an inquiry when Wolves finished 15th last season.

So while others can attempt to mount their high horse, perhaps they should start putting their own houses in order. Indeed, the irony of Leeds and Villa attempting to dish out advice on how to run a football club is lost on no one.

You don't see calls for a investigation into the diabolical mess that's been presided over down the road at Blues, a club hurtling towards League One after years of shoddy mismanagement.

It can only be deduced, then, that jealousy of Wolves' pulling power is the primary motive behind this petty campaign. If that's the case – and yes, without Mendes there isn't a cat in hell's chance that Diogo Jota, Ruben Neves, Helder Costa and Willy Boly would be plying their trade in sunny Wolverhampton – then Radrizzani and co should ask themselves more pertinent questions, like for example why didn't they sign John Ruddy on a free transfer this summer?

Maybe they could have had a look at another free agent, Ryan Bennett? Perhaps they could improve their own academies to produce World Cup winning starlets like Morgan Gibbs-White? Barry Douglas was going cheap for £1m quid out in Turkey (he is linked to Gestifute, yes, but was available last January for anyone to pilfer), Romain Saiss only cost £3m last year and has been one of the most effective midfielders in the Championship this season.

And while Neves and Jota have starred in the most attractive Wolves side most fans around these parts have ever laid their eyes on, the player of the season award could easily end up in the hands of Conor Coady (£2m from Huddersfield) or Matt Doherty (£75,000 from Bohemians).

Villa, though, chose to snap up 37-year-old John Terry for £60,000 a week instead.

Credit where credit's due. The Portuguese players take the headlines at Molineux but the likes of Coady, Doherty, Douglas, Ruddy, Bennett and Danny Batth (combined transfer fees £4m) have underpinned this team's success. That's down to sound planning and good coaching.

While players, managers and owners will come and go the true litmus test of whether you're doing a good job lies in supporter opinion – and the fact that fans were singing Mendes' name at Elland Road last night tells you all you need to know.

It's they who matter more than anyone and they're having the time of their lives right now.

In two years' time, when perhaps Nuno, Neves and co have moved on, when perhaps their replacements aren't up to scratch and when perhaps thinks aren't going quite so swimmingly, they may feel differently about Mendes.

Even last season, though, when Wolves finished 15th, the dissenting voices were few and far between.

After years of perceived lack of on-field investment by previous owner Steve Morgan at a club that plummeted from the Premier League to League One in successive seasons and brought shame on the Wolves name, this is a fanbase starved of success.

How their beloved club earns that success is, to them, completely irrelevant.

As the eye-opening 2016/17 accounts have revealed, Wolves have taken a big risk in splashing huge sums of money to finance their Premier League dream. It's the kind of commitment and investment every fanbase dreams of – and, after the risk, the reward could be about to follow.

If Wolves do end up finishing top of the class then playground sniping from the bigger boys at the back of Leeds and Villa will be utterly inconsequential.

Tim Spiers

By Tim Spiers

Writes about Wolverhampton Wanderers Football Club for a living


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