Comment: Farewell to Danny Batth – it's the end of a Wolves era

"Every time I put on the shirt...it is a proud moment."

Danny Batth has left Wolves after 18 years at the club
Danny Batth has left Wolves after 18 years at the club

Footballers in 2019 are regularly accused of not caring enough for the club they play for, or chasing fame and fortune.

Danny Batth isn't one of them.

He joined Wolves at the age of 10 and it wasn't for another decade that we'd see him in the famous gold and black, for a 2010 League Cup tie against Southend at Molineux.

Such was Batth's reputation when coming through the youth ranks, many had already heard of the youngster.

A couple of successful loan spells with Colchester United and Sheffield Wednesday only added to the belief that Batth would become a future Wolves regular.

With Wolves' rapid demise from the Premier League to League One his chance perhaps came sooner than expected, with 2013/14 a breakthrough season in the third tier with 50 appearances in all competitions.

Five seasons later he leaves Wolves having captained them on their journey back to the Premier League, lifting two titles along the way.

Batth with his young player of the year award in 2010

There were 212 appearances in total and 16 goals. Batth's contribution to Wolves' recent history, though, was about more than numbers.

In early 2013 Wolves were a club in apocalyptic turmoil. They were about to be relegated for the second time in succession, they had a team of well-paid footballers with Premier League reputations who were losing football matches week in, week out to the likes of Blackpool, Barnsley and Peterborough.

Disappointment on the terraces turned to rage. The only debate was who was hated more – the players or the owners.

With six games to go they were one point above the relegation zone, and when the club needed the players to stand up more than ever, they lost five of those last six matches to go down without a whimper.

Amid the indignation there were few signs of hope, but Batth was one of them. He played 14 times that year and was quickly appointed as the terrace figurehead for what would be Wolves' resurgence.

If Roger Johnson (fairly or unfairly) represented the dreadful past and present, then Batth was the bright future.

Not only was he an academy product, he was a local lad too. And that means a lot.

"Danny Batth's from Brierley Hill, Brierley Hill, Brierley Hill, Danny Batth's from Brierley Hill, f*** off Johnson" they sang, week after week after week. Batth was their antidote.

In that League One season he excelled, both as a footballer and also a leader.

Batth was mobbed on the field after Wolves won promotion from League One away at Crewe (© AMA SPORTS PHOTO AGENCY)

Kenny Jackett made him captain (whenever Sam Ricketts was absent) aged just 22 and Batth was very much the face of 'new Wolves'.

That season which Batth played such an important part of may come to be remembered as, if it isn't already, one of the most important in Wolves' history.

They bounced back to the Championship at the first time of asking, with a record points total to boot. Nottingham Forest, Leeds United and Sheffield Wednesday have all proved how difficult it can be to do that.

It meant that two years later, when Fosun were looking for a stable football club with room for quick growth and a speedy path into the riches of the Premier League, they chose Wolves. Without Jackett (and Joe Gallen), Ricketts, Batth et al, they wouldn't have chosen a sleeping giant in League One.

That 2013/14 season also, more importantly, rebuilt bridges that had been torn apart by those successive relegations.

Fan/club relations were at a low not seen since the dark days of the 1980s. Making that reconnection allowed supporters to love their club once more and, again, local lad Batth was vital in this.

He understood what Wolves meant to the city and to the community.

"You can't underestimate how much it means to the area and the fans who have been through some tough times," Batth said last year, when Wolves were on their way to the Championship title.

"There has been lean times. I have a lot of friends who are Wolves fans. They have had to come and watch in the past some pretty poor football.

"To be part of it is something I am immensely proud of."

A dedicated professional who played with commitment and pride, Batth was regularly picked by Jackett, Walter Zenga, Paul Lambert and Nuno Espirito Santo in the Championship.

A step up to the Premier League was deemed too steep for him by Nuno, but Batth wanted to be part of the squad this season even if he wasn't playing. He just wanted to experience it all.

Sadly for him that wasn't the case, but at Stoke City he has the opportunity to again be part of a big club looking to rediscover former glories.

“He’s a special fella, he really is,” Conor Coady said in September when Batth moved to Middlesbrough on loan. “He’s been special for myself but also for this football club.

“He’s led Wolves for years when the club was at its lowest really and he brought it back up.

“As a captain he’s been absolutely sensational – he’ll be missed by the club and the lads."

Kortney Hause added: "He was like a big brother to me personally, he helped me a lot when I broke into the team.

"He's an all-round good guy, on behalf of all the players we wish him the best."

That feeling wasn't universal – some of the stick Batth received on social media last season was disgusting.

He was an easy target, a player who would never shirk playing for his club in lean times.

In some ways he's an old fashioned defender and in the forward-thinking Fosun era he was perhaps subconsciously linked with a previous time (Matt Doherty seems to be tarred with the same brush by some).

Wolves' history will remember him as a player who gave everything for the cause, a committed defender whose mental attributes made up for any lack of technical ability. Good in the air and always tough in the tackle, he'd never dodge a challenge and would throw his body on the line.

Batth at the launch of Foundation DB

Off the field he has been a wonderful ambassador for the club who has done sterling work with his Foundation DB charity, which helps homeless people in Wolverhampton as well as giving support to young girls at risk of child marriage in India, a cause passionately championed by his partner Natalie.

His departure signals something of the end of an era. The last Black Country accent in the dressing room has gone and in the coming years you wonder how many of Wolves' players will truly understand the importance of this club's place in the community.

This is a club looking to an exciting future, both in the short and long term.

But they should never forget their roots – or who helped get them to where they are now.

All the best, Danny.

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