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Interview: Karl Henry on Wolves' rapid rise and some 2009 revisionism

By Tim Spiers | Wolves | Published:

Ten years ago today Wolverhampton Wanderers were promoted to the Premier League.

Henry was at Molineux for seven years

A goal from Sylvan Ebanks-Blake at an exultant Molineux saw Wolves reach the Promised Land™ with a 1-0 victory over QPR.

Giddy fans invaded the pitch at full-time, two weeks later captain Karl Henry, Ashmore Park born and bred, lifted the Championship trophy. Wolves were back.

That 2008/09 campaign – and the two successful survival missions which followed – represented at the time Wolves' best era since the late 1970s and a 1980 League Cup win.

But what happened four years later, when a side which still included Henry as well as Ebanks-Blake among others was relegated to League One, left a black mark against that team.

With the anniversary of that title triumph has come, though, a sense of nostalgia at what was a special time to be a fan, player, or anyone associated with the club.

Karl Henry at the Wolves Former Players' Association dinner last week (pic: Dave Bagnall)

Henry, speaking to the Express & Star ahead of last week's Former Players' Association dinner at Molineux, says he hopes that team gets the credit it deserves.

"I've seen a bit recently, Mick and TC (Terry Connor) have done a couple of interviews," Henry said.

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"Ten years have flown by, it’s hard to believe it’s been that long. I was with Kevin Foley the other day getting all nostalgic.

"I was fortunate enough to play with some really good players like David Jones, who’s still going, he was really underrated."

Celebrating with midfield partner David Jones

"It’s gutting for me what happened (in 2012/13). There’s no shame being relegated from the Premier League, but to go down the following season with the team we had.

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"We all know we’ve failed miserably. That last year, for us, marred a good era, we’re aware of that.

"The club have kicked on since then, Fosun have invested a lot of money and they’re not messing around, they get things done.

"You can see standards are higher in every department."

Henry was with his hometown club from 2006 to 2013, playing 272 times in gold and black to place him 40th on the club's all-time list of appearance makers.

"It’s the club I have the strongest affinity with," the ex-Wolves, Stoke, Bolton and QPR midfielder said.

"Being from Wolverhampton, a local lad and still living locally as well it’s the club where I had my best years. Some may say different!

"Wolves and Stoke are the clubs I hold closest to my heart."

Henry with the Championship trophy

Henry has watched plenty of Wolves this season and he has been deeply impressed with their rapid progress.

Nuno Espirito Santo's team have enjoyed a stellar first season back in the top flight and are currently eighth with five games to go.

Henry praised their 'phenomenal' recruitment and believes that – as well as resisting selling their star men – will be crucial to continuing the upward trend next season.

"You look at some clubs experiencing a difficult second or third season," Henry added.

"Wolves have signed some unbelievable players. There comes a point where certain players will be looked at by bigger clubs and Wolves’ main hurdle will be keeping hold of their best players.

"When the likes of Manchester City, Manchester United or Tottenham come calling for players like Willy Boly or Diogo Jota, what goes through the minds of those players?

"If they can keep them – and add to it – you can see it growing. The recruitment has been phenomenal.

"I went to QPR after Wolves and they’d spent a hell of a lot of money and didn’t get anywhere near this level.

"Having the money is one thing, spending it wisely is another, so if they can keep hold of their star players and add to it, that’s crucial.

"It’s not easy to just have the money, you have to spend it well.

"To bring in so many foreign players and adapt so quickly, to see them being so resilient in the Championship being kicked to pieces was very impressive."

Local lad Henry spent seven years at Molineux

Henry saw Wolves' quality first-hand twice last season while playing for Bolton, whom Wolves thrashed 5-1 and 4-0.

Despite Nuno's team storming to the Championship title, he didn't anticipate the level of Wolves' success in the Premier League.

"For me, I didn’t think they’d do this well," Henry said.

I played against them twice last season and they were excellent but the Premier League is a completely different ball game.

"I heard the talk of wanting to be in the top 10 and I thought ‘hold on a minute, be realistic’. I can only take my hat off to them for how well they’ve done.

"You look at the results and they’re not there by fortune and to get to the FA Cup semis – it’s been an incredible season.

The 36-year-old is now a 'free agent' in more ways than one. Having left Bradford late last year he's dabbled in punditry, runs a business with his sister and will do his coaching badges this summer.

He's also, as anyone who follows him on Twitter will know, a keen follower of Brexit developments.

"I’ve always been opinionated so my opinions will continue to flow!" Henry said.

"I’m doing my badges in the summer so I’ll see how that goes. I’m not sure about coaching and management but I’ll get them done and you never know.

"I always said I didn’t want to stay in football. I’ve enjoyed the punditry, I’ve got a business with my sister for the past few years.

"But I’m keeping my options open, I’m not sure which direction to go.

"The one thing with management is I’m enjoying being out the system and having my weekends back.

"I’ve not had that ‘Saturday’ feeling since I was a kid, you walk around town on a Saturday and everyone’s got a spring in their step! I’m not used to that.

"To not have that stress or worry, I’m loving it."

Tim Spiers

By Tim Spiers
@tim_spiers_Star

Writes about Wolverhampton Wanderers Football Club for a living

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