Express & Star

Wolves Fans' Verdict: A season of suffering

In a season of big ups and downs for Wolves, the fans have suffered the most.

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Wolves fans (Getty)

Although some good moments saw the team beat Liverpool and Spurs as part of a wonderful home record, the awful away form brought many miserable afternoons. Our Wolves fans look back on the turmoil and relegation scrap of 2022/23.

Clive Smith

I have travelled 6,000 car miles and been fortunate enough to go to every Wolves game this season. Thanks to Sky and BT the potential conflict between significant wife’s birthday party and grandson’s christening did not cause a head v heart moment.

What were our expectations back in August? Ignore the rich seven and we were in a League of 13, needing to be good enough in that group. Few would have thought we’d make the top 10 overall, but equally, I suspect few thought we’d be in the bottom three at Christmas.

We survived! You see the excitement at Burnley and Sheffield United, plus the play-off final to achieve Premier League status. Our wins against Palace and Villa were more low key but we achieved the same – PL next year season.

Mission accomplished – sometimes you have to balance ambition with realism.

Did we start with the right Manager? Hypothetical now, but with hindsight, obviously Lage did not work out and by then our squad turnover had set a worrying tone. Few of us could understand the logic of ripping out Saiss, Coady and Boly from our relatively solid defence.

Had we not started with Lage, then who? Was Lopetegui available at that time? Have we got the right man now? We can only say, so far, so good. The Lage squad, along with their fitness levels, were not going to keep us up, Lopetegui came and created sufficient improvement to thankfully turn our results around and ensure enough points were gained.

Many things have contributed to this being a far from enjoyable season overall. Wolves performances; having the World Cup in the middle; VAR not being fit for purpose; the standard of refereeing and the ‘acceptable’ interpretation of the rules that have been ignored by refs and much of the media. Along with that, the increasing disregard for the fan in the stadium. During Covid everyone said how the ‘fans made the game’, now no-one gives a jot about them.

It has been the first time in our current run of PL seasons that we have felt the panic around maintaining our status. Vieira, Rodgers and Marsch have all been regarded as ‘good’ managers yet none managed to see the season out – there was similar panic felt in those boardrooms too. That group of 13 has been more competitive than ever with far more unexpected points gained against the big boys. It has been our hardest challenge while under Fosun.

Nothing to be gained by dwelling on the lowlights, there have been some highs too that are worth reflection. Three significant matches immediately spring to my mind.

Albeit with less games played than usual, being bottom at Christmas usually leads to a predictable end. Everton on Boxing Day saw 17th play 20th. Never mind the quality, feel the three points, with our late late goal. The Lopetegui reign had started with a huge positive. The mindset had changed. The doom and gloom mood around the place began to improve.

Transfers in January brought further improvement with four new signings involved in the game at home to Liverpool and five against Southampton. The role Fosun played financing these deals should not be overlooked. Everton and Leicester did not have that support. I guess we’ll worry about FFP at a later date.

A win against Liverpool is a treat. 3-0, dreamland. Singing ole, ole, ole... even now, raises a big grin. Belief was growing and Lopetegui’s stature was growing too. We had not seen a manager roll the dice so much with substitutions – and it was often paying off.

Southampton away could have been all about Jarred Gillett, the referee. He appeared to make the rules up for himself, producing six yellows in the first half (incidentally he booked no-one in the second half nor anyone in his next PL game. How weird is that?). Two innocuous Lemina challenges led to a red card, leaving us a goal down and an hour to play with ten men. Amazingly we turned it around and won. Clear evidence Lopetegui had brought something to the squad’s spirit.

From then on it was all about accumulating more points than three other teams. One weekend the results went our way, the next it was the reverse. Coinciding with our home and away fixtures. For three years our home results had been decidedly average so the timing of a string of Molineux wins was perfect. The wins over Liverpool, Spurs and Chelsea messed up all our points calculations on a good way. Like anyone takes it one game at a time – admit it!

Despite retaining our top flight status the negativity around the place is disheartening. I suspect much of it comes from newbie fans and social media providing a means for anyone to express an opinion regardless of substance and facts – that’s the world we live in.

We are about to enter our 6th PL season (in 7 Fosun years), our PL average position has been 10th in that time