Boys in Green Squadwatch: What's happened to the Wolves at the door?
In today’s squad watch, we look at the demise of Wolverhampton Wanderers and how their malaise has drastically affected the sizeable Irish contingent in their squad.
For a couple of seasons in the Premier League, there was a lot to like about Wolves from an Irish supporter’s perspective. You could almost guarantee that there would be at least one Irish player in their starting XI and some days there would be four.
They often gave the big boys a good game in Molineux and their manager was a man who is still popular in the eyes of most Irish supporters – outside of Cork at least – and who is responsible for two of the funniest videos we’ve ever set eyes upon (see one below and the other one here) in the history of the site.
That was then. Big Mick’s backside was put in the bacon slicer in February of last year and while there is no guarantee he would have saved them from the drop, you can be virtually sure they wouldn’t be in the mess they’re in now.
His eventual replacement, Stale Solbakken, is long gone, while the current incumbent, Dean Saunders, actually said the words below a couple of weeks back.
"And another thing that has pleased me is in Ladbrokes, we’re not one of the three favourites to get relegated and they don’t normally get it wrong.
"They have looked at our squad and thought ‘they will get out of it’ and that’s what I’m thinking.”
Well Dean, we just checked Ladbrokes and at the time of writing, your side are third favourites to go down. What say you now?
The truth is, it would be disastrous for Wolves’ Irish contingent if they did end up dropping down to League One, because, to be quite frank, their market value has dropped considerably in the last couple of seasons; it’s certainly a long time since Kevin Doyle was linked with a move to the likes of Everton in any case.
Once a certain starter in the Ireland starting XI, it could be said that Shane Long, Jonathan Walters and, at a really long stretch, Simon Cox, have moved above Doyle in the pecking order as far as Trapattoni is concerned and his role could be a peripheral one in the upcoming double header against Sweden and Austria.
Doyle was never a prolific scorer but his stats this season make for particularly grim reading. He’s only scored five goals for Wolves so far, but those goals were scored in just three games, meaning that his spells without a goal have been long and barren indeed, the latest one stretching back to a brace against Bristol City on December 1.
Granted, he has been shifted out to the right wing and his selfless work ethic goes unnoticed at times, but he’s regularly been hooked by Saunders of late and he is somebody who could really do with a confidence boost to prevent his career from petering out completely in the next few years.
It’s been a similar story for a man who has been by his side for a number of years, Stephen Hunt. Plagued by injuries in recent seasons, Hunt played only his fourth game of the season against Watford on Friday night.
Hunt had Damien Duff to contend with for the majority of his Irish career and now that Duff has gone for good, both Robbie Brady and James McClean have moved ahead of him in the race for a place on the left wing. Hunt is a stubborn man and won’t give up easily, but at 31, he has a fight on his hands if he’s going to add to his 39 caps.
It’s not exactly going swimmingly for another Stephen, Stephen Ward, either. A disastrous showing in the 6-1 defeat to Germany has seen him lose his grip of the Irish left-back position, while after he failed to get out of Dodge when a proposed move to Nottingham Forest fell through in January, he’s fallen out of favour at club level too, having been benched for the last two league games.
As far as the rest of the Irish contingent is concerned, Kevin Foley is unlikely to play for Ireland as long as Trapattoni is in charge and while there have been promising signs from Matt Doherty and Anthony Forde this season, it will probably be a while before they enter into the thoughts of Trapattoni or his successor if he doesn’t make it past the current qualifying campaign.
They once howled the loudest, but the Wolves in the Irish camp are now as far from Trapattoni's door as they have ever been.