With just 3 months of the season remaining, Ryan Plant shows how over recent years February has become a key month when it comes to Wolves overall position and status in the league.
If we look back on the past few years, back to the Mick McCarthy days, we can see a trend. A trend that shows Wolves’ form during February always has a direct impact on their position come the end of the season. Furthermore, it allows us to analyse the change in managers, players and form across Wolves’ two relegation’s, title triumph and current promotion push in the recent years.
Firstly, let us travel way back to February 2011. 2010-11 is arguably, despite the lower league position compared to the previous season, our most successful campaign in the modern era . Wolves were seen as one of the favourites for relegation, even after the strong signing of Jelle van Damme, but as we know, survival was clinched on the final day of the season despite a 3-2 loss at home to Blackburn. The club’s form was indifferent throughout the season, but for many reasons early 2011, particularly February, was a highlight for most Wolves fans over the 2010-11 season. Wolves followed up a 1-0 at home to Chelsea in January with a 2-1, George Elokobi inspired, victory over the then un-defeated Manchester United. With the only loss of the month being away at Arsenal, Wolves soon re-grouped and came so close to a victory away at the Hawthorns, drawing 1-1, and on the 26th February drove to a resounding 4-0 win over Blackpool.
Fast forward a year to February 2012. I think most of you know what is coming – a Peter Odemwingie inspired 5-1 drubbing at home, against the despised men in blue and white. The Nigerian forward Odemwingie scored a hat-rick, Jonas Olsson also scored a goal, as did former Wolves man Keith Andrews, just to rub salt into our wounds. However, rather significantly, Wolves slipped into the relegation zone that day, and the day after, the day before Valentine’s day, our love affair with ‘Super Mick’ came to end, a tenure that had lasted since July 2006. Matt Jarvis, Steven Fletcher and co. were just at the beginning of a 14 game winless run, that didn’t see Wolves win from the beginning of the month right till the end of the season, making it impossible to justify the appointment of Terry Connor as the right move. It wasn’t the most pleasant Valentine’s Day for a single Wolves supporter that year.
Nor was it in 2013. New manager, new league, new team, but a very same story. Stale Solbakken had been and gone – after chopping and changing the entire squad since the previous year. Fletcher and Jarvis had gone, and in came Sako, Doumbia, Sigurdarson and their merry men. February 2013 saw us a month into the dreadful, appalling, apocalyptic-ally atrocious reign of Dean Saunders. After making the inspired loan signing of Jack Robinson, Wolves saw themselves rapidly sliding down the table, after winning seven of their first ten games. Valentine’s Day in 2013 saw Wolves in the middle of a 12 game winless streak, the 2-2 draw with Leeds being a metaphor for the Topsy-turvy nature of the season. Wolves didn’t win a game until the 4th March, and as we all know, the season ended in relegation.
The article begins to get much more positive now. The early part of 2014 was a time when we as fans really fell back in love with our club, given the struggles we’d paid to painfully watch over the previous 2 years. On the 1st February 2014, under another new manager in Kenny Jackett, Wolves powered to a strong 2-0 home win over Bradford, with one of the new players Kevin McDonald scoring the opener. It came in and amongst a 9 game winning streak, where Wolves didn’t concede a goal for the entire month, and the ‘French (now Malian) Connection’ really took off, it seemed Nouha Dicko and Bakary Sako were scoring goals and creating them for each other in every game Wolves played during this period. Of course, the positivity and drive carried on through to the end of the season, with Wolves breaking the 100-point barrier, winning the league by 9 points.
And now, the present day. I am writing this in my room during a chilly Sunday night, reminiscing the events of yesterday. A huge positive being that Benik Afobe scored his second goal for the club (I wasn’t yet swayed by his instant impact against Blackpool, Stefan Maierhofer scored on his debut after all) and I’m beginning to see how his pace and power up front will lead him to being a perfect partner for Nouha Dicko in the future. Sadly though Wolves still laboured to their first defeat in eight, thanks to our nemesis that is the powerful Pavel Pogrebnyak. But if we think back to a miserable November for the club, the turn-around has been sublime, and we find ourselves only five points away from the play-offs, a superb strike from James Henry last week typifying the hunger, ability and desire of the current Wolves squad.
From George Elokobi nodding in the winner against Manchester United, to Wolves beginning a 14 game winless streak, it’s safe to say February is always a game changer for Wolves!