Sam Astley looks back at the ups and downs of Paul Lambert’s brief tenure as Wolves manager
When Wolves appointed Zenga what seems like forever ago now, the optimist in me thought that he might bring something that the Championship has never seen before, or certainly something we hadn’t seen down the Molineux.
Fast, attacking football with no nonsense defending at the back is what I hoped and dreamed for, the start of every season I along with many others envisage the confetti blowing out the cannons onto the sacred turf that is WV1.
Captain Batth lifting the trophy above his head as the team are drenched in champagne.
Gold medals glisten in the May sun and banners with “We are going up” printed on them are flung around along with hats and scarfs.
With the new Fosun takeover maybe this was the start of a dominant time of football for the old gold and black.
20 years of a season ticket and Walter Zengas abysmal managerial record should have given me more realistic expectations of what was to come last season.
With Wolves lingering above the relegation zone and not going in the direction that was expected, Zenga and his guaranteed 6 months as a football manager came to an end.
What Wolves needed at this point was stability, consistency and a mind that knew the championship to help us get back on track to the “promised land”.
In walks Paul Lambert and what would begin as a rollercoaster of emotions in the next 7 months.
On the outside it appeared a smart and shrewd decision one that had been thought about, unlike the previous appointment.
Looking at his managerial record you could see why it seemed such a good fit for Wolves.
Early on his career he had led League 2 Wycombe Wanderers to the semi-finals of the league cup, then taking Norwich from League 1 all the way to a very healthy looking premiership team.
He kept Villa in the Prem on a very limited budget whilst managing to pick gems from abroad, Christian Benteke being the most obvious one that comes to mind.
So when he was unveiled I didn’t expect to be blowing teams out of the water 3, 4 and 5 nil as that had never been Lambert’s style.
I thought to myself if we have a few 0-0 draws away at the other big Championship teams and nick the 1 -0 and 2-1 results at home we should see steady progress.
Now my girlfriend, her dad and brother are all lovely people, but if they have one downfall it’s that they are Villa season ticket holders, I’m sure as you can imagine the last few years have been jam packed with banter but the one message that I had from all of them when Lambert arrived was “prepare to be frustrated beyond your wildest dreams”.
I thought it was just a bit of scaremongering from them as it’s what I had expected, after all I remember sitting through what I can only remember as a million 1-1 draws when we had the pleasure of being overseen by Glenn Hoddle, thinking it’s not possible to get any more frustrated at football than that.
Alas they couldn’t have hit the nail on the head any sweeter if they had tried.
I’ll start off with the highs as let’s face it there were some spectacular results.
Coming back from 3-1 down against Fulham (yes I know we drew 4-4) but the joy when that fourth goal went in was amazing and brought back memories of THAT Leicester game.
The 1-0 win against Villa was for me incredibly satisfying for obvious reasons.
The two 3-1 away victories at Barnsley and Fulham both very complete performances, the latter being behind only Newcastle in the best away day performances last year in my opinion.
But of course the best has to be that 12.30pm FA cup 4th round fixture against the mighty and extremely well decorated Liverpool away.
It’s what the FA cup is made for the chance to upset the apple cart against one of the so called big boys.
However I am a firm believer that if you are a team from outside the Premier League then you only have one upset in the bag in the FA cup and to use ours so early meant we wouldn’t have another result like this one, although I will applaud a spirited performance against a surprisingly strong Chelsea side in the next round.
What a game to play your upset card.
My two brothers and I have always been jealous of what my Dad has seen as a Wolves fan, his favourite being the Sherpa Van Trophy win against Burnley followed by the League Cup win against the late great Brian Clough’s superb Forest.
My main dream as a Wolves fan is to see my beloved Wolves play at Wembley with my Dad; the closest I have come is the Millennium stadium win against Sheffield United.
For me the memory of seeing your team play at Wembley with your dad is worth more than anything I could think of.
So I do have to thank Paul Lambert because rolling round on the floor of the terraces of Anfield with your dad after Stearman’s towering header in the very first minute is something that I will never ever forget, whenever anyone asks me to describe that day I just reply with one word.
However I can’t forgive him for some of the results and team selections during his time at Wolves that caused me nothing but pure anger and frustration to the point where I wanted to cry.
The lowest for me has to be that Tuesday night home game against Wigan.
They were second from bottom, had won 2 in 12, hadn’t done the double over anyone all season and we needed a win to stop a nasty little run that was appearing. Enter Wolves.
You could have written the match report as soon as Hi Ho Wolverhampton had finished, sent it to the paper and gone and had a pint.
The main body of the article reading “a very poor Wolves performance was a main contributing factor to Wigan snatching all 3 points in the dying embers of the game”.
This is exactly what happened.
I was livid about that result for about 3 days, waking up just as angry on the Wednesday and Thursday morning as I had gone to bed the night before.
I’ve never come as close to sacking off my season ticket as I had during that 3 day period.
It was mainly based on the situation that how could 17,000 fans see a game was turning out but the one guy that could do something about it acted as if nothing was wrong and worse that it was acceptable.
Sadly since Mick McCarthy these kinds of results have become more the norm, and worse, expected.
But what could you ask for to cheer yourself up after a result like that?
A home game derby against a Blues team that had an even worse winless streak than Wigan. You can imagine how much that game lowered my frustration levels.
Other results that stood out as unacceptable were Bristol City, Derby, Burton Albion away, even the 1-0 home win against Rotherham was lucky, if they had a striker that could finish his dinner let alone a one on one then I believe we would be kicking off this season against Gillingham not Middlesbrough.
The other contributing factor to my blood pressure being so high was when he played players out of position.
Mainly George Saville at left back when we had CBJ and at worse Hause.
Now anyone that knows me knows how inept I thought Saville was at football, he is a League 1 player at best.
It was easy to see why Chelsea released him so easily, very rarely does Chelsea regret selling a young player and I doubt they will be thinking they made the wrong decision in this instance.
Coupled with the boring football, one up top at home and the drowsy post-match interviews meant that Wolves had to go out and get better.
In NES I believe they have, he has brought a new spring to Wolves’ step and has to be a massive part of the reason that astute players like Neves have joined.
We wouldn’t have had that with Lambert.
Can you imagine how the conversation would have gone down?
“Alright Reub? Its Paul, yeah we would love to have you here but you will have to fight Lee Evans for a place in midfield mate”.
Hardly inspiring is it.
But I really do believe Wolves can go somewhere this year under NES if he plays the kind of football that we crave and gets a goal scorer and a……….
Oh here we go again.