With a plethora of players being released from their clubs this summer, Ryan Plant looks at who Wolves sign bring in for nothing.
Since his appointment in the summer of 2013 following the departure of Dean Saunders, Kenny Jackett has made a habit of delving into the free transfer market as a means of bolstering the firepower, and in some cases experience, of the playing squad. So the question is, after seeing high profile free transfers such as the moves of Michael Ballack, Andrea Pirlo and Robert Lewandowski in recent times, who is available to Wolves this year?
Jackett’s first signing, over two years ago now, was former Wales international Sam Ricketts. Capable of playing anywhere across the back four, the Welshman was instantly made captain. He went on to make 48 appearances for the club, scoring two goals, both spectacular strikes coming on to his left foot from the right flank against Rotherham and Carlisle. Ricketts remained club captain last season, despite seeing his appearances limited. He went on loan to Swindon during the latter part of the campaign, and fell agonisingly short of promotion to the Championship as they lost to Preston in the Play-Off final. After announcing he would be leaving, Ricketts received huge support from all staff, players and fans of the club.
A year later, in 2014, Jackett secured the services of Peterborough captain Tommy Rowe, who sadly has only played 14 times thanks to injury. He was followed by the explosive, athletic and skilful Rajiv van La Parra (RVLP). RVLP was an instant success at the club, claiming the Man of the Match award against Norwich on his competitive debut in front of the Sky cameras in an inspired 1-0 victory, in which he assisted Dave Edwards for the solitary goal. RVLP was later joined by former Polish international, and UEFA Champions League winner, Tomasz Kuszczak after his departure from Brighton Albion. The huge Pole, although his handling was often questioned, was a superb backup option behind Carl Ikeme, and he ended up playing 13 times for the club in Ikeme’s absence. Kuszczak has since left to join Birmingham City after a short stint at the club.
For this reason, my first possible signing is a goalkeeper. With the afore mentioned Kuszczak gone, Aaron McCarey still unavailable and Jonathan Flatt and Harry Burgoyne lacking experience, I think it is vital that an experienced shot-stopper is acquired as backup to Carl Ikeme. There are lots of keepers available: Steve Harper has officially left Hull City, Brad Jones has quit Liverpool, and Ali Al-Habsi has finished his contract at Wigan Athletic. However, Finnish legend Jussi Jaaskelinen is the man who caught my eye.
Although he is now 40, the towering former Bolton Wanderers keeper would be a perfect substitute goalkeeper behind Carl Ikeme, whilst being the ideal, model professional to not just help nurture the club’s young goalkeepers, but the young players throughout the club. Jaaskelinen was a regular for West Ham United as recently as 2013, where he was runner up for ‘Hammer of the Year’, until finding himself second fiddle to the outstanding Spanish goalkeeper Adrian.
Following the departure of Sam Ricketts, I feel it would be wise of the club to sign another experienced full-back as cover for Scott Golbourne. Paul McShane has recently left Hull City, and the incredibly dated Ian Harte will not follow Bournemouth into the Premier League, but I feel that Javier Garrido would be the perfect fit for Kenny Jackett’s chosen style of play. The attacking, Spanish left back originally arrived in this country way back in 2007, when Manchester City paid £1.5m to Real Sociedad. During his time at Eastlands, Garrido made a habit of scoring sublime set pieces (which could be vital following the departure of Bakary Sako), including one against Liverpool, and ironically against Wolves in 2009 at Molineux under Roberto Mancini, as part of a star-studded line up featuring the likes of Carlos Tevez and Robinho.
However, Garrido soon found himself out of favour at the club following the signing of Aleksandar Kolarov, and joined Lazio for two seasons in the Serie A. However, in 2012 Garrido was back on English shores, playing in the yellow and green of Norwich City, where following a loan deal he made his transfer permanent. In total, the left back has played over 50 times at the highest level of English football, invaluable experience if Wolves want to push on from last season.
Last season, Wolves were incredibly fortunate in that Player of the Season Richard Stearman and Danny Batth played nearly every game together. Thanks to Dominic Iorfa, Kourtney Hause and Ethan Ebanks-Landell, the future looks bright for the club defensively, but because of the injuries sustained by Scott Golbourne and Matt Doherty, cover for the defensive positions was for the majority of the season very stretched.
As a result, I think Antolin Alcaraz, the former Everton and Wigan Athletic Paraguayan international centre back, would be ideal cover for Stearman and Batth. However, Alcaraz famously spat on Stearman in November 2011, warranting a three game ban, but this did not prevent him from being part of the miraculous Latics side led by Roberto Martinez that managed to stay in the Premier League from a seemingly impossible position. A year later, he won the FA Cup, and followed Martinez out of the DW Stadium to Everton, along with Joel Robles. He found his chances limited thanks to injury and the imperious partnership of Phil Jagielka and Sylvain Distin, but the 6’2 defender has still made 82 top-flight appearances and is well accustomed to a quality brand of football.
Following the departures of Jake Cassidy, Leon Clarke, Kevin Doyle and Liam McAlinden’s loan move to Shrewsbury, I think the club must find another striker. This is because Benik Afobe and Nouha Dicko are the only senior strikers left as it stands, and although a few names have been mentioned, such as Adam le Fondre, there is no reason why Kenny Jackett could not dip into the free transfer market. Promising Newcastle United striker Adam Campbell is available, and Welsh hitman Nicky Maynard has left Cardiff City, but I think Carlton Cole is the kind of player the club desires.
Cole is already known to Wolves fans having spent a short time on loan at the club during the successful 2002-03 season, and since then he has only improved. He has played for England seven times, and amassed a wealth of Premier League know-how mainly thanks to his time at West Ham United. The powerful, 6’3 striker has scored 51 Premier League goals, more than Dirk Kuyt and Freddie Ljunberg for example, but still enjoyed less playing time during last season. He was mainly utilised as a substitute last season, only starting eight out of his 23 games, but this is how I can see him being used at Molineux for the coming season. He would be the perfect striker to bring on and add a new dimension to the Wolves attack, as he could be used as a target man, allowing the likes of Dicko, Afobe, RVLP and James Henry to use their pace to provide options ahead of him.
And so in conclusion, during the transfer merry-go-round this summer, we can expect to see a whole host of free transfers up and down the country and across the world of football. Micah Richards made his debut for Aston Villa yesterday and Tom Cleverley has left Manchester United to sign for Everton, whilst the deal taking Danny Ings from Burnley to Liverpool was agreed long in advance and Sami Khedira made an eye-catching move from Real Madrid to Juventus at the expense of many Premier League suitors. Thanks to the research required to produce this article, I’ve been left amazed by the wealth of talent let go by their clubs this summer.