There was something fresh about the Fans’ Parliament meeting on Tuesday, a freshness that ascended above the now tiresome questions about The Liquidator, ticket prices and the video walls.
Perhaps it was the new surroundings of the Marston’s Brewery training centre that played host, or the new faces among the FP. Or maybe it was because we didn’t have the familiar faces of Jez Moxey or Matt Grayson fronting the meeting.
In truth it was head coach Paul Lambert treating our supporters with welcome honesty and respect that was the most refreshing of them all.
With Paul Richards (supporter liaison officer) refereeing the gathering, managing director Laurie Dalrymple and Kevin Thelwell all facing the fans’ questions all three were used to the ‘toing and froing’ of the FP. Yet it was newbie Lambert who stole the show.
This was the first time I had seen Lambert up close and personal. I had heard good things about him in the weeks before from fans, friends and journalists who had met him – all gave favourable reviews.
It’s like that in Wolverhampton, it’s almost tribal. If a few people get to meet a new player or head coach the feelers are soon put out to see if they are ‘sound’. If not, they don’t tend to last long, just ask Glen Hoddle.
Despite things being positive about our new boss, I couldn’t shake off the image of Lambert during his Aston Villa days. A face as long as a wet weekend in Rhyl, unshaven, sporting a crap Marcon-branded thermal coat and looking to the floor for answers as he was grilled on Match of The Day about his side’s latest lost.
As a Wolves fan seeing a rival team coached by man in such turmoil I couldn’t help raise a smile and think ‘I’m glad that’s not our manager’.
Fast forward almost two years on and my fears became reality as the same ‘down trodden monotone man’ was now holding aloft a Wolves scarf and what-more replacing arguable the most charismatic boss in recent Wolves history in Walter Zenga – chalk and cheese came to mind.
Despite pre-conceived thoughts on Lambert, I still felt I couldn’t hold anything with substance against a manager who I hadn’t even shared the same post code with until last week.
So onto the FP, where I expected our new head coach to give carefully rehearsed answers, look bereft of confidence and give a ‘we are not worthy’ bowing of the head to supporters – no matter how ignorant they were.
What we got was an utterly honest man, who held court with confidence and humour and someone who wasn’t scared to challenge fans who were prepared to challenge him – ‘Christ! I’ve got the bloke wrong’, I thought.
Lambert looks a changed man from his days in B6. He spoke with intelligence, his experience of studying foreign football, his pride of the academy and his intent in the transfer window.
I asked him what style of football we could expect and what identity he was looking to implement.
Lambert replied: “I’m looking for an intensity to our play. Winning the ball high up the field and looking to counter attack when we can. I’ve watched a lot of football in Germany and putting aside Pep Guardiola’s Bayern Munich who are just something else, there’s an intensity to the play. The RB Leipzig manager Ralph Hasenhüttl, I watched him when he coached Ingolstadt and they all worked for each other and swarmed the ball when the opposition have it.”
He picked out Jurgen Klopp’s Borussia Dortmund sides as a style he’d like to replicate at Molineux – that scored points with me immediately.
What also impressed me was the Glaswegian wasn’t scared to challenge the fans. When asked who would be in charge of what players we recruit he made it clear it would be him, “I’m no shrinking violet”, he said.
He was questioned why he dropped Jack Price and revealed: ‘Let me make it clear I like Jack. He wasn’t fit and needed games. I needed to take him out as he was at risk of injury.’
And when asked why the players seemingly only saluted the South Bank at the end of games.
He explained: “I take your point. This isn’t uncommon in Germany where it is tradition to go to the end which is the most vocal and each club does have its own tradition. I want to bring the players and fans closer together and that’s why I’ve opened the training ground on a Tuesday for supporters to come along and see what we’re doing.”
It was a smart and natural answer from a man who clearly was showing his knowledge of football beyond these shores.
Perhaps what won me over about Lambert was when he was questioned about January transfers. With Thelwell and Dalrymple to his right, he didn’t look for help, instead he met the question full on and simply turned the tables and questioned our fans.
“When you signed 13 players in the summer what did you expect? Where did you expect to be? “ he said with a look of ‘I’m not surprised’.
He went on to explain the difficulty of foreign players settling into a new country and to a new division, citing Henrikh Mkhitaryan at Manchester United who is now only reaching top form, six months after signing.
As Paul Richards asked the fans to thank Lambert for his time, the head coach, who by this time had won over many fans interrupted and gave an impassioned speech.
“You have a brilliant club, that has maybe just come off the rails a little bit. Forget what happened earlier, it has gone.
“There is a great infrastructure of people who want to do the job successfully. Your support has been really good and is appreciated and the club is on the cusp of something really good. Do things together and we have a better chance of being successful.”
Cry Wolf Comment:
Many Wolves fans like myself had doubts about Lambert before he joined the club having seen the demise at Aston Villa. I was fiercely against the move but promised myself I would support him as soon as he was on the side of old gold and black.
Since he has joined the club, he has made every effort to engage with fans and clearly is a forward thinking and modern manager. Those who have met him speak positively and you feel with each victory fans will warm towards Lambert.
However as impressive as the new boss was at the FP, Wolves have taken just eight points out of a possible 18, and this is the form of a relegation side.
If Lambert’s actions are as positive and direct as his words then momentum will carry and who knows where that could take us. But it’s a big ‘if’ and once more it looks like we’re faced with another season of transition.