Laurie Dalrymple, Tuesday May 9th 2017: “I’m tired of the rollercoaster analogy.
“What comes with a rollercoaster is fear and an abrupt end.”
Thursday May 11th 2017, Paul Lambert has crisis talks with Wolves bosses at Compton over his future.
The rollercoaster hasn’t stopped yet, Laurie.
Just days after Lambert was setting out his summer spending strategy the Champions League winner is fighting for his future in the latest debacle at Wolverhampton Wanderers.
A row over who had control over transfers (he or the ‘super agent’ Jorge Mendes) appears to have been the catalyst for Lambert’s deep concern with claims his transfer targets are being knocked back by Fosun who are truly tucked-up in bed with Mendes.
While there wasn’t much to write home about on the pitch during a wretched 16/17 season, the same certainly can’t be said off it and Wolves face the real prospect of chasing their fourth head coach inside 12 months should Lambert decide to leave.
So what can be said for Fosun?
The likeable Jeff Shi has adhered himself to the fans with promise of success, even the odd Banks’s or two and he’s a man who loves a Wolves scarf.
But the Chinese businessman can’t quite shake the money making Mendes off his back.
It is no secret that Fosun’s transfer activity is heavily influenced by Mendes and the influx of signings from abroad had the makings of ‘favour for friends’ about it – a new signing a day at one point.
When the gamble on the likeable Walter Zenga didn’t pay off, Shi sought counsel from those who knew Molineux better and it was Lambert who came head and shoulders above the rest during the interview stages and thusly was appointed in November.
Lambert made it clear he was having the final say over signings. While rumours circled it was Kevin Thelwell who was dictating the transfer regime the head coach nipped those rumours in the bud telling the Fans’ Parliament ‘if I don’t get the final say over signings then what’s the point?’.
Perhaps the warning signings to Lambert’s position (and who knows Thelwell’s role at Molineux) was when the permanent signing of Helder Costa was announced.
Costa, who has been a pleasure to watch this season, was always out of Wolves’ league. The fans knew it, the players knew it, even the manager knew it. So when the Portuguese wizard signed for Wolves for a £13 million just days after Thelwell said ‘we’d have to remortgage Molineux to sign him’ then you know all isn’t as well as it seems in the corridors of Compton.
For Thelwell to come out publicly and admit we had no chance of signing Costa takes some confidence of the situation – especially to a fan base who are only too aware of the owners’ financial might and demand money is spent.
Thelwell all but said there was no deal to be had. He’s the sporting director but when the deal was done what exactly was he directing?
What was Paul Lambert’s say in the signing? Could he really turn down working with such a talented player even for the remaining months of the season? Lambert kept quiet on that signing, he will know while he didn’t get the final say on the deal there would be no complaints on that particular Mendes addition.
But the reality is Lambert has been showing his displeasure at the Mendes influence for months.
The omission of Romain Saiss in midfield being one, Prince Oniangue sent on loan to France and Joao Teixeira shipped to Forest was another despite both arguably offering more creativity to our one dimension midfield. Then there was poor Ola John (interpret poor how you wish) he came, he saw, he got injured, he got sacked off to Deportivo.
It was only Costa who was a mainstay. ‘The best player in my time here at Wolves’ said Dave Edwards, Costa was too good to leave out.
Then came Ivan Cavaleiro’s injury.
If ever there was a man who epitomised the Mendes influence it was the tricky winger who ditched Monaco for Wolverhampton and yet was ‘happy’ to leave his model girlfriend back in Portugal. The choice between Lisbon or Lanesfield must have kept he awake at night.
But for his return from injury coming at a time Wolves had gone seven without a win would the 23-year-old had been in Lambert’s thoughts? I suspect not.
Lambert has been consistent in making it clear he is the boss. Just weeks ago he was talking about buying British-based players – a clear ‘f**k you’ to Mendes and his catalogue of continental talent.
He followed this up by stating his excitement over a ‘huge summer’ for the club. A huge summer it will be but will Lambert be a part of it?
While he is a manager who is yet to win over the Molineux masses, fans have leapt to his defence with regards to the stand-off with Mendes and Fousun.
But should he leave there will always be that question of ‘what if?’
Going for him he had tremendous faith in our youth. Morgan Gibbs-White, Conor Ronan, Harry Burgoyne and Donovan Wilson are just some of the faces he has promoted from the academy this season.
Then there’s the fact he wasn’t given a pre-season and was picking up the mess after Kenny Jackett’s and Zenga’s reigns.
Also it can’t be ignored he had previously achieved success in getting Norwich out of The Championship and we all know just how tough that is.
However some things from Lambert will perhaps leave a sizeable number of supporters relieved he could be heading for the exit.
When he questioned why he was under pressure when the club had lost six on the bounce as we were hurtling towards the relegation zone irked many supporters.
As did comments in the Express & Star where the former Celtic man suggested the Molineux crowd made it harder for the team to play.
Lambert also wasn’t helped by some downright atrocious performances that could have seen the whole squad charged with crimes against football – Wolves versus Wigan on February 14th 2017 will go down as the worst performance I’ve witnessed as a lifelong Wanderers fan.
In all Lambert’s possible exit exposes the clash of cultures going on behind the scenes with Shi caught in the footballing equivalent of a love triangle.
On one side Jeff Shi has the picking of a traditional and wholesome girl next door, a safe pair of hands, who wouldn’t look to harm you but will hardly shake you out of your comfort zone. On the other side is an exotic woman, ready to take you places beyond your wildest dreams, you could end up penniless and ashamed of yourself (possibly in prison), life will never be boring and the chances are she’ll be unpopular with your friends and family.
Shi has to decide and it will be his toughest decision to date.
Should he point Lambert to the road out of Wolverhampton it risk chaos at Molineux.
He would be undermining Thelwell – who brought in Lambert – but also his managing director Dalrymple who only this week called for an end to this rollercoaster.
Then what for both men’s futures? Our pre-season? Our progression under Fosun?
It’s your call Jeff, but is Mendes really worth it?