4 things Wolves must do to get promotion to the Premier League

It’s just hours away.

Perhaps the most hotly anticipated season for Wolves fans since the summer of 2009.

Wolves are a revitalised club thanks to a flurry of new signings and an overhaul of the backroom staff – Jaysus we’ve even got the big screens working again.

The new coach, Nuno Espirito Santo, the man with a name that screams ‘don’t dare run off into the sunset with my wife’, has already made his mark adopting a 3-4-3 formation and somehow managing to pry Portuguese talent from the Atlantic Coast to the banks of the Shropshire Union Canal.

There’s a feeling of excitement in the city, a buzz and pride of being of Wolves fan that has been absent for too long – ok folks how many minutes will we give it on Saturday before it disintegrates?

I kid, but let’s be under no illusions we all want to see Wanderers take that magic elevator to the promised land of the Premier League but by no means will it be easy – we’re Wolves ay we, it’s never easy.

But just because it isn’t easy doesn’t make it impossible so here are four ways Wolves can bring Premier League football back to Wolverhampton.

Get the runs

In March of this year Wolves were one of the favourites to drop into League One. An abysmal run of form – masked only by a famous win at Anfield against Liverpool – saw us flirting with the relegation trap door again.

But for a fantastic five-match-unbeaten streak Wolves could have been facing Fleetwood Town this weekend – that purple patch proved pivotal.Finding the ability to put together a run of wins in The Championship is what separates the relegation threatened from the mid-tablers and the mid-tablers from the promotion prospects.

In Wolves’ two previous successful Championship promotions (2003 and 2009) they have been able to put a number of winning runs together that has kept them in the promotion hunt.

Back in 02/03 Dave Jones’ side went on a ten-match-unbeaten spell in the league between October and December then between January and May of that season they lost just two of 23 games as they went up through the play-offs.

In 08/09 Wolves started the season winning seven out of eight league games; seven games in a month from October to November and lost one of their final 11 games as they went on to lift the title with 90 points.

If Wolves are to replicate that success then putting together those winning streaks are a must and something NES will have to address considering the last two indifferent seasons.

You don’t go up without goals

Dwight Gayle and Glen Murray 23 goals; Andre Gray 25 goals; Troy Deeney 21 goals; Dave Nugent 21 goals. Each of the aforementioned players all were promoted with their clubs in recent years and all hit 20+ goals for the season.

You don’t win promotion from this league if you haven’t got a regular goal scorer and not since Benik Afobe, or perhaps even Sylvain Ebanks-Blake, have Wolves had a striker who could find the net regularly at this level.

There was sentiment for Nouha Dicko last season as he fought back from a long lay-off to return in an old gold shirt again. Then there was admiration for the way Jon Dadi Bodvarsson fought and battled for every cause.

However the pair brought with them just three goals each all season (less than Danny Batth) and no club can threaten promotion with such misfiring strikers.

With a full pre-season behind him, Dicko can still have a part to play in a promotion hunting campaign but with Jon Dadi now gone and Joe Mason seemingly on the verge of the exit door, it leaves Nouha and new lad Leo Bonatini to carry the goalscoring burden.

Rumours have circulated of Sam Gallagher joining from Southampton which would certainly be a shrewd signing. Highly rated Gallagher hit 11 for Blackburn Rovers (including one against us) an impressive feat in a team that went down and lost 19 games that season.

What's Plan B?

It is a problem has blighted Wolves for years and years – no Plan B.

When Wolves do crack a formation that brings success, coaches have been reluctant to adopt an alternative approach during poor spells of games or a bad run of form and it has led to our own downfall.

NES has been insistent on a 3-4-3 formation that worked for him at Porto and caused Leicester problems last week. However as the strength of the Championship grows so have team’s ability to become more fluid with their tactics – Wolves also need to make this second nature.

Under McCarthy Wolves relied on 4-4-2 for promotion and 4-5-1 to consolidate Premier League football. Even when we had Kevin Doyle, Steven Fletcher and Ebanks-Blake one always dropped into a '10 position' and we rarely ventured further from there.

Likewise under Jackett Wolves stuck with 4-5-1 which worked perfectly with the trio of Dicko, Sako and later Afobe but fell apart when the latter two left.

Walter Zenga tried several formations but in the end never found a shape the team could settle with. Paul Lambert brought the return of the 4-5-1 only for the Scot to insist on by-passing his midfield with long balls from the back to our 5ft'8 striker.

Nuno’s 3-4-3 formation thus far has the thumbs up however the head coach must be willing to adopt an contingency shape if things get tough this season which invariably, in The Championship, it will.

For Carl

I’ve never understood clubs who build a myth around their teams and embellish how success was bestowed on them by some apparent spiritual force.

Liverpool, West Ham, Celtic and Rangers are clubs that come to mind and they love a tale or two to go with their moments of triumph, ‘it wasn’t the players on the pitch there was something in the air’, that sort of thing.

If that works for them, then good luck to them, and perhaps even Wolves are guilty of this giving their sentiment to the famous number 9 shirt.

But one emotion I feel Wolves, both on and off the pitch, can use as a source of inspiration is the strength currently being shown by Carl Ikeme.

I’m a big of fan of Ikeme, a talented goalkeeper who I still hope will get that crack at Premier League football with Wolves.

He’s a huge character in the dressing room, the man who collects the ‘fines’ if players are late to training, late for a meeting etc etc, so it takes a hell of a personality to hold court in front of a squad of 20-odd players.

His absence from the squad will be missed, the support he has received from around the world only goes to show his popularity but also the seriousness of his illness.

From the moment his diagnosis of acute leukaemia was announced those Wolves fan caught up in transfer frenzy took off the 'Twitter-refresh' specs and realised what our club was about.

This is our club, and while it so easy to feel distant from those who give their careers to play football for our enjoyment it shouldn't be forgotten as soon as that shirt goes on they’re one of us.

If there ever was a season, or a cause, for players and fans to unite and show ‘the strength of the pack’ this is the season.

Wolves’ success has always come when a team shows hunger, the fans show enthusiasm and the club stands together.


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