With club captain Sam Ricketts’ loan departure imminent, Tom Tracey looks back at the importance that the defender played in his time at Wolves.
It appears as though Sam Ricketts’ departure from the club is all but confirmed. An emergency loan move to League One Swindon Town is on the cards for Sam, who appears to have turned down a move to Coventry City. With the loan move running until the end of the season and the end of a two year contract, a goodbye to a great man seems to be in order.
Kenny Jackett’s first signing as manager of Wolves was a significant step in changing the fortunes of a faltering club. On the fourth of July 2013, it was announced that versatile Bolton defender had had his contract cancelled and had joined Wolves on a free transfer. He was immediately made captain of Wolves, a move that ensured Kenny made his immediate mark on a squad that was torn and ravaged by rumours of division and a double relegation.
Kenny told Wolves’ website: “Appointing my own captain from the outside was something I looked for and it’s someone I know very well and have done so for a number of years. And from Sam’s point of view I feel he’s ready now to take on the role of captain of Wolves.”
Sam was an experienced head at the club at a time when many young players made up the bulk of the team. He was also a player who had played across all of the four professional leagues in the country. This was precisely what we needed to begin a rebirth. Making his debut in front of around 5,000 Wolves fans away at Preston, he was forced to show his well-noted versatility by playing in various positions across the defence throughout the match.
During Sam’s first interview at the club, he said that “Wolves are not a club looking to stay in League One – we are looking forward and looking upwards.”
He was not wrong, as he helped Wolves to a record 103 points in League One, playing the large majority of games for the club at right back in a record breaking season that signified a new Wolves. It was not just his defensive discipline but also his attacking abilities that helped the team.
His attacking play from the full back position saw him offer a crossing threat and at the end of the season he notched a couple of goals at Molineux, one during the final game of the season in a 3-0 win over Carlisle but most notably the winning goal in a 6-4 thriller against Rotherham.
His first season at the club saw him join an ensemble of Wolves players in the League One PFA Team of the Year 2013/14.
Aside from his obvious footballing ability which has seen him play in the Premier League for Hull and Bolton, amass over 400 league appearances and gain 52 caps for Wales (he has been called up to the Wales squad for the Euro 2016 qualifier against Israel despite appearing for Wolves only four times in the league this season), there is much more to Sam Ricketts.
His professionalism is extremely well noticed among Wolves fans, and this manifests itself in the fact that during his time at Wolves he has rarely been criticised – in fact the lack of presence of stories in the media surrounding Sam goes to show that he just gets his head down and get on with it.
Any interviews with Sam show him to be extremely level-headed and honest, with a real earnest desire to help improve the club in any way he can. He has been a model pro, conducting himself well on and off the pitch, attending the club’s community events and even helping coaching the first team players that have usurped his place in the side.
Wolves fans will not begrudge Sam a move away from the club in a bid to carry on playing football as long as he can. Whilst many would like to see him move over to a coaching role within the club, it is likely that Sam has at least another year of playing football – most likely in League One.
All we can do is thank a man who Kenny trusted to lead the team through a League One season steadily and without falling into any of the traps that a season of being the favourite in every match can bring. If he does end up at Swindon Town, they are signing a player who will give them a great chance of promotion through both footballing ability and inspirational qualities.
Good luck Sam.