As Kenny Jackett prepares Wolves for a third season under his wing, David Evans looks at whether this could be his difficult ‘third album’.
Arctic Monkeys. Yes, that’s how I’m starting this piece. The four piece Sheffield Indie band stormed onto the scene when I was at University with their first album ‘Whatever people say I am, that’s what I’m not’. Everyone was listening to it, everyone was raving about it. Not many could fault it.
Then came their second outing, ‘Favourite Worse Nightmare’. Perhaps not as youthful and raw as their first, but the American College vibe continued their work from a solid foundation.
Then came album number three, ‘Humbug’. Produced by Queens of the Stone Age Josh Homme, you expected a British, snappy and a witty lyrical masterpiece like it’s predecessors. Instead it lived up to its title. Dull, experimental and slow. In my eyes it was far too different to the Monkey’s style and sound of yesteryear.
This order of breakout first, solid second and poor third isn’t the only example on the indie music scene. Bloc Party’s British ‘Silent Alarm’, Ferocious ‘A Weekend in the City’ and then experimental ‘Intimacy’ shared the same path.
So why have I started the first few paragraphs of this piece charting the album history of English indie bands?
Well, Kenny Jackett is about to embark on his third season as Wolves manager. This could well be his difficult ‘third album’.
Kenny created and developed a fresh faced Wolves team in the summer of 2013. Energetic and pacey, this team blew the tears away of the previous failures and entered a Wolves team into a new era.
Recording breaking success in League One turned to a second season back in the Championship. Built on a solid base, Wolves added here and there and surprised many, including us fans, to the heights this team could achieve.
Kenny and the team wanted promotion. It was probably a step too far, but they nearly did it. Different factors would prevent a playoff place but Wolves had evolved a step further and left themselves in good place for season three.
Jackett has to continue the development of this young team. Instil the calm passing build up yet powerful punch they bring. Apart from the departing Bakary Sako, Wolves have no reason to sell this summer. However, this is where one of the main problems lies.
Wolves have lacked a depth in squad which probably could have helped with their promotion push. Wolves have already started to add to their squad with the acquisition of Portsmouth midfielder Jed Wallace. But there is adding numbers and there is adding quality.
Kenny now has a midfield that can sink a ship with ten potential first team players and academy prospects Graham and Ismail waiting in the wings. Rowe and Savile are relatively unproven following injuries and loan spells. We will have to wait and see with Wallace and the future remains uncertain with Michael Jacobs. Wolves can settle with this line up, but Kenny will now need to look at the quality of this midfield.
Kenny hasn’t been shy to make the big call and drop players. Both Jacobs and Ricketts were surprisingly dropped at the start of the season. Perhaps because he felt they would not take Wolves to that next step. Kenny will need to look at his midfield again and to see who can push for a top six finish and who needs to move on. Then, recruit those players who will add to the quality needed.
If were blessed in midfield, then Wolves are praying for more elsewhere. Keeping Kuszazck may not be a bad bit of business if things turn sour for McCarey following his recent suspension. In defence, Wolves have promising talent in full back positions but need more in central defence.
Cover for one is needed.
Multi-award winning Stearman will keep his place but this could be a make or break season for Captain Danny Batth. Fans have started to question the Brierley Hill boy ability. With rumoured interest from Sunderland, Kenny might have to make a difficult call on whether to stick or twist on the local lad.
One of the transfer failings last season was the search for a striker. A near nine month wait came to an end in January with the signing of Benik Afobe from Arsenal for £2 million. Nouha Dicko’s pace and power was gravely missed in Wolves nightmare November last year. Leon Clarke and Liam McAlinden didn’t have the right groove to step up and loans of Danny Graham and Yannick Sagbo didn’t provide much help either.
Let’s be honest. Behind closed doors you never know what happens. We only see one side of the fence. Many targets could have been identified and deals might have been close but many factors could end any arrangement. A players attitude, quality, injury history, wage demands and just the managers gut feeling could stopped a transfer and we might not have been the wiser.
This could have easily happened in the search for a striker. In an age of ‘Now, Now, Now’ fuelled by the demands and the brewing storm social media brings. Each day a transfer doesn’t come to fruition, each day fans become restless.
Kenny will need to end his striker search this summer. Not just cover for Afobe and Dicko, but quality cover. One or two players who can not only compete with these two magic men, but provide a different dynamic for Kenny to play with. If we experience a delay like we did last season, Wolves may once again be behind the grid in the last few laps of the promotion race.
Kenny will need to up his game. Wolves were part of the furniture for years in the Championship. After three years in the Premier League they slipped through the Championship and landed in League One. Wolves returned to the second tier of English football with a new swagger. Other teams didn’t expect it and Wolves danced their way to victory.
This time, mediocre mid table teams will know the score and have their moves prepared. Kenny will need to have Plan B, C and D up his sleeve to keep our rivals guessing again.
The relegated Premier League Teams this time around may be the best the Championship could have hoped for. QPR, despite actively promoting a re-structure, might experience a difficult first season back. Hull, with Steve Bruce at the helm may be a tough cookie to crack but their location may be their undoing when attracting players. Burnley will be hard to break down under Sean Dyche’s work rate mentality. But the squad which is more like the Wolves class of 09 might start to welter with age.
Throw in playoff losers Brentford, Ipswich and Middlesbrough. Add in a dash of McClarenless Derby, Freedman’s Forest and a hint of promoted Bristol City and Preston, Kenny will find himself in a difficult Championship war once again.
Looking at this as the ‘difficult third album’ really rests on this – Where will Kenny’s future lie if we don’t achieve promotion?
A top six finish and a playoff defeat may be seen as enough progression for the aim of a top two finish the next season. How about a finish seventh or below? Will the crows be circling Kenny Jackett on a hot and humid spring day in 2016? Would it be justified or would two years without promotion with this current crop not be good enough for the likes of Morgan and Moxey?
You may say ‘No’ now, but hindsight is a wonderful thing.
All our support will be behind Kenny Jackett and Wolves next season. With the abilities this team possesses and Jackett’s near faultless run in the transfer market, there is no reason why Wolves won’t take the next step in twelve months time.
Wolves’ fans have been patient with the re-build of our team. Many expected a mid-table finish this season. With season three, perhaps the probation period will now be over for Kenny Jackett.
Hopefully Wolves and Kenny will go on the produce many multi-platinum albums for years to come. His third could be different and not the one we’re used to seeing every Saturday. Many calling for Kenny to go back to his roots. With better performances come higher expectations.
Let’s hope Kenny’s third isn’t his last.