Last on MOTD: Nineteen Eighty-Four

WHEN Wolves clinched promotion to the Premier League in April with a nervy victory over QPR at Molineux, manager Mick McCarthy was brutally frank about what they would need to survive – money.

McCarthy knew from experience. Ten months after leading Sunderland to the top flight in 2005, he was rewarded with the sack as his ill-equipped squad plummeted towards relegation with what was, at the time, the lowest points tally in top-flight history. (This was before Derby County came along.)

As he talked about Wolves’ chances of making an impact on the Premier League in the Molineux press room on that sunny Saturday evening four months ago, McCarthy acknowledged that he had some unfinished business at the top level. The Sunderland experience had been a horrible one, and he was determined to put it in the past, with the help of a board willing to give him financial backing.

Of course, McCarthy being McCarthy, he put it a little more bluntly than that.

“Well, if I’m given £6million to spend, like I was last time – which included transfer fees, wages, signing on fees and agents’ fees – we’ll all be f***ed,” he said.

“But of course, that won’t be the case. I’m just telling you that was how it was the last time.

“I had, I think, a bit of naivety. The naivety was thinking I could do it with £6million. And I also had the arrogance, the willingness to take it on the chin and say: ‘Ah, bollocks. If that’s what I’ve got, I’ll do it.’

“We didn’t get bashed up. We didn’t get a lot of points, but I never really had a chance.

“I’m going to enjoy today. But you asked me if I feel that I’ve got unfinished business, and of course I do.”

It wasn’t just McCarthy who had unfinished business with the Premier League, though. So did Wolves. In 2003, Dave Jones led them to the top flight via the play-offs, the first time the club had been there since 1984. Even with old hands Paul Ince and Denis Irwin in the side, they misfired.

Their adventure started badly – with a 5-1 opening-day hammering at Blackburn – and finished with relegation. What’s more, they failed to win a single away league game, despite leading twice at Chelsea in late March that season (they lost 5-2) and going 2-0 up at Manchester City a fortnight later, a game they still led 3-2 going into stoppage time (they drew 3-3).

With that kind of history, there was a special significance about Tuesday night’s victory at Wigan – even if it was the final game on the season’s first midweek Match of the Day.

Last night’s final match: Wigan 0 Wolves 1
Reporter: Ivan Gaskell

Andy Keogh was still two-and-a-half years away from being born the last time Wolves won an away match in the top flight. At the start of 1984, the club were about to begin a terrifying descent that would see them nosedive from the First to the Fourth Division in successive seasons, get through five managers in the process and very nearly go out of business.

Curious, then, that as Wolves crashed out of the First Division in 1983/84, the storm clouds gathering over the club, that they should manage to win away at league champions Liverpool.

On January 14, 1984, a 19-year-old striker from Birmingham called Steve Mardenborough headed an eighth-minute goal at Anfield. It was enough to give Graham Hawkins’ Wolves a 1-0 win over a side who were just four months away from winning the European Cup. It was the only goal Mardenborough ever scored for Wolves – and the only goal he ever scored in the top flight.

It was unquestionably the highlight of a career that saw him play for no fewer than 21 clubs (and that doesn’t include Coventry, where he started out as a trainee but never made the first team).

Keogh’s winner at the DW Stadium on Tuesday was also a header, and was also his first goal in the top flight. With any luck, he will have a much longer career at the top level than Mardenborough did – although he may struggle to get regular games once Sylvan Ebanks-Blake, Chris Iwelumo and new signing Kevin Doyle are all fit again.

The goal was created by one of McCarthy’s summer signings, Serbian midfielder Nenad Milijas, and the manager has been active enough in the transfer market to suggest that he has been given the sort of backing he didn’t get at Sunderland. In addition to Doyle and Milijas, McCarthy has brought in Sunderland outcast Greg Halford, Southampton youngster Andrew Surman and Reading keeper Marcus Hahnemann. Defender Michael Mancienne has rejoined on a season’s loan from Chelsea, having played a part in Wolves’ promotion campaign last season.   

Even so, it’s a squad still light on Premier League experience, as McCarthy pointed out after last Saturday’s 2-0 defeat at home to West Ham. One victory at Wigan does not make a season.

The pain of the mid-1980s, though, is a distant memory for Wolves fans now. They can enjoy their first top-flight away win since 1984. They can also enjoy their first appearance at the tail end of Match of the Day since February 2008 (a 2-0 FA Cup defeat at Cardiff, since you ask).

And if McCarthy’s players can ensure the club don’t have to wait another 25 years for a top-flight victory on their travels, then Wolves can look forward to being a part of the Gubbometer for more than just a season.

Gubbometer

1. Fulham: 1
(GD: 0. 2L: 0.)
1. Portsmouth: 1
(GD: 0. 2L: 0.)
1. Wigan: 1
(GD: 0. 2L: 0.)
1. Wolves: 1
(GD: 0. 2L: 0.)
5. Sunderland: 0
(GD: 0. 2L: 2.)
6. Gubba: 0
(GD: 0. 2L: 1.)
6. Bolton: 0
(GD: 0. 2L: 1.)
6. Chelsea: 0
(GD: 0. 2L: 1.)
9. Arsenal: 0
(GD: 0. 2L: 0.)
9. Aston Villa: 0
(GD: 0. 2L: 0.)
9. Birmingham: 0
(GD: 0. 2L: 0.)
9. Blackburn: 0
(GD: 0. 2L: 0.)
9. Burnley: 0
(GD: 0. 2L: 0.)
9. Everton: 0
(GD: 0. 2L: 0.)
9. Hull: 0
(GD: 0. 2L: 0.)
9. Liverpool: 0
(GD: 0. 2L: 0.)
9. Manchester City: 0
(GD: 0. 2L: 0.)
9. Manchester United: 0
(GD: 0. 2L: 0.)
9. Stoke: 0
(GD: 0. 2L: 0.)
9. Tottenham: 0
(GD: 0. 2L: 0.)
9. West Ham: 0
(GD: 0. 2L: 0.)

GD = Gubba difference
2L = On second last
(Last night’s penultimate match was: Sunderland 1 Chelsea 3.)

(NB. Teams will receive one point for every time they appear last on MOTD. Appearances on MOTD2 are not included. Teams level on points will be separated by Gubba difference – the number of times a team is on last with Tony Gubba commentating. Teams still level will then be separated by the number of times they appear second last on MOTD.)

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One Response to Last on MOTD: Nineteen Eighty-Four

  1. Stuart Owen says:

    Very interesting info many thanks, i will follow your comments from now on.

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