"Merlin" casts magical Molineux spell
Championship Wolverhampton Wanderers
by John Bray - BBC (U7722196) 08 March 2007
When Mick McCarthy meandered into Molineux, he pointed at the two white letters on his training jersey and proclaimed: "At the moment we've only got 16 first-team players and my initials stand for Mick McCarthy, not Merlin the Magician."
Forget about these people saying we are dark horses for promotion or coming up on the rails. We are contenders for promotionWolves boss Mick McCarthy
Once was bad enough, but twice in four years, my Wolves went bust. The only way was down as relegation from the first division was followed by relegation and relegation. And talk about kicking a teenager when he was down....along came Chorley in the FA Cup.
With half the lop-sided ground condemned as a fire risk, Graham Turner began the slow process of dragging my carcass of a club back to something resembling respectability.
Nineteen years later, we made it. It was all aboard the Premiership gravy train, but after spending millions on failure, Wolves decided they weren't even prepared to gamble on a standard class ticket, let alone first class. They gave Dave Jones the steering wheel, but wouldn't release the handbrake.
An unmitigated disaster, punctuated by that win over United. Slaughtered by Chelsea, we were even crushed by Southampton. It hurt. It hurt like hell.
Then came Hoddle. That hurt more. Were we drifting? Were we going backwards? No-one was sure. Many of us were asleep.
Anyone fancy a 1-1 draw? Anyone fancy Carl Cort on the right wing?
It couldn't get worse, but it did. Sack him, we implored the board. They delayed, then Hoddle abandoned us on the eve of the season.
Cue anger, and cue the worst emotion ever to drift down from any football terraces - apathy.
But McCarthy's simply worked a miracle. And it's been simply executed. He's created a team in the image of Wolverhampton - hard-working, unfussy, honest.
The fans' warmth aimed towards McCarthy, as he kicks every ball and contests every decision, is immeasurable.
When the fans turned angrily on the club's chief exec in a row over FA Cup tickets, McCarthy stepped in. Immediately the chanting stopped.
It's a mutual respect between manager and fans based on honesty.
Since the FA Cup disaster against West Brom, Wolves have been transformed.
In Matt Murray, we've a goalkeeper good enough for England, once he sorts his kicking. In Neil Collins, we've a previously unheralded centre half who could quite seriously be in one of Alex McLeish's first Scotland squads. In Jackie McNamara, we've a fit-again defender who never seems to play for a losing team. In Darren Potter, we've a young midfielder who looks every inch a Liverpool-schooled prospect. In Karl Henry, we've a midfielder who's from 10 minutes up the road and plays like a fan - because he is one.
We all dream of a team of Gary BreensWolves fans' reworking of The Beatles' Yellow Submarine "
To the tune of Yellow Submarine, we all dream of a team of Gary Breens. In Andy Keogh, we've a free-running striker who's hold-up play has been an absolute revelation. In Stephen Ward, we've the Championship's player of the month for February.
And then there's Michael Kightly.
The headline writers would have you believe Manchester United and Aston Villa already want the winger to play in the Premiership. Well, the £25,000 winter signing from Conference club Grays will surely make it - hopefully without leaving Molineux.
For a club that's literally wasted millions and millions in the transfer market, Kightly, in terms of performance based on outlay, is already shaping up as one of Wolves' greatest ever signings. His wing-play excites and entertains. His goals win matches.
I follow a team that so obviously wants to achieve. It wants to reach the Premiership, it's playing without fear. And we've a manager that's already won his place in Molineux hearts forever.
The man who preached caution back in July, is embracing the excitement I felt inside the cramped away end at Luton's Kenilworth Road on Saturday.
"Forget about these people saying we are dark horses for promotion or coming up on the rails. We are contenders for promotion," says the man still with MM emblazoned on his jersey.
Merlin the Magician? Maybe not, but from my seat in the South Bank he looks increasingly like Molineux's Messiah.
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