Early reaction to today’s press conference
Jeff Shi of new owners Fosun International and Jez Moxey faced the media today following Thursday’s announcement of the takeover of the club – here are the salient points from the press conference and some early conclusions about what we can expect and where the club stands.
Steve Morgan has not profited from the sale of the club
We can infer from this that the sale price was around the £30m mark. There’s plenty of criticism that can be aimed at Morgan over the course of his tenure – which we shall return to in a future blog – but this should conclusively end the conspiracy theories that he was in football ownership to make a quick buck. The fact that he invested £30m back in 2007 is a matter of record, that money was essentially exhausted by our net transfer spend over the course of his time at Wolves. The funds incoming from the Premier League through TV revenue and parachute payments covered our wage bill and the redevelopment of the North Bank and the Academy. Not a single penny was owed by the club to Morgan personally or Bridgemere Group at any point, no money has left the club and been diverted to outside sources – all easily verifiable in the published accounts. His approach to the club can be criticised, there have been definite and serious errors on a footballing level, one could argue that he should have funded at least the building of the North Bank himself as it was non-essential work carried out seemingly on his personal whim, but that doesn’t detract from the point that he has made no capital during his time here nor on departure. Valid criticism of the man is welcome as we found ourselves no further forward at first team level than when he arrived, hogwash rhetoric about him making a quick buck vastly cheapens those arguments.
The infrastructure of the club has been underlined
Jeff Shi made it abundantly clear that Wolves were an attractive prospect for investment due to the underlying state of the club, with no net debt, an excellent Academy set up and a stadium that is perfectly adequate for current purpose. While there has been frequent consternation about the perceived lack of investment at first team level – some of it merited – setting the club up for the long term with the Academy developments and ensuring that the finances of the club have never been jeopardised has been a key factor in attracting the interest of Fosun, who it was confirmed looked at more than 15 clubs before choosing Wolves. Long term investments and strategies can have long term benefits.
Kenny Jackett is staying as manager
In an immediate sense, this was probably the biggest news from the conference; after widespread speculation about potential replacements it is now confirmed that there will be no immediate change of manager. This is surprising, given that new owners frequently wish to have their own man in charge, they must be aware of the extremely poor football served up last season and with the departure of Jez Moxey, Jackett no longer has anyone at the club left at boardroom level to fight his corner. However – one would suggest this is very much a position up for review. There was little in the way of serious backing for Ken from Shi at the conference, where it was confirmed talks had been held with Julen Lopetegui before the takeover went through. The ambition of Fosun is clear and he will be under immediate pressure to get results, with other managers now sure to be very keen on taking the Wolves job should it become available. The fanbase is broadly anti-Jackett at this stage, although this didn’t manifest itself much in any concerted chanting at games towards the end of the season (possibly because we’d all fallen asleep). Ken can play good football at times, when handed a squad and signings in League One that were too good for the division he excelled, and our football in 2014/15 – with two distinct phases, possession heavy in the opening three months, packed with attacking power and pace in the final three months – was also impressive at times. He has it within him, if he is provided with greater resources, to produce exciting teams; it’s more that when times are tougher, his default is to overly revert to the back foot and nullify any positive play at all. The pressure will be on him from now, from all quarters – we have a very gentle start with the first seven games looking like a target for a big points haul providing the squad improvements are in place. A slow start is likely to result in a quick departure. He’ll likely never have this opportunity anywhere ever again so this is his career and legacy that he’s fighting for, from today.
Signings will be coming soon
Shi confirmed that the intention is to bring in within five to eight players during this transfer window and that the potential for investment is ‘huge and would not be a problem’ – this neatly cutting off unsubstantiated fretting that their investment would be capped around the £30m mark. Fosun have targeted a long list of targets which has now been whittled down following the takeover to those who they are ‘confident’ will come. This would suggest that players have already been approached and will be arriving soon. Shi also confirmed that we would be likely to be working in conjunction with Jorge Mendes at some point, so arrivals from his stable of players in Europe would seem to be likely rather than a raft of more familiar faces from other Championship clubs. At this stage, to mount a serious challenge for the top six, one would think we need at least a goalkeeper, a left back, a central midfielder, a left winger and a striker. Those in situ in those positions are either inadequate or in the latter two cases, non-existent until Jordan Graham and Nouha Dicko return from injury.
Stadium redevelopment is not on the agenda
There are no immediate plans to go any further with redeveloping Molineux. Shi suggested this may be something the owners look at following promotion. At the moment no further capacity is required – excitement at the new ownership notwithstanding, it’s hard to foresee regular sell-outs at Molineux while we’re in the Championship – but this will always be a tough project to time, rebuilding the Steve Bull stand while in the Premier League would reduce capacity at the point of greatest demand. There remains no easy or immediate answer to this issue.
Prospects for the season
With less than two weeks to go until the season opener at Rotherham, the squad remains woefully short in most areas. For instance, our left hand side in the last friendly match at Port Vale was made up of a crap, one footed right back and a central midfielder who was picked on that side purely because he is left footed (Ken then appeared bemused in the post-match interview why we struggled for fluency down that side of the pitch). Whatever our investment during this transfer window, this will be a tough season to compete at the very top end of the division given the strength of Newcastle (who realistically would not have been relegated had they not decided to employ Steve McClaren for 75% of the season) and Norwich (who appear to have the ‘too good for the Championship, not good enough for the Premier League’ slot sewn up) in particular. However this is a long-term project, this is not all about one season. Fosun have no intention of spending years on end at this level and the spending levels over the course of the next months and years should reflect that. This should be an exciting ride, one all Wolves fans should embrace.