WOLVES CAN BE THE NEW BOURNEMOUTH

The Football League Paper - - FRONT PAGE -

DERBY have spent a bit of cash. Mid­dles­brough too. But my tip for pro­mo­tion this sea­son is Kenny Jack­ett’s Wolves.

I’m not say­ing au­to­matic – no­body can be sure of that in this di­vi­sion. But I think they’re go­ing to be very strong.

I saw them sev­eral times last sea­son and I com­men­tated on the game at Brighton. And with the ex­cep­tion of maybe Ip­swich, I didn’t see a bet­ter or­gan­ised team in the Cham­pi­onship.

The way they counter-at­tacked was just un­be­liev­able, es­pe­cially away from home. Nouha Dicko, Ebanks-Lan­dell, Ra­jiv van La Parra – those boys were raw and young but they could get up and down all day.

The pace and power go­ing for­ward was in­cred­i­ble and if there’s one thing Cham­pi­onship de­fend­ers hate it’s fit, fast for­wards.

Yes, they’ve lost a big player in Bakary Sako, but he’s been re­placed by Sheyi Ojo, a very tal­ented young lad from Liver­pool. They’ve also signed Adam Le Fon­dre on loan from Cardiff, a nat­u­ral goalscorer who’ll come short and give them an op­tion. And they’ve got Benik Afobe!

To me, they could be the next Bournemouth. Like the Cher­ries, they’ve got a set­tled man­ager and a set­tled squad. They’ve tar­geted sign­ings who fit a cer­tain phi­los­o­phy – fit, ath­letic play­ers with a bit of qual­ity. And af­ter a sea­son find­ing their feet, they’ve now got the squad and ex­pe­ri­ence to re­ally com­pete. Watch them go.

Can the same be said for Derby? The Rams are ob­vi­ously strong con­tenders, but it all de­pends on how deep the scars of suc­ces­sive fail­ures run.

In 2013-14, they lost a play-off fi­nal they’d dom­i­nated for 90 min­utes. Last year, they hit the self-de­struct but­ton in Fe­bru­ary and to­tally col­lapsed.

That Wem­b­ley de­feat to QPR was a ter­ri­ble blow. To be a man up and lose to a 90th-minute goal will have killed their con­fi­dence like you wouldn’t be­lieve. They’ll have spent the en­tire sum­mer think­ing what might have been.

To bounce back like they did was a big achieve­ment. But af­ter blow­ing it for a sec­ond time and be­ing booed off af­ter the fi­nal game, lift­ing them­selves again will be a big ask.

They’ve also got a guy in Paul Cle­ment who’s never man­aged. Don’t get me wrong – as an as­sis­tant he’s got the best CV any­one could ever have. Not many peo­ple can say they’ve worked un­der Carlo Ancelotti, coached Cris­tiano Ron­aldo at Real Madrid or Zla­tan Ibrahi­movic at PSG.

But when you step into those man­ager’s shoes, it’s a dif­fer­ent ball game. Just like great play­ers don’t al­ways make great man­agers, the same goes for great coaches. I can un­der­stand Derby’s think­ing but it’s no guar­an­tee of suc­cess.

One thing is for sure – with Dar­ren Bent al­lied to the likes of Chris Martin, Tom Ince and Johnny Rus­sell, you know they’ll be very pow­er­ful go­ing for­ward. The ques­tion is: Can they match that strength be­tween the ears?

Writ­ten be­fore Satur­day’s matches

PIC­TURE: Ac­tion Im­ages

TEEN STAR: Wolves have signed winger Sheyi Ojo, 18, on loan from Liver­pool

POACHER: Adam Le Fon­dre

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