Wolves need a man of many talents

Football: Phil Shaw reports on the problems awaiting Molineux's next manager
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The Independent Online
The word "Goodyear" is emblazoned on their shirts. The firm on whose coaches they travel is called "Happy Days". In Wolves' position - 20th in the First Division, managerless and closer to purgatory than limbo - the most innocuous names are loaded with bitter irony.

Their 2-1 defeat by Huddersfield at the McAlpine Stadium, newly voted Building of the Year by Britain's architects, underlined the extent of the reconstruction work awaiting Molineux's next incumbent. No points out of nine in the fortnight since Graham Taylor's exit offers a snapshot of decay; the broader picture reveals just eight wins in 34 games.

Hardly a result or a record to prompt a pitch invasion by the chairman, Jonathan Hayward. His father, Sir Jack, Wolves' owner, would probably not have approved. Yet on he charged at the end, exhorting the players to applaud their 3,500 followers.

Before driving to his farm in Northumberland, there to relay the bad tidings to Sir Jack in the Bahamas, Hayward Jnr was asked whether an announcement might be made before Wednesday's Coca-Cola Cup visit by Coventry. "I just want to get the right person," he said. "That's my priority."

His coyness may be a smokescreen for frantic behind-the-scenes activity, though it is equally likely that Wolves' search for their man of destiny is no nearer a conclusion. The fans he was so anxious to salute are the people who drove Taylor out, so it is vital to carry them. Judging by letters and polls in the local press, they are as confused as everyone else.

One strand of opinion argues for an experienced operator with a good track record. Ron Atkinson would have fitted the identikit 18 months ago, as would George Graham now but for his ban. Howard Kendall has the advantage of being available, but may be seen as yesterday's man. Skipping a generation, there is backing for Mark McGhee, Mick McCarthy, Jimmy Nicholl, Steve Coppell, Danny Wilson and Martin O'Neill.

A second school of thought favours a charismatic player-manager, with Steve Bruce, Chris Waddle and Gordon Strachan as front-runners. Although there is a risk in appointing someone with no experience, Wolves' chairman has observed the impact of such "novices" as Kevin Keegan and Bryan Robson from his base in the North-east.

Sources close to Molineux suggest they have not given up on McGhee or Bruce, while that modern barometer of opinion, the fanzine editor, claims a groundswell for McCarthy. Whoever accepts the poisoned chalice may literally have a small fortune with which to work, a large one having gone on ground and team already.

In the meantime the caretaker manager, Bobby Downes, has at least restored morale. In terms of quality, however, Taylor's legacy is dubious. Wolves are leaking goals under no real pressure, with de Wolf a particular liability because of his strange inability to compete in the air and tendency to hang back for fear of being caught for pace if he pushes out.

Andy Booth, the striker Taylor once sought to replace Steve Bull, fired the first goal after Wolves had twice hit the woodwork. Paul Dalton converted a free-kick, a just reward for some stunning touch play by Huddersfield, before Bull's header ensured a more just outcome.

When the Haywards did their Field of Dreams bit by transforming Molineux, the public expected Premiership status to follow automatically. Hence the pressure which has generated anguish of a kind conspicuous by its absence beneath Huddersfield's curved roofs. There, for the moment, having a beautiful place to enjoy football seems to be enough.

Goals: Booth (20) 1-0; Dalton (38) 2-0; Bull (79) 2-1.

Huddersfield Town (4-4-2): Francis; Dyson (Jepson, 85), Scully, Gray, Sinnott; Jenkins, Makel, Bullock, Dalton; Booth, Rowe. Substitutes not used: Collins, Norman (gk).

Wolverhampton Wanderers (3-4-3): Jones; Richards, De Wolf, Venus; Rankine, Emblen, Atkins, Thompson; Bull, Goodman, Foley (Ferguson, h-t). Substitutes not used: Law, Williams.

Referee: R Pearson (Peterlee).