The North Bank

Hotspurts again and Mumo. Haven’t we suffered enough? These results sting for sure but I feel unattached to the politics around them now. It’s Wolves time again and strangely I am at the Corner of the North Bank and John Ireland stand. Because I’m hunting for something again, some attachment before I go in. Some dude from the USA wants to get the South Bank experience and is up for a ticket swap. He has North Bank tickets. He is a nice chap, he buys some prints off me on the Wolves car park but I am hardly listening to him. I’m just looking at how huge the North Bank is now. It’s massive. So I saw tickets and off he goes but I have an hour to spare. So I sit down and just look at the outside of the ground and watch the people milling around. There is a lot of people in the shop. Many smart people going into the corporate posh bit of the North bank. They don’t look happy though. It’s like they are being forced to attend. I am on me tod again. I kind of like just milling around outside and watching people do the Wolves thing. Inside the ground, inside the bowels of the North Bank you can’t smell piss and cigarettes any more which is a good thing, I think. It’s all pretty sterile and clean. Not too clean mind but a bit bright and clean if you know what I mean. I but a Pie and a pint of Carling I think. I don’t drink as a rule but one wont hurt too much. I sip and nibble while watching. Nobody says anything. A Steward asks if I’m OK. I must look lost and confused. I am I suppose. This is not my stand, not my people really. It’s quite civilised and nice.

It’s not cold but I am shivering a bit. The sound system inside is farting some unlistenable music with some shouty stuff too. But I am right there again, 1978. Same scenario really but the ground is looking crumbled. Plants grow out of the cracks in Molineux street. Algae grows on the yellow gloss that has been splattered across the rotting wood that pretends to be gates and entrances to turnstiles. The cement is falling out of the bricks. Graffitti everywhere here. Not sprayed from a can but painted in the yellowing remains of a tin of white gloss paint left over from another domestic revamp. The graffitti is simple and uncomplicated. ‘Fuck Spurs’ painted over ‘Wolves Spurs’. ‘Kick to Kill’ and ‘We will fuck you up’ or ‘Leeds will die’. All lovely and welcoming. But there is a match on back in 1978 and who knows who it was we were playing. We didn’t care. I was probably 12 years old and already a little bastard in the making. Cast your eye upwards to that little piece of half rusted angle iron sticking out of the wall. As I sit now, we sat back in 1978 because that was our ticket. That little bit of metal. Wolves would hang on a piece of wood with hooks and on that wood was little slide in numbers. You looked at the number and ripped the appropriate ticket out of your season ticket book. But we didn’t have season tickets. We didn’t have tickets either. We didn’t have money to get in.

Already, in Molineux alley we had tried to scale the wall that backed onto the toilets in the South Bank. You hang around and find some likely lad, a grown up, a youth, anybody that could give you a bunk up to where the wall was starting to bow out. To find a small crack that was just big enough for a childs hand, a small hand to just cram in so you could get the worn out sole of your pumps to grip the crumbling brick. Then your right hand would grab the piece of rotten wood screwed to the wall. Grip it hard because the fall was a good fifteen feet by now but a shuffle, another chink in the brickwork and you were nearly there. three or four feet above was a tangle of barbed wire. But there was also the wall of the urinals. Get up there and you were in. The teams were out now. The crowd inside was vocal and it sounded alive and you wanted in. Shuffle grab, climb, scrabble up. Get a hand on top of the wall. There was always some half pissed bloke willing to pull you over, to get you in. Sometimes you would fall in the puddles of piss, sometimes there would be some twat who wouldn’t help you up. Sometimes there was a Copper. Whack. A truncheon across the fingers. Yes, he was there. The pain was horrible. You wanted to drop but it was thirty feet down. So you swallowed the pain, tried to get that mangled hand to grab hold of things, you slip and you slide and drop. Smack onto the concrete of Molineux alley cussing the Copper, all the names under the sun. People walk by and laugh. Your mates are sad and don’t help. They want in and are not worried about injuries from Cops. It’s the normal state of things when bored Cops would roust you in the darkness and give you a Fat Lip for ‘Ron’ or a knee in the balls. There breath would stink of beer. They had been in Dunstall road Police Station club. Had a few before the match. My fingers stinging. So we would walk around the ground. Stragglers running up to the turnstiles. Operated by Old Blokes with cigarettes hanging out of their mouths collecting coins, notes, tickets. Not looking up. But foot operated turnstiles that clicked and clanked as another Punter paid their money.

I’m chuckling to myself outside in the present. I painted Molineux alley not so long back. A Dad and his Son walking up to the match. Not for me though. No adult took me, none of us had parents that took them to the football. Times were tight, strikes, no money, no attention really. We were the Wolves Orphans. Round to the North Bank and that piece of metal. You see if you were limber enough you could cram a foot in the wall after a run up and jump, grab the iron and pull yourself up. Get a foot in there. Balance like fuck, grab the top of the wall. Clamber to the top. Just pop your head up and have a look see if there were any Old Bill about, hand still stinging. The crowd erupts, something happening for sure. The cigarette smoke curling around the edges of the roof and dissipating into the weird light from the floodlights, into the sky and gone. So I look. No Coppers, thread a leg through the barbed wire. A bit catches your jumper and pulls a thread out but that’s ok as it’s got holes in anyway. Thread yourself through. On the other side some Asbestos roofing. The floodlights above are like giants. Slide down gently, nonchalantly, like you do this every week. I am in. Run into the bowels of the Northbank past bemused Wolves fans. Up the stairs. The pitch, everything in colour. How green and brown is that pitch? The players shirts Golden, glowing. Football. ‘Ooooh’ the crowd goes. Dougan shot. Everyone claps. You look back see who else has got in. Flared trousers, Solatio shoes, the odd skinhead, the odd Boot Boy. No one yet. Football.

‘Fucking hell Coady’ someone murmurs behind my seat after Spuds score a goal. I watch the football but I am dispassionate about it for a change. Observer rather than an active participant. I feel crumbly like the old Molineux walls. The graffti scrawled on me by half pissed tattooists long ago faded and illegible. The wounds I got here still ache a bit sometimes. I can only breathe through one nostril because I have a piece of nose bone blocking the other one. I’m an anachronism like the old ground but I am planted here certainly. Underneath the branding and the shine the murk still settles and the old Ghosts still wander underneath.

2021. I don’t have to try and climb in anymore. I have tickets. I painted it of course. Art when you look at it hanging on a wall is mostly just seen, observed but rarely looked at. I know every part of that old Molineux because it was my playground and football became something that broke up the monotony of those days, something exciting. I knew every pothole and every brick nearly because my childhood involved finding ways to get in, to watch. In those days Molineux was sinking into the ground, becoming part of the geology of that place. Pieces of roof were green with vegetation. Pieces of cladding were falling off. If it was metal it was rusting. If it was wood is was rotten, if it was concrete then it was crumbling. Gone were the fifties when everything was clean, maintained and cared for. It was a jewel Molineux, world famous. But this? Today it still looks a bit mouldy. Algae is growing on the steel of the New Stand. The concrete is crumbling in places. There is graffiti too but now it’s symbols, scrawled names we don’t know or understand. Tags in spray paint or marker pen. People still mill around but it is sterile milling. No one seems to talk any more. Heads down and get in, watch the match, get out, cross it off the list.

Please enjoy this art, it took a long time to paint. Four weeks I think between other projects. Every slash of colour and sweep of a pen a memory for sure. Perhaps a longing too for simpler times. I will whack this up at a high price for the simple reason I love it. It brings out memories I had lost for a while and makes them fresh. If I sell it I will buy that printing press I need because I haven’t finished with the Molineux yet. You may look at the price and gasp a bit but I don’t care. I see a Steve Bull print has just been flogged for 500 quid. I have been told another of my paintings of Molineux I never shared has been obtained for £1500. I want this printer, I want the memory of Molineux here to make more beautiful things. Ah the madness of it.

Click on my shop link for details Petalengros Gallery and Shop – SOUTHBANK RESISTANCE (

Hello Darkness My Old Friend

Yes. That familiar feeling. Deep down in your belly, it rumbles and makes you feel a bit sick. Trepidation that everything is about to go tits up at the Wolves again. Something we ‘Wolves fans’ us ‘Legacy partners’ know very well. Of course the new customers at Wolves world won’t have experienced this pain. You will see them wondering around outside the Molineux, milling about around the FanZone where they wonder what the fuck they are supposed to do now. They paid their money, bought the crap shirts, spent their money in the club shop, followed Miami Dave and Dazzling Dave on the socials and on YouTube. But they don’t really know what to do.

We do of course. Me and you, the blokes and women that have been here for what seems an eternity. Going through that crap, well, you can wax lyrics about it to each other. Us real Wolves fans have a support network you see, where we can vent our angst at each other, discuss stuff, the team, the policy, the way forwards. These discussions wont take place in Fanzones and Youtube accounts. They will be made over watery lager in Mcghees, the Duke of York, the Old Still or on the socials later where we know who to listen to and who to mute.

I’m standing and watching the Toney and Marcal show. Marcal is acting like a tight fitting tshirt to Toney. In the first instance Marcal is pulling Toney around and it’s funny, it’s just what we want. A bit of animal. It’s good. The Ref blows his whistle and comes over to have a word. I see Toney talking to the Referee. I can lip read a bit as I’m a bit deaf.

“Ref watch him….he’s all over me….just watch him….Ref, watch him’ and of course as the ball comes back into the box all the Ref is doing is watching Marcal, the Refs hand is holding a whistle ready to blow. It was a penalty before the ball came back in. The Ref just waited and Marcal again started to pull, twist, tread on feet, to wrestle Toney away from getting a head on it. The Ref see’s enough and he blows. Penalty.

The Officiating was awful again of course. The quality of Officials has deteriorated massively over the past few years. Again we see this on our pitch, in our ground and we again are on the revieving end of it. I hope Brentford go down. It will be a brilliant thing for me. The Premier League has enough problems without this kind of crap. Endless falling on the ground in the middle of a Wolves attack. I mean endless. Brentford players were flopping around like Spiceheads in the town. Gargling and writhing in pain, then seconds later leaping around like Salmon. It was horrible to watch. It was horrible to see a few of their players wink and laugh at the crowd in the South Bank. They knew what they were doing and they did it brilliantly. But it’s not football my friends.

Seeing as we are customers and the team we supported are now a brand, I guess that makes us consumers now. I suppose as well we can now critique the product free from any kind of allegiance that we had before. There is a big split now in how we perceive the brand. On the one hand we can operate under the fallacy that we are something to do with the club on a metaphysical level. That somehow FosunWolves and us have similar goals and hopes. On the other is the dawning realisation that really we have nothing at all to do with the product at all and Wolves are really becoming some sort of abstract entity. It looks shiny for sure. We have absolutely brilliant football players who if I was managing a football team I would snap up without a seconds thought. When we play ball we play with a flair that I haven’t seen for years down there. But we don’t really play as a team much now. Instead we have eleven individuals who are basically playing their own game and sometimes elements of their game will overlap with a few of their team mates and everything seems good and wholesome. But this happens rarely now and the darkness in our hearts, which is always there is coming out, getting stronger, biting away at the few tendrils of hope that we had when Bruno came.

This Senior management team are shit. Jeff has dropped a massive bollock taking them on. Now when we look at aspects of the day to day running of the club we see that things are going tits up at an accelerating pace. Ticket cock ups, Merch cock ups, Communication cock ups, trainer shoes, Jeff Shi’s high pitched mumbling and sticking metaphorical plasters over open wounds. Shut up. Buy stuff. Look at our Cruise ship partners when many of our fanbase can’t afford a week in Barmouth. Look at our range of merch which looks like it’s been designed by a 13 year old with an Apple Mac and a brief written on a take away menu. Tickets not arriving, phone calls not being answered, merch turning up weeks late, tickets not working at the turnstiles. The team slowly soaking up the darkness that permeates the corridors of Molineux.

The transfer window was a mess like pretty much the previous seven or so I read on the socials. Nothing was changed, everything stayed the same. The shape of the team was static and unmoved by the few players we collected. Things seemed like the ghost of Nuno still wailed down the corridors at Trumpton….sorry Compton. What Wolves needed desperately was a world class Coach who could work with extremely limited resources, who could galvanise the squad by pure management skill. I don’t think Bruno Lage is that man to be honest, not yet any way. Perhaps if given resources and cash he might just keep us up this season but things are going to be very tight. I don’t have the loyalty to the brand or the staff at Molineux any more to be honest. The team, always. 100% support through thick and thin but I’m also a realist now. Gone is the ascendant and positive metaphysics of my slathering love and words on backing the abstract ministrations of the Board and senior management. They talk beautiful words on how the team is preparing and even have some about how the future will look but I don’t believe any of that any more. I want to see concrete things in front of my eyes. Victories in football games for a start. I can even deal with defeats as well, it’s a sport and we will lose games, but what I can’t deal with is capitulations and stupidity like we saw yesterday. It was fucking awful. One match where we looked kind of like a team, we scrounge a win at Watford, we don’t look great but it’s a win. Then the next match we capitulate to a team full of shithouses, a team that has a defence that’s Championship quality. A Gonk team.

It’s magic tile time now where we move players in and out of the system. Put him there and he can go over there, play so and so in that position, get rid of him, replace with that one then move him over there. But it’s just jerking off over Pornhub again. It’s really nothing to do with us any more. Fosun consolidate the idea of what the product will look like and we are just supposed to suck it up. Bruno is the fall guy who has to work with this dispirited bunch, we are the people that watch and shake our heads plodding disconsolately back up to Town dodging the subway Crackheads and bad Bob Dylans. Funny that the guitarist in the subway was wailing ‘The Times They Are a-changing’ when me and Little Andy walked through on the way to the game.

How will things change? In the next few months Fosun are going to start having to pay big fees for these players they have brought in. This is big investment money and to be honest I think they have spent in the wrong places. I think they have been bamboozled by the team that Jeff has created and I think (suspect) that Jeff has lost the plot. Fosun Godfathers will be looking closely at what is happening at Wolves and they wont be pleased. But it’s ok producing a product and a brand to sell but who wants a shoddy product like this? ‘Legacy fans’ like us, who Jeff and Co hate with a passion will turn up regardless. We are Wolverhampton Wanderers fans. It’s what we do, turn up, watch the team, wax some lyrics and wait until the next match. We are a captive audience but also a very clever one. We have seen it all over the years. We know this darkness intimately. Others not so much. At the end of the match boos. Some of it was at Brentford and was deserved but I say this, some of it was directed at Jeff and the Board and the toxic Molineux has started to grow and poke it’s head through the cracks.

Our job of course is to close ranks again. We have done this much over the years. Nothing we say or do will affect any day to day running of the club. Nothing we wax about will be held in any regard by the team, the staff or the management team. Jeff doesn’t care what we think as long as our money keeps trickling into the club. The only thing that matters to us is how the team play their football and how we show our support. At this moment I still think Bruno can just about turn it around and keep us competitive. We have quality players who have forgotten that football is really about the team and how they bounce of each other and communicate. I am sure they will come good, I am sure that Bruno will have an epiphany of sorts as he tries to galvanise this dispirited bunch of players. Who will hold their nerve longer? Fosun or us? When will the consumers at Molineux decide the product isn’t fit for purpose any more and voice that disquiet? Will Bruno still be here at Christmas? Will Jeff? Will Miami Dave?

Ruben Neves is a Football God

That seemed like an age. This winless start. A desert really. But still everything looked good and dynamic, chances here and there and all the standard phrases started getting bandied about. Lack of end product, more clinical, more this and more that. All good stuff if a bit stale. But we knew Watford would be the one didn’t we? We expected something and not the annual trampling of our midfield by those giants they always seem to have playing for them. What a fucking horrible place Watford is, I am glad in some ways I am not there. Even the suit jacket their Coach is wearing annoys me. Where did he buy it from? Matalan? Why the fuck is he wearing a suit any way? There’s Windy Ben gurning away in the stands. Hello Windy Ben! You prick. He makes me laugh though, he loves the banter.

Last time I was at Watford I was seriously thinking about ramming a replica FA cup on the head of one of their fans outside the ground. There was real grief over the Wembley game but I guess some of that angst wasn’t really about the Eltons at all. It’s always been about Wolves for every Wolves fan. The Eltons were just the turd in the shit sandwich of those times.

I’m not even going to write about the game here, it’s not a match report. You know how the game went and how we ground out a win. You know who did what and when. My take? Always metaphysical. Always the feels.

Ruben Neves is walking around the pitch before the game wearing his expensive new Wolves tat. His eyebrows are furrowed and he is just looking. He walks to midfield, the centre circle and while the rest of the players take video or fuck about with their phones laughing, he isn’t. He is looking at the pitch letting his mind see where the battles will be and where they will be fought. He looks at the architecture of the ground. You see he will be moving that ball to his team mates while there is noise and madness, players getting a foot in, players moving in. Pressure and aggravation. So he looks up and in his mind he is looking at every advertising board, every point of the pitch, the stands, the dug out then extrapolating that information to his mind so that when he is under pressure and when he is being tackled a glimpse, a split second, he will know where he is. Full spectrum Ruben.

His football this season has been phenomenal already. My own grief about the lack of signings was puerile and knee jerk when we already had the best player, the bestest player we could have had right there in the team. So he moves through the Eltons midfield like it was pure butter and he was pulled and kicked, shoved and aggravated. But this Neves moves forwards. This Neves has a belief in himself that Bruno has perhaps reignited. We never know how much a partner abuses us until we are out of the relationship and with someone new. Is it like this with Bruno? Can we now look back and think that perhaps Nuno wasn’t the best man to take us forwards? I was watching the Palace-Spuds game beforehand and you can see Nunoism in full effect there. Reticent to attack, to defend at all costs, and Nuno plods away from that shithole to some new griefs to deal with. How can you have Neves deep when he shows us this madness. So Bruno shows Ruben what he would like him to do, in a nutshell to be Ruben Neves, that’s it, it’s simple. Let the mind of Neves expand and fill the pitch. Then give the rest of the team the same operating manual. Be yourselves but be a team as well. Two concepts that Bruno has mixed and prepared for our delight. So we see Traore in dangerous positions and seemingly also reinvented. We see Kilman growing into something most of us knew he was capable of, a well rounded skilful player with a mind of his own, a brain. Where tactical requirements are just the basic plan and the players minds are allowed to expand again into their own roles and how they see their own development and their own ideas about how to play football come to the fore. There was a moment when Kilman took the ball and let it glance off his left foot while he scanned the pitch in front of him. Never looked at the ball once. He killed momentum of the ball and then passed it to Neves who as well, collected, never looked at the ball once and then slid it beautifully into the path of Trink.

Trincao collects and is off towards the Eltons box and he glides my friends. This young man moves so beautifully so eloquently it blows my small shrivelled mind to bits. Because here in him is something too and we have only seen small parts of it. This player is one that is to be nurtured and cared for this season because there is something in him that is great also, Here is where we will see Bruno work some magic I hope. Here is where we will see how Bruno manages minds as well as players. Trink is everywhere it seems and when he isn’t exactly ‘there’ then he isn’t far away. He has to learn about cadence and patience. The rhythm of the play and his part in that great Wolves song.

These players are some of the best players in Europe, they have something about them. Raul needs nurturing too but his play, dropping deep, darting forwards, holding the ball up, doing a shift is everything to me. He occupies defenders, his work is unseen most of the time as he pulls the Eltons defence in and out of shape allowing Trink and Adama to push into spaces. Raul although not scoring goals is instigating goals and that my friends is what it’s all about. Pressure and intent led to that own goal and the ideas of Bruno were simple. To attack and when not in possession of the ball….attack again. Find the ball, get the ball back because ‘attack’ is everything and to a sportsman, a pro footballer aggression and offence is a mantra we can all agree on. We even see it in defence too. Saiss and Marcal targeted by the Eltons tactical gurus. But how do you attack when being attacked? Saiss is a constant source of grief for the Eltons forays down the pitch. They slide the ball past Marcal a few times but he is already in their heads. That smile is a killers smile. They slide past him yes, but he is right behind them niggling away, a shove, a prod, a shoulder to unbalance. Saiss the same, putting them off with a foot, an ankle, tread on a toe, tug of a shirt. A nastiness that starts to grow in the oppositions heads as the game flows on. Watch Marcal at the Eltons free kicks and corners. He is that close to the Eltons strike force he is like their new shirt and he prods, smiles, grapples, laughs and I think I love his madness.

The Hwang goal was beautiful and like a fairy tale. I wanted him to have this, so he knows that he can do it. A Premier League goal. His legs are coiled and heavily muscled, he is wide and physical, a box grappler, a body that is hard to move. Someone that is quite happy to involve himself in the physicality of the box, a man with the foresight to get himself on the goal line just in case. It was there for him, this golden goal and all he had to do was prod the thing over the line. There was some Steve Bull in that goal for sure because he was mad for it, he wanted it, which is fucking everything in football. His play for the other bits of the game was strong and purposeful. He was getting into space and causing grief. Shoving and treading on people but also being delicate and soft when oozing himself between Eltons defenders, shifting himself quietly, drifting almost into positions of danger. I don’t think we need to work on Hwang at all. He has all the attributes to become a legend here. More importantly now his team understand where he will be. There will be balls coming in low into the box, fast balls just for him and the great picture continues to be filled in by Bruno.

I dearly hope we can keep this momentum through the season but looking at the subs bench before the game I see quality and depth but more importantly I can see different options and ideas that Bruno can utilise easily when needed. I think that maybe Bruno might have the tools at his disposal to actually make a good crack at winning something this year.

It’s still fresh this whole Bruno thing but it feels correct and right for who we are. No grief aimed at Gremlin Jeff, no shit thrown at the Marketing reptiles. A win makes them redundant and everything is the team again where it should be and what it should be. Here at the Eltons we see football, real football while at Old Trafford they have just theatre and pantomime and for that I feel blessed to be honest. The Wolves away crowd are in fine voice, it is all you can hear on the dodgy stream I have. The gonks at Sky even turn the volume down while Wolves sing about Albion shagging their sisters everywhere they go. At the Albion ground Gonks are throwing punches at Millwall gonks and it’s all Gonky and a bit daft. Championship level crap. But I’m thinking about Ruben Neves again walking around that pitch pre game, looking and playing the match in his head. I think the fact we kept hold of him this season may be one of the biggest and best things that could have happened this transfer window. Ruben Neves is a Wolf. Wolverhampton Wanderers are pure Premier League quality. Blessed this weekend.

Notes From The Front Line ‘Getting the Brand Back Together

This weeks Notes From The Front Line is from Will my mate. He’s a good writer Will is, a pro and as he is well versed in all things ‘E’ related it’s a good opportunity to hear his voice and see what he has to say. I’m a bit nonplussed about anything E-Sport related. I can see why Corporations want a taste of it, revenue, brands etc but I fail to see how these PornHub dynamics will extrapolate to a Midlands football club.

Getting the Brand Back Together

Wolves’ attempt at brand building has been a conversation piece for a good number of people recently. While it’s mostly confined to social media, the talk is still relevant to what’s taking place. Regardless of how much importance you place on the socials, and believe me when I say the for most people it should be fucking none, in the context of increasing positive brand awareness it’s extremely important. A solid brand is built on positive interactions and lots of them. While there are those out there who build their brands on quantity of interactions, it’s not long before they crash and burn. The flame that burns twice as bright burns half as long after all. You only need to look at Trump, Hopkins and that shaved bollock Lee Hurst to see what happens when you build your foundations on negativity.

That’s why the way Wolves are going about things is a little bit risky. Esports is undoubtedly going to be massive going forwards. That’s not an opinion. You might not like it, but that’s the way it is. It might even overtake traditional sports within a few generations, who knows what the future holds? From the initial perspective it’s extremely sensible for us to try and hitch ourselves to that wagon. Get on there first and make all the money before the juggernauts come in and gobble up everything. If we didn’t make ourselves a big player right out of the gate then we would be left fighting it out for the crumbs with Leeds and Leicester and Luton.

‘Shi’s on a Mission from God’

Branding to Attention

The problem with our approach is twofold though. Firstly, we’re alienating our social media fanbase with the way we are acting. You can call them virgins if you want. Most of them probably are. Losers? Maybe. In a relationship with their sock drawer? Yeah, that too. It doesn’t matter if any of that is true or not. What matters is that the socials is where the brand growth is going to take place. You bump up those interactions with vociferous vitriol from the virgins and it’s just castles made of sand. They fall in the sea, eventually. The brand isn’t being grown in a sustainable way.

Secondly, I don’t think we’re seeing any growth or revenue from this. I have to preface this next part with the fact that I’m not 100% sure on any of the finer details of these deals. Everything I’m about to say here is what I’ve been able to find from the limited information from press releases and other vague sources. So take it with a pinch of salt.

All of the headlines for news pieces say variations of “Wolves esports enter into Honor of Kings”. Then when you get to the copy it becomes apparent that it’s our parent company, almighty Fosun, that has invested in Chongqing QGhappy.

Take this article from Strafe, an esports site. The headline says “UK football club Wolverhampton Wanderers gets into Honor of Kings”. The copy says “Fosun Sports, the parent company of Wolves Esports has acquired the Chinese Honor of Kings esports team Chongqing QGhappy.”

So instantly, any revenue that is created through the esports team goes to Fosun. I know that’s not necessarily a bad thing, the more money Fosun makes the more they can potentially invest in us, but it means that the money doesn’t go onto our balance sheet. It means that it doesn’t go towards increasing what we can spend in growing our club. The club aren’t lying when they say they want to increase brand awareness, it’s just that they don’t care about the football side of the brand.

That’s also not necessarily a bad thing either. If the Wolves badge becomes synonymous with success in other areas it can potentially increase the exposure of the football side of the operation. The problem is that this isn’t really working at the moment.

Death by a Thousand Numbers

Russell Jones posted a thread on Twitter yesterday with some impressive numbers. 19 million video views, almost 100 million reads, 220,000 comments and 24,000 threads. These are impressive numbers but Mr. Jones didn’t provide any context to them. They’re just numbers. Being the inquisitive soul that I am, I took a deeper look into things. Now again, some things need to be taken with a pinch of salt because Google translate doesn’t do Chinese perfectly so there can definitely be a few things lost in translation.

My first port of call was the QGhappy Weibo page. It has around 2.5 million fans. It grabbed a massive number of interactions for the announcement of its name change. Over 12,000 comments at last count. That’s certainly impressive, but that’s the QGhappy page, not the Wolves page. A quick look at the Wolves Weibo page sees that we have around a fifth of the number of fans. Over 500,000. That doesn’t really tell us much though. Buying fans or being followed by a deluge of bots is commonplace on social media. The number of fans means nothing. Interactions are what tell us things. A repost of the QGhappy announcement got 67 comments. That was 3 days ago. That is one of the highest number of comments on any of the posts too. The engagement isn’t increasing on the football side of things.

What this is doing is turning Wolves into a brand that can be assimilated into a number of other revenue generating machines. Wolves will bring in huge revenues for Fosun going forwards. Very little of it will be from the football side of things. That’s not intrinsically a negative either. Whether it is negative or positive remains to be seen. If QGhappy increases its revenues through the use of Wolves branding then it would only be right that a portion of that revenue is passed onto Wolves and shown on the balance sheet. If that happens then these deals are of a huge positive to the club and we should all be applauding them.

However, if that doesn’t happen and it just goes into the coffers of Fosun, then perhaps we are being lead down a twisted path. What I will say is that it doesn’t appear the club is outright lying to us about this. Like Russell Jones admitted yesterday in his tweet thread “There is no relation to transfer activity”. What I assume he meant is that they are different departments so the lack of transfer activity is nothing to do with these deals. The problem is, if this revenue doesn’t make its way to the club, then it will have a deeper meaning as well.

Anger can quickly shift from inconsequential social media to real life. That’s something that Fosun should be aware of as they tread down this road towards brand awareness.

Notes From The Front Line

I’ve said a few trimes this blog could do with other voices and other minds and ‘Notes From The Front Line’ is just that. Discovering Wolverhampton through words and through our team. If you have words you would like putting on here contact me and chat. Here for your pleasure are some words from Ben Smallman.



Running to standstill

Day 2

Going for a jog – as Wolverhampton ran to a standstill – wasn’t meant to take me there, but something drew me in.

Music in my ears, Deep Heat in my hamstrings and water in my eyes at a landscape I called home.

Henwood Road came and went to a jaunty soundtrack which should have known better and then onto the Tettenhall Road in once stately pomp, looking like the morning after the night before. The smell of weed lingered but I kept on moving. One foot in front of the other. Plane trees swayed, daffodils played and for a split second you’d never know what was up.

‘Cheer up Chapel Ash’ I thought, ‘it might never happen.’ I then got lost in a daydream, for better or worse; a question in my mind for every bead of sweat on my brow.

How is Kate? What would I do without Dad? Was Steve Bull’s left foot goal against Bolton Wanderers in Division 3 his best? Does Jessica see me from afar? Does she know how much I love her? Will my legs stop telling my head to slow down? Will I ever learn to like myself again? The usual kind of stuff.

Iggy Pop interrupted my wandering mind with an ill-timed Lust for Life and there I was, making my way along the Waterloo Road to Molineux like I’d done a thousand times before.

One time in 1988, me and Dad were late for my third ever game when I was a fresh faced nine-year-old – a 3-3 draw with Port Vale. We missed Robbie Earle score for Vale after 37 seconds. We were running on adrenalin when Bully scored at the South Bank in injury time though. Dad, an impenetrable force of good who I’d spend a lifetime failing to emulate, bought me a pin badge for my scarf that day. A little lone wolf on a lustrous gold surround.

Another time, he rushed me home early with a migraine almost 30 years to the day, when Andy Mutch put Wolves ahead against an almighty Leeds United side in blazing sunshine that hurt my eyes. I lay stricken on the back seat on the way home curled up in the foetal position, shielding my pounding head from the sun’s piercing glare; my brain cowering from a sledgehammer’s metronomic thump.

The WM goal-horn sounded at 4.50pm as we entered Bewdley’s Catchems End. Dad breathed a profanity. ‘No, no, no’ he whispered. ‘Don’t. Go. To. Molineux.’

‘Late drama at Birmingham City!’, roared ‘Franksie’ in faux-hysteria. Danger averted, thank God.

“Nearly home Alan, nearly home,” Dad said. Hang on in there and I’ll carry you up into bed before you know it.”

Some days were just meant to be, weren’t they? Leeds United’s David Batty, a striking blonde enforcer who shimmered in the sunshine, made his one mistake of the afternoon – if not the entire season – when passing the ball straight to the feet of our centre-forward Andy Mutch. Mutchy must have thought Christmas had come early, coolly rounding goalkeeper Mervyn Day to slot into an empty net. Life was too easy at times back then, even if it took me three decades to realise. Did the daffodils know any different?

I became a dishevelled shell of that innocent child before I seemed to blink. I’d make the same journey along the same stretch of pavement with my own son Charlie in a circle of life years later, following the exact same path as I used to at his age. Not so much an eight-minute mile, but a suspended snapshot of a better place which had gone in the blink of an eye.

We’d get to the ring road island from the Billy Wright Stand after a game and neither Charlie or I would come up for air, giddily relaying each moment of a Premier League conquest with the veracity of ’88 – when I wore that pin badge for the first time back in Division 3. We’d laugh and cheer in unison and in that moment, my boy’s beaming smile would look so pure I wished I could have pressed pause.

On another day, me and dad would cover the same 800 footsteps without saying a word. It was hard to know what to say in 2002. Harder still when Dad was thinking of mum and I could only fumble a line about Colin Cameron scoring in 47 seconds – 10 more than Robbie Earle in 1988.

“Do you remember that one Dad?’”

I ran a lap of the Molineux without thinking, without seeing a soul. I got to the South Bank and amid the dead of night, I saw a smiling, statuesque Sir Jack Hayward taking guard; the man who built the place back up from rubble when we were scrambling in the remains ourselves. His bronzed thumbs were up high, smiling at a place I couldn’t quite reach.

I didn’t know where I was heading when I stepped foot outside for a jog around town. I never did anymore, truth be told.

But lockdown or no lockdown, it would all still be there when I’d find out.

Dear Guo

Dear Slim, you still ain’t called or wrote, I hope you have a chance
I ain’t mad – I just think it’s fucked up you don’t answer fans

Strange vibes at Molineux Towers Guo. We waited and waited didn’t we? All those slathering policies about getting players in and bolstering the teams campaign for this season seems to have just dissipated like the cigarette smoke under the eaves of the Southbank, blown away off to the Clee hills to our left. Did we refresh and refresh the web page trying to get a quicker look at these beautiful players that were to come in? I did for sure. I believed the Lizards at Molineux. If Bruno said we needed bodies then of course Jeff and Company wouldn’t leave him out to dry would they?…..would they?

Seems like there has been a breakdown in sensibility and process in our Senior Leadership team. The hand picked Gonks who Jeff says he has the utmost confidence in. They ay fit for purpose surely? Not now? Voices raised in the WV1 expensive bit last Sunday. No bar staff, no food, no joy. Long waits for a pint at the bar. The brand experience falling flatter than Bruno Fernandes during the match. Bugging the Corporates out Jeff? Pissing off the money men, the companies you are chasing? Don’t look good. Blow after blow falls on the heads of fans again. 50p to use your own computer and ink to print a ticket because of ‘issues’ with the computer system. Expensive season ticket rises, the Graham Hughes stand falling over, £165 hoodies, the sell sell sell groove starting to thicken the ears of the fan base. I’m not going to go on. It’s negative and shit.

But Guo. Dude. Things are weird here. Things do not seem correct. Things do not seem Chinese at all. I think Jeff has put too much stock in the Leadership team he has assembled. They look like Rabbits caught in the headlights, they are telling untruths and trying to cover it up. Jeff wanders around bobbing his head with total confidence in them when we look, from the outside and are biting our knuckles at the madness.

I know getting players in is tough. I know that the geopolitical storms are rumbling, I know investing money at the moment is fraught and scary. These are things that should bother you and not us. We are the customers buying into your vision and your brand, But the brand, this Fosun/Wolves thing isn’t fit for purpose at the moment. It’s ragged and pale, shoddy, a bit crumpled at the edges. Not bright and beautiful. But a bit sad. Do you want your new customers to see this? This lacklustre leadership, this lack of planning? We can argue all we want about the efficacy of the team. It’s effectiveness now cut right to the bone. How will they cope? Football at this level is a fraught business and you as a Businessman should know that. The communications between the fanbase and the club are awful. I’m not talking about all the new fans you have decided to speak with, the ones who no one has ever seen at the Molineux before we were promoted last time. They do what they will and have their own darkness to deal with. But us, you know…the ones you don’t like are not really engaging with the message. You are speaking with the wrong people Guo. But that’s your policy and who am I to argue with it? I observe and I collect data then I vomit it out into my blog.

The History and Culture of China is one I am familiar with. I have worked with Chinese academics and have been a guest in their houses. I have read much on Geopolitics involving China but I am struggling to engage all of my knowledge about your great nation as regards the running of a little football club that represents my little town. What has gone wrong with the message here? Does Jeff expect that his policy of ripping every pound out of the fan base will alienate the Wolves hierarchy from it’s customers so he has basically shut down his communications? Is he leaving his team of malcontents and money men to take the heat?

The transfer business is an amazing fuck up Guo. It is a complex thing to sort out, especially when Jorge Mendes is probably too busy counting Manchester United money after they bought Ronaldo. Perhaps Jorge has been far too busy looking out for Nuno too. But we can see that he hasn’t been bothered about little old Wolves this transfer window. Instead that business has obviously been left with the Leadership team. One of them wore training shoes with trousers to meet and greet Bruno Lage when he signed up to Coach the team. Training shoes Guo. This man is an Executive at a Premier League club meeting probably one of the best up and coming Coaches in Europe, showing him around Molineux and he wears a pair of raggitty fucking training shoes. I think in my own little brain, that something was up straight away. The question and answer thing was also fraught. No one believed a word of what the Leadership team said. Prompted by pre loaded questions they bumbled and mumbled off the shelf responses, memes, standard operating phrases all the time watching Jeff who interspersed his own focus onto the proceedings throughout. No Guo, I didn’t believe it and trust me, those faceless men who watch from the side lines who have money to invest will also see it. People around the world will have seen it. It was embarrassing. I wouldn’t say they were lying, but there were untruths in there and we could tell. We know these types of men. We never trust them.

Guo, we have some work to do here. The season has started and already we are on the back foot. This whole process was supposed to be about consolidating our position in the Premier League. Investment, shrewd investment in young players scouted from across Europe. Bringing them to play at Wolves where they could learn, develop, increase their price. You make money, we are happy to win, we are happy to take multi millions of pounds from other clubs and replace players with other young hungry footballers ready to learn, develop, play. Instead, this past few days has seen what amounts to a clusterfuck of epic proportions landing on our heads. Who is responsible Guo? Who takes the blame for what will happen in the next few months? We could end up struggling. We could end up in a fight at the end of the season for survival. All it takes is a few key injuries, a few knocks, even a loss of form from key players. That is why we needed bodies. We need depth. This is football not a Mobile Phone factory in the middle of China where you can brow beat the Peasants into more work, more profit and more effort. This is football and we need bodies. People who can play, people who want to succeed. Hungry people.

We support our team and that is all we can do and for the past few years we have also supported the idea of Fosun/Wolves. We may moan about a few things but we supported what you were initially supposed to do. Make us a European force, make us a force in the Premier League. Now that dream seems to be over for the moment. Everything seems drab again but more expensive. We will pay more to be more miserable. Are you getting the message yet? Things are not looking great for us again. Maybe we are moaning, maybe there are variables we don’t know about when it comes to working out transfers but Guo, things don’t look good. Us Wolves fans have been here many times before stretching back into history. We know these feelings and we know they usually end up with us in a lower division with no money again, playing shitty Walsall and Shrewsbury. There is a chance here to do something. Get a Director of football. I think we need direction and planning, some club policy that isn’t written on the back of a cigarette packet. We need a Worldwide scouting system too, something independent of that cocaine addled chancer Jorge Mendes. Something fit for purpose. Invest some money in that. We need a Leadership team with experience and drive, people that are at the cutting edge of Football club management. We need a leadership team that can communicate with their customer base directly and with honesty not with half truths and bullshit. You need to talk and to discuss the wider issues we face too. Finance, lending, ideas, ways to engage with the fanbase and not cherry picked glory hunters. They do not love the club like we do. Guo there is a lot to do man. Let’s put this episode down as a learning experience and a chance to make a clean start. Start getting active and dynamic with your investment, grow it, develop it and do all these things with us. Lets make stuff positive again.

I love you Wolves, when are you going to start loving us?