Black and golds, in a lilac away kit, proved too strong for Bristol City in a 2-1 win that gave Wolves manager confidence for future
Wolves could prove an asset to League One, boosting attendances from Crawley to Carlisle. On the opening day they took 5,000 to Preston, where the crowd was almost double last season's average. At Ashton Gate on Saturday, against Bristol City, also relegated, they again filled the away end with 2,200 and the crowd was 500 up on December's, when both clubs were struggling. Wolves won 4-1 then. This time it was 2-1, which kept up their unbeaten start – seven points from three games – but left City with only one. Wolves mean business not just public service.
They would rather not be here at all – 17 months ago they were entertaining Manchester United, albeit losing 5-0 – but it was less embarrassing to be facing vaguely familiar opponents. In the mid-80s they suffered three successive relegations and almost expired. Kenny Jackett is charged with preventing a repeat hat-trick and probably with gaining instant promotion.
He resigned from Millwall in May, having "taken them as far as I can" – 20th in the Championship, three places and five points above Wolves – and was soon Molineux's man, their fifth in 16 months, which is nothing by Blackburn's standards but says little for the judgment of the owner, Steve Morgan, and chief executive, Jez Moxey. Their heads are as much on the line as Jackett's. The appointment divided fans with remarkable vehemence. But then Wolves, celebrating their founder membership of the Football League in its 125th year, played their first match opposite the Fighting Cocks Inn.
Jackett is not a "muppet" or "clown". His copybook is unblemished through Watford, Swansea and Millwall. At Wolves he seems already a steadying influence and breath of fresh air after Stale Solbakken et al, shooting no lines and seeking ways to restore fans' pride in the club. "The connection between players and crowd had broken down," he said. "You have to work at it." Four years ago they averaged 28,000 at Molineux; 19,000 for their first home game shows the work to be done but also a readiness to give Jackett a chance.
He has quietly made firm intentions clear. "Fans want to see fresh players and an attacking team," he said. They saw both on Saturday, when the starting XI included only three who played in last season's final game. Some of the rest have gone, others were on the bench but four stalwarts of double relegation were not given squad numbers, effectively sent to Coventry or, as it may be, Northampton.
The three who played made significant contributions. Kevin Doyle led the line with class and commitment, as he should on £40,000 a week, alongside Lee Griffiths, who came on for Scotland at Wembley last week and was one of five starters aged 22 or under. Bakary Sako, 25, curled in a free-kick for the first goal in the 22nd minute and set up the second, in the 85th, with a cross bundled in by Matt Doherty, 22, at the far post. Jay Emmanuel-Thomas equalised in the 53rd, Wolves' first League One concession, after Sam Baldock capitalised on Richard Stearman's slip.
Both sides are aiming to regroup but City were so haphazard in the first half that Sean O'Driscoll did well to group them at all for the second. The back four pushed up ("In 40 minutes we'd won only one second ball," he said) and City pressed with such fervour that Jackett was "delighted we came through. In front of a big and passionate crowd we did well not to let it slip through our fingers. It was a good achievement character-wise", worthy of the old gold and black that reflects the borough's motto of "light cometh out of darkness", even if the reverse has been true lately.
It was made finer for being executed in an outfit of lilac from head to foot, though Griffiths did wear marigold boots. There was no clash with City's red but no one anyway should have to sport this, even for sponsors' money. Wild pansy would have been better. Then again they do have to play in the Johnstone's Paint Trophy.