Kenny Jackett was given a warm welcome when Wolves Fans' Parliament members met last night for the first time this season. Matt Grayson explained that the minutes from Kenny’s Q&A would appear on the website in the morning, with part two of the minutes, including Fans’ agenda items, to appear later.
The head coach kicked off proceedings by saying how privileged he felt to be here and how much he was looking forward to the rest of a season that has started promisingly.
"The response has been fantastic from the group of players, considering the amount of changes we've made," he said. "The relationship with the supporters had broken down and my first job is to pull the players together to over-achieve. It's work in progress.
"There is a considerable amount of talent here, including youngsters who have come in the first team and made their mark. You always want young, hungry players. There's a very good crop and some more behind. It's my job to mould and bring through that talent and turn this into a winning team."
When asked by Steve Parkes why he had wanted to take the job as opposed to being in the Championship with Millwall, he added: "I saw fantastic potential at what I regard as one of the country's genuinely big clubs. The timing was right on a personal level. I didn't hesitate and saw it as a fantastic opportunity."
The meeting was live on-line and the first question posed by a blogger referred to the situation with Roger Johnson and Jamie O'Hara. "It's very quiet," Kenny said. "There have been tentative enquiries over the last couple of months and their objective is to keep themselves fit for the next challenge. They will get their training games and under-21 games."
Clive Smith congratulated Dean Saunders' successor on understanding the psyche of the club very quickly and was told: "I went for a series of interviews where I put my own feelings forward. I (previously) tried to move Danny Batth away from your clutches and am now glad I didn't. I also thought Leigh Griffiths was a genuinely exciting player, so I had an enthusiasm for some of the players who weren't even in the team here. The relationship between players and supporters is important and you have to give some down-to-earth ethics. Also, I think people want to see teams build from the back but also see a pattern going forward that attacks the opposition. I put those views forward. We started training a week early on June 24 and I had enough time to mould a team for going forward."
To a remark from Greg Asbury that it seemed strange Roger Johnson and Jamie O'Hara could go on being a 'drain' on the club, Kenny said: "A number of players have gone and that has been good business. But these two are the most high-profile. It needs someone to come in and pay a decent amount and not let them walk all over us. It's also a question of how long the players can wait. My press conferences earlier were all about the players not in the side. I want it to be about Lee Evans, Leigh Griffiths, Aaron McCarey
or others." Chief Executive Jez Moxey followed up by pointing out: "We can afford to keep paying them. I think some clubs thought we would be a pushover because we're in League One but we're certainly not."
Kenny responded to Tom Bason's question about the differences between his Wolves role and that as Millwall manager by pointing out the 'considerable support structure' in place here. "My delegation is considerable and it needs to be. The sports science department's job, for example, is to keep 85% of the players fit for the majority of the games. All of the areas like sports science and scouting can turn their work into points (in the table).
"Good scouting is planning 18 months or two years ahead. There's no point having an injury one day and then starting scouting. You get caught out. We need to know the market in Britain and know every good young player, whether it might be for our under-21s or to go into the first team. We monitor a lad's play and character and do our background checks so we don't make a mistake."
There was praise from the floor for keeping Bakary Sako and Kevin Doyle beyond the transfer window - credit the head coach thought should be directed instead at Steve Morgan. "He needs to be thanked for his stance on it," he added. "He was very consistent in as much as it (their departure) would always have had to be for a considerable offer that would suit Wolves." He also said contract talks were on-going with Danny Batth - 'a player and person I have a lot of time for.' "From the chairman downwards, we are committed to his long-term future here."
Jeff Bagnall was delighted that some reconnecting with supporters had occurred during the first few weeks of 2013-14 and had noted that the players now warmed up at the other end. "You always thank the supporters for coming and for their backing because you need them," Kenny said. "One player at Port Vale had a pack of ice on and a few were drifting away, and it's not right. So far, I've been listening rather than talking on which end we warm up but I think you just try something different (after two unhappy years)." Jeff said the fans were back on side with the team.
Dave Benton asked how the buying of players worked now and was told: "Kevin Thelwell has had the scouting structure in place since just after Christmas. They will go through lists of players and I'll sit with them and add my opinions. We haven't ventured too far outside the list but, going forward, we'll have to. In terms of League One, it's mainly domestic with some long-term work to go abroad and to go for younger players to replenish the under-18s. Kevin and me will make our recommendations and put them to Jez to go to the chairman." Jez said the process was an on-going, every-day thing. Kenny referred to having signed only three players to date (Sam Ricketts, Kevin McDonald and Scott Golbourne) but felt he would have been backed had he asked for several more.
Another question from the blog asked whether the squad were strong enough. "I'm quite pleased with it," Kenny said. "It's developing. I don't think there's a hole in it. With form, injuries or suspensions, it can change but we're not necessarily looking for loans right now. If there's a need - and we review it game by game - we'll do it. I wouldn't want other players coming in from the Premier League and halting the development of our own young players. Fair enough if they're better or in a position where we need it. Otherwise, it just gives you a short-term fix, and long-term development is our aim." To a blogger's enquiry about the possible need for more experience, he added: "I don't think the squad lacks experience. There is a high number of young players but that doesn't mean we can't be successful."
Ian Smith asked about the future of Wayne Hennessey and was told: "He has been injured for 18 months and has top-class potential to get back to where he was. It suits all parties that he continues getting his games in with Yeovil. Aaron McCarey
is promising and I understand we will then have to make a decision about our keepers."
Kenny assured Stephen Galloway that he leads training every day - a part of the job he really enjoyed. "I didn't (initially) think the concentration and discipline were the best. There was a very good sports science department which was perhaps being under-used. We have got to bring some honest values to the players. The players have responded and responded well with their time-keeping and personal discipline. When the winter months come, this is where they need to be diligent to be as fit as possible."
In answering a question from the blog about away support, Kenny used the word 'unbelievable.' "Our following has been higher than some clubs' home support in this division and they have been passionate and noisy. It's our challenge to keep it going and keep it at that level."
Mark Griffiths asked, in the event of Wolves getting past Notts County in the Johnstone's Paint Trophy, how serious the club would be about winning it because that would 'bring the feel-good factor back.' As for the argument about concentrating on the League, he said: "We have been relegated twice and won nothing." Jez asked those present which prize they would prefer the club to win and, after originally being told 'both,' heard promotion named as the main target. Kenny said: "If it's possible to do both, yes we would. We have fielded our strongest team available in the cups. I wanted to settle the team down. After all those weeks off in the summer and then for players to need a rest a couple of games into the season....it doesn't make sense, does it? Games are good experience for young players. If McCarey now has to play in the League, he will benefit from having played in that Walsall game. Also, in the Johnstone's Paint Trophy, there are restrictions and you have to play six of your previous team or six of your following team. I may make two or three changes but say we still have to win."
Steve Phillips referred to Kenny as 'a man well respected in the game' and asked him about his hopes for promotion. The answer was: "It won't be easy and we shouldn't underestimate the motivation of the opposition but we shouldn't be frightened of it. This is a genuinely big club but we're all confident we can do it if we make the right decisions. It's something I am confident we can achieve."
A blogger enquired how the new boys had settled in and whether they were aware of how important the success of the club was. Kenny mentioned recently signed youngsters Eusebio and Torras and said: "They have come into the under-21 group and I don't think their senior debuts are imminent. Eusebio is working hard at learning the language but you have to help them and support them. If we sign foreign players, you have to have the support structure in place."
Jeff Bagnall said there seemed to have been a sea change in attitude with players now wanting to come to the club. "Hogan Ephraim has gone in the press and said he wants to come," he pointed out. Kenny responded by saying he felt it was important the club kept their transfer targets quiet and private as it was more professional to announce signings only when they were made. "You'll be amazed at the amount of enquiries a club makes and the number you try to sign," he added. "You need to know the market and you have to update constantly. Being organised and keeping our own counsel does help."
To a question from Dave Benton as to whether he wanted to change the philosophy of the academy and bring players through in a different way, Kenny pointed to his own thorough background in player development and said. "My views will be alongside the people in that department. It's a very good academy. I was head of youth at Watford for six years and they consistently produced a high amount of players, then I was reserve manager at Manchester City. They had an excellent academy, so I've seen it from different angles and feel I have a lot to offer. But it moves on and the amount of people level one and level two academies have now is considerable.....it's not just one man and his dog." Jez Moxey pointed out that the old St Edmund's School building would soon be razed to the ground to make room for a magnificent new indoor academy building to go up.
Mark Griffiths asked Kenny if he knew Leigh Griffiths was going to celebrate his recent goal at Port Vale as he did and was told: "No and I didn't know he was going to nutmeg Lee Hughes straight afterwards." Mark repeated Jeff Bagnall's point about players reconnecting with fans. "He's a talented lad but we haven't done anything yet and now is the time we really have to work," the head coach added. "We have made some strides towards connecting but our work is ahead of us now. The players have shown they can do it. Leigh has got off the mark with a few goals but he has got to deliver the season he is capable of. If we can create chances, I'm confident he can finish them."
Preparation for matches was on the mind of a blogger who enquired about overnight stays. "We haven't stayed overnight for any game yet, not even Bristol City," Kenny said. "If you stop players being independent, you stop them being as good as people."
Simon Wade asked if certain players might have been further ahead in their development but for what he called 'being held back by previous regimes'. Kenny said: "They don't look like they are worried about that. Danny Batth has won promotion from this division before with Sheffield Wednesday and Zeli Ismail has so much talent with a low centre of gravity, and is very two-footed. Being so highly rated as a youngster can be hard to bear."
Anthony Pickford referred to an apparent improvement in discipline and was told: "It's either discipline or just direction. We have to be the most professional team in this division because our resources are better. I want the players realising that their careers will benefit if they are professional. We have to move with those times." Tom Bate enquired about the policy on young players going out, possibly on late nights. "In their contracts, it says they are not allowed on licensed premises 48 hours or fewer before a game and they have to act in a fit and proper way," Kenny said. "Their challenge is to be as fit and prepared as possible. You can't have players who burn the candle at both ends. They have to be diligent and professional. There is a balance but they must respect their body and respect the club. If someone doesn't, you ask whether it's just a case of young lads being young lads or are they on the wrong track? And how many are they taking with them?"
To Clive Smith's point about the various sides to Bakary Sako's game. Kenny said: "He's worth persevering with but, with many flair players, there's a down-side. It's quite easy at full-back or midfielder to be a regular 7 out of 10 but not everyone can play a safe game and I think he's well worth backing and I wouldn't want him not trying to do things. Trust me....you need the Sakos around to find the winning formula. He's a conscientious player and a decent lad. I have a lot of time for him. He was honest with me about not being in the right frame of mind for the Port Vale game and it was my decision to leave him out. So you then challenge the players: Are we a one-man team who have to wait for him to come back next week or are we going to go and win the game without him?" Jez referred to the winger being 'a great pro, although he wouldn't have expected to be in League One with us.' Kenny said he wouldn't want to play a player who wasn't committed.
Greg Asbury asked whether Kenny had moved his family to the Wolverhampton area and was told: "Yes, I have, and my son is attending a school locally.”
Back on football issues, a blogger asked if Bjorn Sigurdarson would be considered as an out-and-out forward. He also referred to Kevin Foley having suffered an 'alarming dip in form'. Kenny replied: "Bjorn will do well. He has flitted between wide right and central. I think his assets are for through the middle. He has pace and power. We're a bit short wide on the right but have Anthony Forde (in reserve) and, after that, Bjorn is next. Kevin Foley has been unlucky because the form of Matt Doherty has been excellent. He has the shirt and will be hard to shift. Kevin had a stop-start pre-season but is fine now and is a top professional. I don't think Kevin is a winger. He is an attacking full-back. In my humble opinion, he is one you play on the right to stop the opposition rather than go and attack them."
Lesley Matile remarked that fans watching from around her had been impressed with how Kenny had handled himself in what had been 'a great start' to the season. Parliament Chairman Matt Grayson pointed out that there had been 19 questions from members and 15 from the blog in about 75 minutes. He then thanked Kenny, who received warm applause for his contribution to the meeting, for giving up his time.