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A momentous day

David Instone on the Wolves/Fosun press conference

It was, as Jez Moxey said, a “momentous day” for Wolves today as he joined Jeff Shi, representative of the Fosun Group, in facing the media to officially mark the takeover of the Club by the far-reaching Chinese investment company.

 

Respected journalist David Instone, who has been covering and keeping an eye on Wolves in different guises for over three decades, was there….

 

Days like this don't come around too often at Molineux. Steve Morgan arrived in the summer of 2007, possibly amid greater fanfare. Before that, Sir Jack Hayward threw a party for the club's entire workforce to celebrate the fact that his beloved and previously deeply troubled club were back in caring Wulfrunian hands in 1990.

In a sport notorious for its volatility, impatience and capacity for change, Wolverhampton Wanderers have had two loyal owners across a span of more than a quarter of a century.

Now, all the signals are that the Fosun Group, with their colossal wealth, are here for the long haul, too.

It hasn't been easy being a Wolves supporter these last ten months since a build-up of early-season discontentment, combined with personal reasons, led to Morgan falling out of love with running the show.

Key players suffered injuries and others found the lure of the Premier League too much to resist. Performances suffered following two excellent seasons under Kenny Jackett and, yes, with the hunt on for new custodians, funding for players declined.

Fortunately, like his predecessor, Morgan 'gets' the importance of the legacy concept. Just as Sir Jack did the right thing by supporters in selflessly asking only a tenner for his shares, as long as the new man would pour £30m into Wolves' coffers, so the Liverpudlian has now played a valuable hand in helping bring these blue-chip investors to Molineux.

You had to be up with the milkman to beat the first of the fans who turned up at the stadium today to wish Jeff Shi and his Fosun colleagues well.

A colourful crowd of more than 100, some banging drums, were gathered by the time a table for two was being set in prime position in the Hayward Suite for 12 noon. There have been bigger press conferences than this – only an hour earlier, in fact, Sam Allardyce had 'taken guard' as the national press steamed in off their long run demanding to know about his plans for rescuing the national team – but it was all handled with a comfortable ease, a ready smile and an underlying determination to deliver big.

Suited, booted, bespectacled and wearing a Wolves tie, Jeff was introduced to the media on what the outgoing chief executive called 'a momentous day'. Negotiations between the two parties had taken the last four or five weeks of the nine and a half months since the 'for sale' notice went up and, Jez told us, here was the influx of the capital 'we all so desperately crave'.

These are clearly people of substance; long-term investors rather than owner-operators.

"Our capacity for investment is huge," the new man said. "Any investment for the club will not be a problem." Talk of up to eight players being signed and £20-30m being spent on strengthening the squad starts to underline the point. The net was spread across Europe in the group's commitment to buy a football club and, as we so often hear from foreign mouths, the pull of the Premier League had been a factor.

That, inevitably, is where the new owners want and expect Wolves to be before long. There were none of the outlandish aims we sometimes hear on such occasions, though......just a promise to work as hard as possible to get there as soon as possible. And then stay there and grow.

Yes, he answered with a laugh, he was inspired by Leicester's jaw-dropping success under Far East ownership. No, a simple shake of the head told us, he didn't know Aston Villa's new owner, Dr Tony Xia.

Seventy-six expressions of interest about a takeover were received by Molineux officials and, with the Fosun Group president in China worth some £4.1billion, Wolves are suddenly being said by some to have the fourth wealthiest owners in English football.

If that doesn't whet the appetite for the new season, Jeff's confirmation in answer to a question from The Sun's representative that he is 'a very good friend' of the so-called super-agent, Jorge Mendes, might do. "There are a really exciting times ahead," said Jez, adding that he was determined to leave on a high and was immensely proud that he and his long-time chairman were handing over a club in robust health rather than one in distress.

The media proceedings lasted just less than the first half on match day. There seemed to be a nice understated air to much of what was delivered in competent, if not polished, English, then it was on with the gold and black scarf for some photographs and a meeting with the fans congregated near the Billy Wright statue.

He was greeted with chants of 'We Are Wolves' and 'Wol-verham-pton Wan-der-ers'. No problem so far but the follow-up rendition of 'Wolves Aye We' might have been a shade trickier. Where's that Black Country phrase book when you need it?

Not one request for an autograph, handshake or selfie was refused and he mingled easily enough after saying a few words to the assembled crowd by microphone, finally being sent on his way with warm applause.

And so we're off into a new era. Nine years of Morgan rule brought three seasons in the Premier League, thrilling title successes in two divisions, a couple of seventh-place finishes, the building of a towering new North Bank, a considerably improved training ground, the civic pride of impressive building projects elsewhere in Wolverhampton, a prudence that kept the club in the black and the books nice and clean so prospective buyers would be attracted and finally the parting gift of handing to charity any forthcoming promotion bonus he may be due. Didn't do too bad, did he?

You suspect his successors will be aiming for all that – and probably substantially more.