Wolves: Jeff Shi says Walter Zenga appointment was 'only big mistake'

Wolves director Jeff Shi outlined his plans for next season at a Molineux press conference
Wolves director Jeff Shi outlined his plans for next season at a Molineux press conference

Wolves director Jeff Shi says the biggest mistake made by the Championship club's owners Fosun since they took charge in July 2016 was appointing Walter Zenga as head coach.

Italian Zenga was sacked in October after only 14 league games in charge and replaced by Paul Lambert, who has guided Wolves up to 15th in the table.

"I liked Walter. He was passionate, a really lovely guy," Shi told BBC WM.

"Later we found out it was not a good match. We had to change very quickly."

He added: "The only big mistake in my mind was the coach appointment at the beginning of the season."

Wolves suffered six successive defeats in all competitions in February and March, but responded with a six-game unbeaten run, the final five of those matches being wins.

Shi continued: "Paul is a very good coach. Even when we were losing games, some fans wrote emails to me saying: 'Jeff, what is happening?' I always kept confidence in Paul.

"I can see how it all works here and there is no reason to change it. The most important thing is that we are a united team - Paul, sporting director Kevin Thelwell, managing director Laurie Dalrymple and myself - we should work very closely."

Walter Zenga
Former Italy goalkeeper Zenga won just four of his 14 league games in charge as Wolves boss

Good investments in Costa and Cavaleiro

After making a good start under Zenga in August, Wolves' season began to take a downward turn after he began to tinker with the team, trying to integrate some of Wolves' 12 summer signings - the majority of whom had been arranged by agent Jorge Mendes rather than Zenga himself.

Wolves have twice broken their transfer record this season, signing Monaco's Ivan Cavaleiro for £7m and then fellow winger Helder Costa from Benfica for £13m.

Shi sees both players as good long-term investments, and there is no pre-ordained plan to sell Costa at the end of the season.

"In the Championship there is always Financial Fair Play to think about," he said. "You cannot keep breaking your transfer record or you will be punished.

"We can all see what a great player Helder Costa is and why we spent a lot of money on him in the Championship.

"We can all see his potential. In the future he is going to be worth even more than that.

"You want to invest in good players, the same with Cavaleiro as well. We have confidence that these players are going to get better.

"We need to keep investing and making the team better, but we will be careful with every investment.

"But I am not saying we cannot sign a very expensive player again if he is very good because it is about quality."

Helder Costa and Ivan Cavaleiro
Helder Costa and Ivan Cavaleiro were team-mates together at Monaco last season before being reunited at Wolves

Wolves ready to challenge next season

Having made the decision to part company with Zenga, Wolves' season has been up and down since under Lambert, but it has taken a significant upturn in recent weeks and Shi is determined to maintain that resurgent feeling.

"It has all been new to me and to Fosun as owners," he said. "We only took over late before the start of the season, so it has been a learning curve for me.

"I said at the beginning it is long-term, a 10-year plan. We have huge ambition but you cannot do everything in one day. We need at least three years.

"Fosun have tried to help, as you can see from the investment. Chairman Guo Guangchang has been over here once, president Qunbin Wang has been over here once, and they have spoken to the players and the coach.

"It was always going to be really difficult to get promoted in the first season. This season it was about trying to compete for the play-offs. Now we are fully ready for next season and have the players for the future to do better.

"With the squad that we have and the wins that we have, there is a squad that would be able to compete for the play-offs. Going into the second year, we will try to get the squad stronger and maybe with the potential for the top two.

"We will try to get promoted next year, and if we cannot, then we should still be very strong in this division like Newcastle and Brighton are this season."

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