Paul Lambert: Wolves boss leaves Molineux after seven months in charge

Paul Lambert
Paul Lambert guided Wolves to 15th in the Championship and the fifth round of the FA Cup

Wolves head coach Paul Lambert has left the club after seven months in charge.

The Championship club will make an announcement "in due course" on a new head coach and backroom team.

Portuguese Nuno Espirito Santo, 43, an ex-goalkeeper who has left his post at Porto, is his anticipated replacement.

As well as Lambert, 47, coaches Stuart Taylor and Rob Edwards, their former player, and another ex-player Tony Daley, fitness coach and head of sport science, are also leaving.

Lambert is the fifth of Wolves' past six first-team bosses to last less than a year at Molineux.

His role had been in doubt since the end of the Championship season over a dispute about who has the final say on signing players.

The decision was made as part of a coaching restructure by Wolves' Chinese owners Fosun following an end-of-season football review.

The Mendes link

Fosun have had a close working relationship with Portuguese agent Jorge Mendes since their takeover in July 2016.

Several of their 12 summer signings were arranged by Mendes, although the majority of them struggled to make an impact at Molineux.

The one undoubted success was winger Helder Costa, who initially joined on loan from Benfica at the start of the season before completing a club-record £13m move in January.

Costa ended 2016-17 as Wolves' top scorer with 12 goals and swept the board at the club's end-of-season awards.

Lambert had spoken publicly of his desire to sign mainly British players this summer. But reports of the Scot considering his future as a result of his unease with Mendes' sizeable involvement in Wolves' recruitment policy first surfaced earlier this month.

Nuno Espirito Santo
Nuno Espirito Santo has previously managed Rio Ave and Valencia, as well as Porto

The size of the job

Since the Premier League was launched in 1992, Wolves have spent just four of those 25 seasons in the top flight.

They first won promotion under Dave Jones in 2003, only to come straight back down again.

They then went back up again as champions under Mick McCarthy in 2009, spending three seasons there this time.

Over the last 10 seasons, only one manager has taken over a Championship club in the summer, having finished the previous season at the same level, and then won automatic promotion in his first season.

That was Steve Bruce, with Hull City in 2012-13 - and with a points haul (79) that would not have been good enough to make this season's play-offs.

Lambert's reign

Having been appointed as Walter Zenga's successor on 5 November, Lambert was in charge for 33 matches in all competitions, of which Wolves won 14, lost 14 and drew five.

A run of five successive league defeats in February dragged Wolves into a Championship relegation struggle, although they pulled well clear of the bottom three with five consecutive wins in March and April.

They eventually finished 15th, seven points clear of the relegation zone.

The highlights of Lambert's reign came in the FA Cup, in which Wolves won at Premier League opponents Stoke City and Liverpool before losing at home to double-chasing Chelsea in the fifth round.

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Highlights: Liverpool 1-2 Wolves

The Molineux merry-go-round

  • Wolves' new manager will be the club's seventh boss in less than six years, since Mick McCarthy was sacked after five and a half years in charge in February 2012.
  • Terry Connor (128 days), Stale Solbakken (190 days) and Dean Saunders (121 days) all had short stints as manager as the club suffered successive relegations before Wolves followed neighbours West Bromwich Albion's lead by switching to a head coach model.
  • Kenny Jackett was appointed as the club's first head coach in June 2013, working with head of football development and recruitment, Kevin Thelwell.
  • During his three years in charge of first-team affairs, Jackett helped win promotion back to the Championship at his first attempt, before finishing 7th and 14th in his two seasons in the second tier.
  • After Jackett was sacked in July 2016 by the Fosun Group, former Italy keeper Zenga took over, lasting 88 days before he too was sacked.

Analysis

BBC WM's Mike Taylor

The news of Lambert's departure is not surprising, since it is now three weeks since reports of the apparent rift between him and the club first appeared, although no public comment confirming it was ever made by either side.

Neither will it be a surprise when, and we expect it will probably be Wednesday, Nuno Espirito Santo is announced as his replacement.

This decision by Wolves can be viewed either as a bold step forward with a fresh approach, or another unnecessary risk on a coach with no experience of a particularly treacherous league.

What it does appear to make abundantly clear, though, is that the owners Fosun are very much influenced by the agent Jorge Mendes, to a greater degree than they have previously been prepared to admit. Lambert was never going to stand for that.

Fans will have their own views on whether that is the right course. The opinions of the club's director Jeff Shi may also turn out to be of interest, given the enthusiastic language he used to describe Lambert's vital importance to the club's management team only a few weeks ago.

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