Last week; Huddersfield Town signed speedy winger Rajiv van La Parra on loan from Wolves until May 31, to be followed by a permanent move for an undisclosed fee. It seems a near certainty that he has played his last game in an Old Gold shirt.
The Dutchman agreed a three-year contract and will complete the transfer in June. The Terriers head coach David Wagner was pleased that he had signed a player with ‘good experience of the Championship’ and also noted that he still had plenty of time to develop his game. Wagner will believe that ‘RVLP’ will flourish in his counter-attacking system, alongside pacey and athletic forwards Nahki Wells and Sean Scannell.
But my question is; given the current state of Kenny Jackett’s injury-hit Wolves squad, will van La Parra be missed at Molineux?
I cannot imagine that many Wolves fans would take this view; but yes, he may be a big loss. In November, van La Parra was loaned to high-flying Brighton. It was clear on social media that the vast majority of the Seagulls faithful were sad to see him leave. He scored twice in six appearances, including an impressive long-range goal against QPR in front of the Sky Sports cameras.
And, soon after his return to the West Midlands, van La Parra performed superbly against QPR once again – he clearly enjoys playing at Loftus Road! He ran Paul Konchesky ragged for the duration of the game, and was unlucky to finish without an assist or even a goal to his name after a fine display. After that performance, ‘The Flying Dutchman’ was the talk of the town.
He showed glimpses of the player that the Wolves fans had the pleasure of watching at the start of the 2014-15 season. The first time I saw van La Parra was in a pre-season friendly against Peterborough, he came off the bench and hugged the right touchline in a scrappy, cagey affair. His blistering pace was clear for all to see, and his willingness to take on his marker despite being consistently kicked and fouled was refreshing.
Fast forward to August of that year and the club’s first game back in the Championship, at home to Norwich. ‘RVLP’ put in a man of the match display, and his cross set up Dave Edwards for the only goal of the game. I can remember my little brother saying that van La Parra ‘had Martin Olsson on toast’ for the whole 90 minutes. The Swedish defender, who is no slouch, could not contain the Dutchman’s pace and agility, and one too many fouls led to his dismissal.
Although it’s useful that a winger possesses the athleticism and skill to beat a defender, their goal and assist tally is what they are ultimately judged on – just ask Theo Walcott or Raheem Sterling! Two goals in nearly sixty appearances for Wolves is not a good enough return for an attacking winger. I say attacking, because ‘RVLP’ has very rarely shown enough desire to track back and help the defence.
Assists have also proved hard to come by, but this is no surprise given the quality, or lack of, that van La Parra often showed when crossing the ball. ‘He couldn’t cross a road!’ or ‘he couldn’t cross his legs!’ have been two of the most overused jokes by Wolves fans in recent times, by me included.
The final delivery is hugely important in Jackett’s 4-2-3-1 (or more recently, 4-3-3) system, because the formation relies on the late runs made by the player occupying the attacking midfield position, or the ‘Dangerous Dave role’ as I like to call it.
In a last ditch attempt to bring the best out of van La Parra, Jackett resorted to playing him in a more central role. Thankfully; after a horrendous, dismal, and utterly atrocious performance during Wolves’ 2-1 loss at home to Preston, that plan was cut short by half-time.
But that was nothing compared to van La Parra’s activity on social media. He changed his Instagram biography to ‘One week they love you. Next week they hate you. Both weeks I got paid.’ Jamie O’Hara was rightly never forgiven for his money reference, and I doubt it will be any different for the Dutch winger.
So; in my opinion, no, Wolves will not miss van La Parra. In recent years, the underlying characteristics of Wolves’ successful teams have been passion, desire and the will to win at all costs. It sounds like a cliché, but Danny Batth, Richard Stearman, and looking even further back, the likes of George Elokobi, Karl Henry and Jody Craddock would wear their hearts on their sleeves and pull the rest of the team through tough times. Despite his undoubted talent, I do not believe that van La Parra deserves to wear the Wolves shirt.
Even if his move to Huddersfield proves successful, I would not want him back at Molineux.