I’ve not had the best week of my life so far. I won’t bore you with the details.
But whenever I feel down, and I feel a bit grumpy, I can always count on Wolves’ presence on social media to cheer me up. Whether it be a quote from the Bible that can be found on Rajiv van La Parra’s Instagram, or Aaron McCarey congratulating the team’s performances in a woefully sarcastic manner, it never takes long for my smile to reappear.
However, we all received some grave news via the club’s Twitter feed earlier this week. Not only did it force me into a rant that Dad clearly wasn’t interested in because the cricket was on, but it also made me feel quite nostalgic.
‘Wolves have accepted a bid from Fulham for defender Richard Stearman’. Bombshell. I had to read it twice, I couldn’t believe what I was seeing.
Back on a cold, chilly December evening back in 2007, Leicester visited Molineux. I can’t remember much of the game, aside from being frozen solid sat in my prized ‘Bothroyd 10’ shirt next to my Dad and uncle.
But what I can remember is a tall, fast, blonde centre back being the best player on the pitch that night. He dealt with the pace of Matt Jarvis, the trickery of Freddy Eastwood and wasn’t fazed by the energy of Andy Keogh. It was a drab match in truth, but this one player had caught my attention.
I talked about how good he was all the way home. I went to school the next Monday and bored all of my glory supporting friends to death by telling them just how good this guy was. Alex Ferguson needed him at Manchester United, and if he wanted to sign him, he’d have beat Rafa Benitez and Arsene Wenger to his signature.
As you have probably gathered, I was talking about Richard Stearman.
Clearly, Mick McCarthy felt the same way as me. For at the end of that season, he signed Stearman and immediately dropped him in the deep end (quite literally, it was a complete wash-out on his debut away at Plymouth in 2008). The gamble paid off, Wolves won the game and indeed the league title, and Stearman found himself in the PFA Championship Team of the Year for the 2008-09 season alongside fellow Wolves players Michael Kightly and Sylvan Ebanks-Blake.
He then went on to regularly play in the Premier League during the club’s three season stint in the big time. Despite an array of other defenders coming and going, including Jody Craddock, Michael Mancienne, Sebastien Bassong and Roger Johnson, Stearman kept his place. ‘Super Mick’ was clearly as fond of him as I was.
Upon the club’s relegation in 2012, a new era in the Championship under Stale Solbakken and later Dean Saunders beckoned. Stearman was shipped out to Ipswich on loan, who were already being managed by McCarthy at the time, and the club struggled. Kaspars Gorkss, Christophe Berra and Roger Johnson were not up to the standards set by Stearman, Craddock, Mancienne and co. in the previous seasons.
As a result, it was no surprise that Solbakken and Saunders were sacked following the club’s second successive relegation. The Wolves faithful were crying out for some stability in all areas, and with Danny Batth and Stearman in the centre of a new-look defensive line-up, the club kept a record number of clean sheets in the third tier, as promotion was achieved at the first attempt in some style.
Stearman picked up from where he left off as the club returned to the Championship. Even though Benik Afobe showed supreme goalscoring form in the second half of the season, and Bakary Sako was arguably the best wide midfield player in the division, it was Stearman who picked up the Fans’ Player of the Season and Players’ Player of the Season awards. He well and truly had silenced his critics.
I guess that’s why his departure is so hard to stomach. Can he be replaced before the end of the transfer window? Or does the club have a ready-made replacement in Dominic Iorfa, Kourtney Hause or Ethan Ebanks-Landell?
Only time will tell. But here’s to the array of haircuts, the noble attempt at growing facial hair, the Premier League goal against Hull and the beautiful Audi R8 that glistened in the players’ car park.
We’ll certainly miss you.