Euro Ray Of Light Brightens Uncertain Future
Mike Stowell is playing a waiting game at home in Bristol after departing from Israel in a hurry last weekend.
The coach and his backroom colleagues at Maccabi Tel Aviv had been in the latter stages of preparations for Sunday’s sixth league game of the season – away to Hapoel Jerusalem – when bloodshed in the region put the country on a war footing.
In the hours up to Wolves’ home draw with Villa, it was disclosed by talkSPORT that Maccabi manager Robbie Keane and his staff, including the long-serving ex-Molineux keeper, were in Athens and on their way back to these islands.
There is no imminent prospect of the club resuming their domestic programme, with their October 21 game at home to Maccabi Haifa postponed already.
But their continuing presence in the Europa Conference League means they might be back in action before long.
Having come through three knockout rounds and started with a win and a defeat in the group phase, Maccabi are due to next play in the competition on Thursday, October 26.
By coincidence, that Group B home clash is against displaced Ukrainian club Zorya Luhansk, who have been playing fixtures in Poland, so the possibility of Maccabi staging their Euro home games elsewhere – maybe in Cyprus or Greece – is a strong one.
The search for a training camp overseas is an unexpected twist for Keane in his first managerial post after he ended last season as one of Sam Allardyce’s dug-out men in Leeds’s unsuccessful bid to avoid relegation from the Premier League.
Wolves Heroes recognises the sensitivity around the conflict in the Middle East and the awkwardness of putting direct questions to the two men who played at opposite ends of the Wanderers teams managed by Mark McGhee and then Colin Lee in the late 1990s.
We had actually been due to visit and spend time with Mike in Israel next month and, like all other football lovers, we hope he and his colleagues can soon resume normal work and build on the fine start they have made overseas.
As well as also progressing through two rounds of a domestic cup and reaching its final, Maccabi have won four and drawn one of their first five league games to lead the table by three points.
They were undefeated in 14 games in all competitions under the new management team until losing 2-0 in Belgium last Thursday to Gent.
Keane was appointed as head coach in June on a two-year contract in succession to Aitor Karanka and installed Stowell as his keeper coach following the quick exit from the post of another ex-Wolves man, Graham Stack.
Keane’s assistant is his former Republic of Ireland team-mate, Rory Delap, with former Barnsley striker Andy Liddell also featuring among an off-field team who are highly familiar to Premier League and Football League audiences.
Maccabi, whose chief executive, Ben Mansford, previously filled the same role at Leeds, Barnsley and Blackpool, won 1-0 in a pre-season friendly under Keane away to Wolves’ next opponents, Bournemouth.