Jay Bothroyd once told me in an interview during his time at Coventry that he wanted to become the best footballer in the world.
A few years later, he stood me up when lined up to do a piece at Compton for Wolves’ match-day programme – a possible sign that his application wouldn’t support such lofty ambitions.
Today, as the dust settles on the naming of an England squad in which he is in and Matt Jarvis is surprisingly out, the methods of present and past Wolves managers come into fascinating focus.
Mick McCarthy ushered Bothroyd to the door at Molineux in August, 2008, after he felt he had been shown disrespect by him through an angry gesture made in his direction following the substitute’s goal in a pre-season friendly.
McCarthy’s philosophy at the club has been to surround himself with steadier types. He doesn’t do unreliability, so, unlike with Fabio Capello’s England squad, Bothroyd was out and Jarvis was in.
Now compare the assembling of the likes of Stephen Ward, David Edwards, Kevin Foley and Kevin Doyle with the difficult characters Dave Jones has only been too happy to take on – at Wolves as well as with Cardiff.
Mark Kennedy, Alex Rae, Paul Ince, Nathan Blake and Paul Butler all carried varying quantities of baggage when landing at Molineux and what about some of the other players he tried to sign? Step forward Paul Merson and one Stanley Victor Collymore.
Jones is quite happy to take on problem personalities and has done the same in South Wales by recruiting not only Bothroyd but also the likes of Jason Koumas, Craig ‘As Long As You Don’t Google Me’ Bellamy, Michael Chopra and a now more mature Kennedy.
The pay-back from Bothroyd, who he describes as high-maintenance, has been rich; fifteen goals this season, including a perfectly timed brace yesterday and goals in each of his last six outings – two in two of them. His haul comes on top of the 13 he managed last season and 12 the campaign before.
No-one at Wolves would doubt there was a player in there. That stunner of a decider against Ipswich in McCarthy’s first home game here, a sensational late winner at Leeds and a marvellously drilled goal to defeat Albion the following spring were all testimony to a simmering talent. It’s just whether such moments justified some of the indifference that came in between.
Some managers welcome feistiness from their players – even against themselves or team-mates – as confirmation of caring and commitment. McCarthy didn’t.
I thought he was wrong to take umbrage at Bothroyd’s celebration but much less so to move Bothroyd on, after a loan spell at Stoke, to Cardiff for a reported £350,000.
Then again I’m a big McCarthy fan. Wolves are currently in a scrape well beneath the Premier League safety line but, as Bothroyd limbers up for a possible outing against France, I hope fans have decent memories.
The club were in a right hole when the manager arrived in 2006 and he has since overseen a totally unexpected run to the play-offs, the winning of the Championship and two top-flight seasons (with some power to add) for a club who had previously had only one in the previous 25 years.
And he has done it all with a squad who have engendered a lot of pride in them.