When Jamie O’Hara arrived at Molineux in January 2011 on loan; he brought with him a wave of optimism. He’d impressed at Portsmouth the previous season and despite only being there for 5 months; he was voted their player of the season. Wolves securing him was viewed as a good move; despite him not featuring for Tottenham for the first half of the 2010/11 season due to injury.
O’Hara couldn’t have expected a better full debut as the Wanderers ran out 2-1 winners against Manchester United. Scoring his first goal for the club was equally spectacular; both in occasion and finish. Against fierce rivals West Brom; Wolves had a free kick on the left hand side. With the Albion defence expecting the ball to be delivered into the box, Nenad Milijas cut a squared ball across the pitch to O’Hara; who peeled off his marker and dispatched the ball into the top corner.
With the club surviving relegation and O’Hara playing a large role; he was signed on a permanent basis for £3.5M. The fee was considered an absolute steal considering his abundance of talent and potential. With Jamie O’Hara on the books, Wolves had someone who could be the creative heartbeat of the team and push the team to a mid-table finish.
The 2011/12 season started well and the team were in strong form. Even though the club weren’t in the greatest form coming up towards the Christmas period, they were still in a decent position to survive relegation and compete in the Premier League for another season. However, in December 2011, injury struck O’Hara. After complaining of groin pains for the last couple of months, the former Spurs man underwent a double hernia operation. The procedure was thought to lay O’Hara off for a month and be fighting fit for the second half of the campaign. However, the injury eventually kept him out of action for 13 months and during that time, Wolves had been relegated to the Championship.
Under Stale Solbakken, the unconventional Norwegian had earmarked O’Hara for an advanced role in the team. Playing as a ‘number 10’ he would have a greater influence on the side and could get Wolves out of their rut and lead the charge to challenge for the play-offs. However, he was only able to play 30 minutes in the league and one cup game for Solbakken before the manager was sacked.
Now under his fourth manager in his 2 years at Molineux, a lot was expected of O’Hara following the appointment of Dean Saunders and a big dip in form. But O’Hara could not deal with the weight of expectation and cracked. A series of poor performances made him a scapegoat for fans; leading to him getting sent off against Huddersfield. On the final match of the season, when Wolves were in need of a minor miracle, O’Hara was given one last chance to shine. During a poor game and with fans booing him, he gestured to the away fans as Wolves slid to successive relegations. O’Hara was vilified by fans; with the money he was earning fans expected more of him and his behaviour was appalling considering the situation the club was in.
Despite his poor behaviour, I did feel slightly sorry for O’Hara. Having not played for over a year, O’Hara clearly wasn’t that fit. I doubt some of Solbakken’s ‘methods’ best helped his recovery and he was probably rushed back faster than expected and couldn’t make any impact; which frustrated the fans and he lost his cool. Looking overweight and leggy; O’Hara looked to me like he needed a pre-season under his belt before we would see him at his best again.
Being one of the high earners at the club, Jamie O’Hara was then transfer listed by new manager Kenny Jackett in the summer of 2013. No clubs showed interest in him as he hadn’t been playing at his best ability for the best part of two years. As Jackett struggled to get rid of him, the manager tried to integrate him back into the first team, stating that his time out of the first team had humbled him. Many fans weren’t happy to see him back in a Wolves shirt but, in truth, it was the only way for any potential suitors to take notice of him.
After two games in the first team, O’Hara fell out of favour again with the manager; with Jackett citing a lack of fitness. After an unsuccessful trial at Blackpool, most would have thought that the best way for O’Hara to improve his fitness at Wolves would be to play in the reserves. Though it might not be competitive as league action, he would have had regular outings and might have stirred up some interest. Jamie O’Hara on the other hand, decided the best way to improve his fitness was to go to LA to complete a 3 week intense exercise programme in February.
This was my final straw with O’Hara. Every Wolves fan probably has one; for most fans it would have been Brighton. As someone with a degree in Sports Science, the best way to improve your fitness is by exercising specifically to the sport you train for. Therefore he needed to do lots of running and, you know, playing football. Secondly, it takes 6-10 weeks to see any improvement in ability that will show any lasting improvement, so 3 weeks isn’t really going to do much. Last but not least, he did not need to go to LA to train. He could have used a personal trainer in this country and saved himself time and money. All of which begs the question of what he was doing out in the States; which, if rumours are to be believed, he was enjoying LA’s finest night spots and having a holiday.
Three and a half years and five managers later, O’Hara had his contract cancelled through mutual consent last week after being part of the Bomb Squad since pre-season. It draws a close to his time at Molineux; a time which in the beginning had promised so much. The Wolves faithful celebrated his departure from the club with the same exhilaration as he signed. For the amount of money he’s cost the club and how little he produced after signing permanently, he ranks fairly high in the worst pieces of business the club has ever done.
Where he goes next I’m not so sure. For his own sake, I hope he manages to salvage his career. But if he comes up against Wolves in the future, I for one won’t be giving him the warmest of welcomes.