WOLVES star Danny Batth has hailed the hometown heroes powering the fallen giants’ stunning revival.
A Premier League side in May 2012, back-to-back relegations saw the Molineux outfit start this season in the third tier for the first time in 24 years.
Last year also saw fans invade the pitch and vandalise dugouts after growing increasingly frustrated with overpaid Premier League prima donnas failing to perform in the Championship.
But following the arrival of manager Kenny Jackett and a mass clear out of players, Wolves are now top of League One and last week set a club record of nine straight wins with a resounding 4-1 victory at Swindon.
And with seven Wolverhampton boys in the squad for that match, Batth – born 15 minutes down the road in Brierley Hill – says the broken bond between terrace and pitch has now been repaired.
“Having players who live in the area and know what the club’s about, that’s very important to me and very important to fans,” says the 23-year-old.
“They want to know that they’ve got players out there who results matter to – who take defeats personally and are desperate to win.
“In the past, maybe they haven’t felt that. But this season I think they’ve seen how desperate the lads are to play for Wolves and they’ve got behind us brilliantly.”
Batth should know how the punters feel, because he used to be one of them.
“I grew up 15-20 minutes from Wolverhampton,” he explains. “I was playing for the district as a schoolboy when they spotted me – I think I was about nine or ten when I was offered a trial.
“I’ve moved my way up ever since, and I think I’ve probably captained every age group all the way through.
“We used to get free tickets to first-team games so I’d be there most of the week watching matches, sitting there thinking ‘Hopefully that’ll be me one day’.
“Of the current side, Dave Davis was in my year. Jack Price was in the year below and so was Sylvan Ebanks-Landell.
“Then you’ve got Carl Ikeme, who was about three years older than me, Leon Clarke as well. Liam McAlinden and Lee Evans are both academy players.
“There are so many of us I think that’s fostered a real togetherness. We’re all hungry, we all want to prove ourselves. And we want to do it together, hopefully helping the club to turn the corner and get back to where we were.
“It’s funny because those chances might not have come if the club had remained in the Premier League or Championship.”
Barely used amid the chaos of last season, the centre-back has been an ever-present at the heart of a Wolves defence that has conceded just three goals since January.
“When your team is losing, you want to do everything you can to help out and it’s frustrating when you can’t,” said Batth, who signed a new three-year contract in January.
“That’s how it felt last season, but the new gaffer has shown his faith in me from the start. He’s made it clear I’d get my chance and that it would be up to me if I took it. For any young player, that’s all you ask. Off the back of that, I’d like to think I’ve paid him back.”
What’s more, after winning promotion from League One on loan at Sheffield Wednesday in 2012, Batth is confident Wolves have what it takes to see the job through.
“Going up with Wednesday is something that has really helped me deal with this season,” he adds.
“It was a real good grounding in terms of learning to manage expectation and the challenges that come with leading the table.
“It was hard work and togetherness that pushed us over the line and I see the same thing here. Hopefully it’ll have the same result.”