Mickey Gray can’t see Norwich and Sheffield United repeating Wolves’ season and becoming the surprise packet of the Premier League next season.
The Canaries clinched the Championship title with a 2-1 win at Aston Villa on Sunday to end their campaign on 94 points, with the Blades finishing on 89, five points and 10 points fewer respectively than when Wolves won it last year.
Former Wolves utility player Gray believes his old club’s success in finishing seventh – and becoming the highest finishing promoted team since Ipswich were fifth in 2000-01 – will not be followed up by the two teams promoted automatically this time.
Instead, the 44-year-old pundit believes Wolves are a special case and has already predicted a battle for survival for Norwich and Sheffield United.
“Wolves have done fantastically well since they were promoted, but they had made their signings in the Championship and you could see from their players that they would do well at the higher level,” Gray told talkSPORT.
“I think it will be different for Norwich and Sheffield United. With the players they have already got, and bringing the right blend of players in, they will have a chance of staying in the Premier League next season.
“Both of these clubs know exactly how hard it’s going to be next season. Can you stick with the players, and trust the players that got them to the Premier League?
“Maybe a couple of additions made for both of these clubs might give them that opportunity, but it’s going to be so, so hard.
“You look at some of the sides who have been promoted and their main priority is to finish fourth from bottom.
“Wolves haven’t thought that way throughout the whole of the season. They have taken the game to every team they have played – and I’m talking top-six sides here as well – and matched them for football, and matched them in a lot of the games; their record is absolutely fantastic.”
Wolves clinched seventh spot after Leicester lost 1-0 at Manchester City on Monday night. Nuno Espirito Santo’s side will be playing European football for the first time since 1980-81 if City beat Watford in the FA Cup final on May 18.
Gray has been hugely impressed by the way Wolves have adapted in what was their first campaign in the top flight for six years.
“They’ve had a fantastic season,” he said. “I said at the start of the season they would finish in the top half of the table and that’s happened. They’ve got that seventh position and they have been excellent.
“What were the expectations of that club for this season? Was it to get to an FA Cup semi-final? Was it to finish seventh in the Premier League?
“They have done hardly anything wrong, they have been absolutely outstanding to watch on the eye and a real breath of fresh air in the Premier League.”
Wolves raised eyebrows when they managed to sign Ruben Neves for £15.8m and Diogo Jota and Willy Boly – both initially on season-long loans – while they were in the Championship.
Gray believes the influence of super-agent Jorge Mendes has been key to their success.
“Nuno has had wonderful backing from the agent Jorge Mendes and he’s been able to bring in some top class players,” said the former England international and ex-Sunderland, Blackburn and Leeds left-sided player.
“But the players who have come into the club settled in really well. They have a way of playing, a style of football that they play which everybody seems to be enjoying at my old club, and they’re only going to get better.”
Gray believes Wolves are going to add to their squad this season and believes they will go from strength to strength.
“Raul Jimenez has signed a permanent deal that will keep him at the club for the next four years, and who is to say they’re not going to bring in another two or three quality players in the summer?” he said.
“Everyone is onside at that football club and they’re going to get even better.”
“Don’t take this Wolves team lightly. You look at some of the results they have had this season and they have been absolutely outstanding.
“They’ve got goalscorers, they’re organised at the back, they’re hard to beat and hard to break down.”