Irish eyes

“I’ve never been to Ireland love, how do you fancy a couple of days in Dublin?”

Wolves Bohs RVlP

Devious maybe, but effective. And sure enough on Wednesday evening the 46a from O’Connell Street transported me to Dalymount Park, home of the Bohs, Bohemians F.C.

The ground was largely deserted when I arrived, with the Wolves flags behind the goal almost outnumbering the spectators. No worries though, they were all in the bar!

Kenny decided not to risk Ikeme on the hard pitch and young Jonathan Flatt started behind our first choice back four, save for Doherty coming in for Ricketts at right back.

Flatt had very little to do as Golbourne, Batth and Stearman in particular all excelled. But the young keeper looked confident and assertive. I can see him pushing McCarey hard this year.

It was nice to see Doherty back and he did OK but I’d say he’s some way from forcing his way back into the starting lineup.

Wolves dominated play with good possession football, playing out from defence through to attack. MacDonald cruised alongside a surprisingly average Price while Sako looked keen and threatening on the left.

Seeing van La Parra for the first time was interesting. Sticking almost exclusively wide to the right touchline, he received far less ball than Sako. When he did he showed excellent pace, good control and a suggestion of real threat.

To me he looked like a guy who hadn’t really settled yet. I wanted him to demand the ball more. Hopefully he will gain confidence as he settles in because there’s a real talent there.

Jacobs started and played well in what is probably his best position, just behind the striker.

Clarke also took his opportunity to shine, dispatching two of his chances and only being denied a hat-trick by an excellent finger tip save. You could tell the fans are desperate for him to succeed so maybe this was just the start he needs. For me though, it’s Dicko until we need a plan B.

Kenny spent most of half time sitting between Sako and van La Parra offering what looked like words of encouragement and finishing with some warm pats on the back. More excellent man-management from the King.

A whole new team in the second half saw Ricketts effortlessly controlling the back alongside a very impressive Ethan Ebanks-Landell. For me he offers much more extra aerial strength and power than Stearman and has plenty of football in him. If he gets a chance, I can see him keeping the shirt.

Somewhat surprisingly for the huge, physical presence he is, Kortney Hause played at left back and I thought made a pretty good fist of it as well.

Henry played wide right and McAlinden made a game attempt at playing wide left, something he would not normally be asked to do.

With so much rejigging, it was little surprise the team’s control over the game was missing second half. There was much more long, direct football which eventually deteriorated into long and aimless. Dicko made a goal out of nothing emphasising the threat he possesses.

Wolves eventually paid the price for some sloppy play when an underhit pass from Edwards resulted in a well taken goal for Bohs and some merited reward for a decent performance.

In central midfield it was a case of little and large as Evans partnered the young Declan Weeks who I was seeing for the first time. He’s small alright but quite strong looking. He’s a lovely little fotballer with a wonderful a awareness and covers the ground with an athletic mobility. He didn’t look out of place at all and can only improve with experience.

So all in all, another satisfactory work out. The Bohs were friendly hosts and the loyal Wolves fans showed once again there are none better.

And the dear wife? Well she stayed in and watched Corrie. But she loved Dublin as much as me.

Try it out sometime. With or without the Wanderers.

Young and restless

News that David Davis might be traveling north to Barnsley (and south to League One) comes as little surprise.

David Davis

With half a dozen contenders ahead of him vying for two shirts (or five vying for one when you consider McDonald will start every game when fit) the numbers are stacked heavily against him.

Yet it was less than a year ago – post relegation and post Karl Henry – that the midfielder appeared to have finally locked down a regular start.

Emerging with credit from the double dip after inspiring a brief resurgence under Dean Saunders before missing the final knockings due to injury, it looked like his time had come. There was even talk of interest from Blackburn, Bolton and a few other clubs then operating at a higher level.

But despite the ego boost and a strong start, particularly against Gillingham where he controlled proceedings at half pace, his form and confidence soon deteriorated to the point where he could barely complete a simple pass.

Enter McDonald, Price and Edwards, effectively ending Davis’ season before Christmas, stock plummeting to a low from which it appears impossible for him to recover.

He’s now 23, he’s nowhere near Kenny Jackett’s first team squad, let alone the starting eleven and the competition for places will only get tougher. There is surely only one outcome?

Ismail

The same applies to Zeli Ismail, who appears set to spend at least half the season at Notts County. He was the great hope last season, but now has at least four senior pros ahead of him, plus Eusebio Bancessi lurking ominously on the periphery of a breakthrough.

With just a solitary year left on Ismail’s contract, it’s now surely a case of deliver or depart for the player once thought to have the footballing world at his feet?

Then there’s Jake Cassidy, still to score a competitive goal for Wolves despite considerable opportunity. Even a return to Tranmere last season, where he was so successful a year earlier couldn’t light the fire.

Despite this, the club decided to activate the option of a year’s extension, but like Ismail, Cassidy will have to do something of considerable note to prolong his Molineux stay.

I can barely even remember Anthony Forde so it’s hard to believe he’s still just 20. After being hurled in at the deep end by Mick McCarthy at the Emirates two years ago, he’s regressed to the point where his name is only ever mentioned as an after thought.

All of these players, despite being lauded at one point or another for their performances at youth levels or out on loan, haven’t done it in a gold shirt, despite being given the opportunity to do so.

By contrast, the likes of Batth, Price and Doherty have risen to the challenge, demonstrating consistency that their peers simply couldn’t achieve.

We therefore shouldn’t feel too sentimental about the mooted departures of Davis, Ismail and co. They might well achieve their potential elsewhere, but if they can’t do it right here, right now for Wolves, they’re no good to the club.

The decks must also be swept for the arrival of the new crop – the likes of Eusebio, Weeks and Keita.

All hungry, young and restless.

Talking points

  • Are any of Davis, Ismail, Cassidy or Forde worth persevering with?
  • Should any of the above be closer to the first team than they are?
  • Is Wolves policy of investing in youth i.e. the academy, starting to pay dividends?

Purgatory: Fun in the sun

And so it begins.

Wolves pre season

The purgatory of pre-season has spluttered into existence for the annual cocktail of inane transfer speculation mingled with insightful pics of the lads frolicking about the training ground.

Kenny is already hard at work stoically trotting out the well rehearsed lines about ‘ building base fitness’ and ‘introducing the footballs’.

Wolves are in pole position for Harry Maguire. Wolves are closing in on Harry Maguire. Hull might be interested in Harry Maguire. Hull are in pole position for Harry Maguire. Wolves might pull out of the race for Harry Maguire.

Meanwhile, I’m in pole position to end it all before we’re even into July.

It’s all part of the fun I suppose, but the mundane, plodding nature of developments is just maddening. I curse you Roy Hodgson for not facilitating a longer interlude.

Now all I can focus on are the daily Maguire journals and endless pearls from Tony Daley about the rigours of getting back to peak physical condition. We get it, you’re a specimen.

If I could just fast-forward through July and achieve these three simple goals, I would gladly enter into a voluntary month long coma:

1. Keep Sako

With the arrival of two wide players, I sense my beloved Bakary could be on his bike. I bombastically proclaimed we’d lose the Sak man in the last two windows though, so maybe I’ll be pleasantly surprised for a third time. van La Parra is also more annoying to write. Can we all just agree on RvLP as an accepted abbreviation while we’re on the subject?

2. Get rid of the cling-ons

As I write this very post, the E&S are giddily churning out yet another ‘news bulletin’ about good old Roger and young Jamie being ushered towards the exit door. If we can get them both to sign an agreement that they’re a) paid too much money b) not very good at football and c) guilty of heinous crimes against humanity, will everyone agree to a vow of silence until they make their long awaited escape?

3. Win a few games

Ever since Mick took his troops up to Scotland prior to the Championship winning 2008-9 season and wiped the floor with heavyweights like Kilmarnock and Dundee before returning to Molineux to devour Premier League Blackburn, I’ve been convinced that winning a good portion of the pre-season dead rubbers is inextricably linked to success. Make it happen lads.

Talking points: Am I alone in my disdain for pre-season? What do you want to see Wolves achieve before August? Does anyone have an update on Harry Maguire?

History not repeating

A month on from winning League One and Kenny Jackett is ensuring that history will not repeat itself.

Rajiv van La Parra

Where Mick McCarthy’s Premier League promotion was followed by a dogged refusal to replace his ailing heroes, our latest elevation would not appear tied to sentiment or misplaced loyalty.

Jackett’s quiet revolution continues with the arrival of Tommy Rowe and Dutch winger Rajiv van La Parra, who put pen to paper today from Heerenveen.

That the pacy youngster bears a slight resemblance to Big Chris Iwelumo is intoxicating enough, but more exciting still is the clear interpretation that we will continue to aspire to be better – with or without a record shattering season tucked under our belt.

With this in mind, I wouldn’t be surprised to see James Henry used more sparingly – if at all – if van La Parra can operate on the other side to Sako.

I would be similarly prepared for Tommy Rowe to figure alongside McDonald, with Lee Evans and Jack Price figuring less.

News that Callum Wilson is still on the radar would almost certainly put paid to Leon Clarke’s second coming and would Harry Maguire usurp Stearman or Batth were he to sign from the Blades?

One thing’s for certain…The grass isn’t growing under Kenny Jackett’s feet compared to Mick McCarthy, who was still starting with Ward, Foley, Edwards and Ebanks-Blake in his final game at the club – more than three years after they got us up.

The swingeing argument about loyalty has never been so black and white anyway.

With the astute additions of some better players, these very acquisitions would be aiding and assisting the likes of Price and Evans, without which the pair might flounder in a league above.

Leaving them out to dry would surely be more treacherous on players who deserve more protection after their wonderful exploits in getting us here.

And if they do end up departing, then they’d leave with our blessing, as history makers.

On face value at least, things would appear to be shaping up nicely indeed.

Bar Dicko and perhaps Jacobs, this team still lacks an explosion of pace. Cue Rajiv van La Parra.

Bar the heroic Kevin McDonald, we have a shortage in proven central midfield quality. Enter Tommy Rowe.

Take away the two centre backs and we really are looking short in depth. Maybe Maguire will follow suit, with Jackett knowing too well that another injury-free season is unlikely.

The future can never be assured in football, but aspiring to improve and minimising risk isn’t a bad start.

Prediction League wrap-up

Amidst the euphoria of wrapping up promotion and the League One title, I neglected to update the final Prediction League standings.

Wolves Blog PL final standings

So a belated and apologetic congratulations to Dave H, who romped home to victory, amassing a colossal 45 points in the process.

To average nearly a point per game is impressive. Nobody got even close to that, as the six point margin between first and the chasing pack demonstrates:

PL top 10

But well done to the top 10, who can all be very pleased with their efforts. I think about late 20s, early 30s was the par if you were predicting regularly. I was well below this mark.

You can view the complete final standings on the Prediction League page here. Thanks to everyone who took part. It seems to get bigger and more competitive every season, which is great.

The goal for me next season is to automate the whole process so the table is updated in real time and it doesn’t rely on me manually entering everyone’s score. All ideas and input welcome as always.

Pre-season predos

Some of you might recall an article published back in July 2013, titled ‘Cards on the table‘, in which I encouraged you to share some insights into how you felt the season would go.

My three predictions were as follows:

1. Wolves will finish in the top 6, but fall short of automatic promotion. 

2. Richard Stearman will be our best performing defender.

3. Dave Edwards will score at least 10 goals.

Glad to have been proven wrong with prediction 1.

Richard Stearman had an excellent season and I would personally say he was our best central defender, out-performing Danny Batth. However, Sam Ricketts was my defender of the season.

Dave Edwards fell just one goal short of allowing me to feel smug, but given that he only played regularly for half a season, his 9 goals represented an excellent return.

So in short, I was wrong on all counts.

But it’s all good fun and interesting to reflect on how most of our opinions have been altered over the course of this wonderful season.

I encourage you to check out that post here, look at your respective predictions and comment below on how you did.

And remember, good or bad, you were brave enough to comment.

That’s what I tell myself anyway.

Our finest hour

Having never started a blog with a revelation, I thought now might be a good time to admit something for the first time.

WB Massive

Just one week ago, I was reluctantly ready to relinquish my Wolves Blog duties and file my final report through dewy eyes.

With an increasingly hectic business to manage, a marriage to maintain and my all-consuming son’s little football team to evolve, time has become a precious commodity, you see.

Thankfully, a get-together with some of the most fervent and passionate supporters on this site not only changed my mind, but told me to stop taking life so bloody seriously in the first place.

A disparate group of die-hard Wolves fans, who’s DNA might never be truly understood by a modern day football club, met at the Park View Hotel before the Carlisle game.

Having only ever conversed from the anonymity of my laptop, I honestly didn’t know what to expect when meeting theDOOGooder and co for the first time, who could quite easily feel underwhelmed by the company I offered upon arrival.

The experience itself was something I will genuinely treasure and one that has reaffirmed my love for Wolves Blog and our special club as a whole.

There was something quite surreal about listening to Lynx’s explanation for his random avatar, for example, which derived in part from his Lincolnshire home and the fact he has hideously furry ears.

Even more surreal was the fact I wanted to stroke his ears, along with his hand-made Lynx identity badge.

Then there was Colin, a guy who’s provided one or two contrasting views to my own during our most miserable of recent seasons, who made the effort to come along and have a beer and say hello. It meant a lot.

Brompton Wolf, a nutcase who even designed his own Wolves Blog T-shirt especially for the occasion, was as generous with his kind words as theDOOGooder was with his wallet, who insisted on buying me a beer.

And stuWolf, clad in new home shirt, briefly became the head of the harem as we formed a mini- circle to touch his glistening Puma cloth.

The Doog was the guy I noticed first, a blue-eyed beacon in the beer garden who had knitted proceedings together so effortlessly (and videotaped all for posterity).

Along came Sleachy, who owed his own Wolves Blog name to a bunch of university mates who mingled some Latin together with a slug. Not that this sounds remotely interesting.

Twixfix festooned us all with appropriate chocolate snacks and Clive from Houston – a man who quite possibly wiped my arse when I was in nappies – generally shimmered.

While I have known Clive as my dad’s (Scooped) best friend for as long as I can remember, I had never known him to be so generous.

Where I was expecting obligatory piss-take upon arrival (he did say I looked like a f**king pirate), I received a Texas shot-glass, a Houston Rockets car sticker and an appropriate piece of Texas Bullshit!

Everyone who met before kick-off – Mark Davies included – shared one common bond. My close friend Thomas Baugh created that common bond, so I must leave the last word to him, as he delicately negotiated my whiny threat to quit last week:

“Time is an issue for me also,” said Thomas. “When I started out, I was living up in Stoke, with nothing else to do in the week. It’s very different now.

“I’m sitting there adding points to the Prediction League table and I think ‘what the hell am I doing?’

“But I reconcile that against the fact that what we do brings genuine pleasure to people’s day-to-day lives. Even if it’s just 10 minutes in their coffee break, they value what we do.

“I’m always motivated by the untold messages from people all around the world saying how invaluable the blog is to them.

“People like Jerry, a disabled fan who hadn’t been to a game for years. Through the blog I was actually able to find someone to go and sit with him at MK Dons. As a consequence he was there for that amazing day. He’s also made a great friend in the process.

“Then there’s Chris, who has been on HMS Westminster for the last two years, reading our blogs from inside a steel tube somewhere out at sea. It’s bonkers.

“That’s what motivates me.”

To everyone in that sunny beer garden on Saturday and to anyone who has ever visited Wolves Blog, thank-you so much.

You’ll hear from me again soon!