9 possible Sako stand-ins

A new player announced, a new kit revealed and a new Government sweeping into power, all in the days since Bakary Sako whipped his shirt off to bid a teary farewell to Molineux.

Sako Fulham

Time has certainly flown in the three weeks since our gloriously futile final fixture, before presumably standing still for the foreseeable as we scour the gossip columns for news of a replacement for the Malian.

On past experience, the days from around now to the start of August will feel like a lifetime, as panic spreads to systematic pant-wetting when it becomes depressingly clear that we won’t be buying anyone decent over the summer.

So in an attempt to rouse the powers-that-be to part with those purse-strings, the following wishlist of wide-men has been assembled, which should not be idly viewed as unattainable, but seen as an integral document if we are serious about mounting a promotion challenge next season.

Please see below for some Sako stand-in suggestions, who could make all the difference come May 2016.

Marshall1. Ben Marshall – Blackburn Rovers

As a Johnstone’s Paint Trophy PR man back in the day, I was alerted to this young schemer by my friends at Carlisle United. Then a Stoke loanee, he dazzled in the Cumbrian blue (alongside Man City pup Max Clayton) and spearheaded a push to Wembley.

Recovered from a broken leg to play for Leicester City before arriving at Blackburn Rovers, where he looked in fine form in a 4-3-3. A more narrow performer and while his goal stats aren’t dazzling, a more consistent ‘7/10’ performer might lie in wait. A feasible choice.

2. Michail Antonio – Nottingham ForestAntonio

Again, in my Johnstone’s Paint Trophy days in 2010 (I should have been a scout!) this power-packed winger dazzled while on loan from Reading at Southampton. With Lallana, Labert and co put firmly in the shade, this beast of a wideman went to town on MK Dons in an area final game, at which point I thought: ‘Why can’t we have a player like him!’

The most obvious like-for-like replacement for Sako in terms of stature, speed, and propensity to frustrate. Forest aren’t flush either, so an attempt must be made, seeing as he is a proven Championship performer.

3. Max Gradel – Saint EtienneGradel

I still cringe when I close my eyes and think of the time this player ripped Jelle van Damme a new arsehole in a pre-season friendly against Leeds. So emasculating and embarrassing was the sight that Mick McCarthy refused to play the Belgian left back in his correct position at the start of the season. At one point, as I sat in amongst the home fans, I actually saw Gradel grinning like Mo Camara as he prepared to skin van Damme for the 45th time in the match. How the Leeds supporters chortled.

His skills were as dazzling as his pearly teeth and for a direct, in your face element of excitement, we should have a look. (Interesting fact: We bought Sako from St Etienne too)

4. Matt Jarvis – West Ham UnitedJarvis

Yes, yes, laugh all you like but I refer you to my fourth par. You’re not allowed to idly dismiss any of these suggestions. To dismiss negates aspiration and we all want to aspire. To dream the impossible dream and all that…

We know what we’d get from Jarvo. A bust-a-gut attitude, a pair of jet heels and a ‘thumbs up’ every time he sprints 50 yards and just fails to reach an overhit pass.

Wages are probably an issue but with Doyle, Johnson, O’Hara and now Sako off the bill, they shouldn’t be. Also, what price a cult hero? Fans love him.

5. Anthony Knockaert – Leicester CityKnockeart

Apparently he’s off to Standard Liege. Shame, as he was integral when Leicester pissed the Championship and he was out of contract. Get on the phone Jez.

 

 

 

6. Tom Ince – Hull CityInce

Why not? Seems that his visions of grandeur were taking him to the San Siro, when reality delivered him down the M1 to Pride Park.

One of few bright spots for Derby over their tortuous closing months of the season and a clever player whose Dad is revered around Molineux.

A ‘statement of intent’ signing who should be courted. If Derby could lure him, then I’m certain we should at least be trying.

7. Alex Pritchard – Tottenham HotspurPritchard

A wonderful young player who will go back to Spurs with a fresh appetite to succeed following a season on loan at Brentford (after a cracking time at Swindon before that). Registered double figures from midfield and like Sako, hits a mean free kick.

Wants to make a go of things at White Hart Lane and if Ryan Mason and Harry Kane’s elevations into the first team are anything to go by, he’s got half a chance.

But they’re awash with wingers down there and I think we should be pursuing him.

8. Albert Adomah – MiddlesbroughAdomah

Didn’t do a lot at Bristol City but more than paid the £1 million fee back to Boro this season with some top wingplay. Boro’s dangerman and now they haven’t got promoted, we need to be sniffing around for his services, as he might just want to play in a civilised part of the world. A real statement of intent as we’d be weakening a direct rival and showing the league we mean business. Not a familiar concept to Morgan and Moxey this though, sadly.

 

9. Razak BoukariBoukari

Quite possibly a more hilarious suggestion than Jarvis or Pritchard, but equally likely to be the most plausible of suggestions, if he comes through pre-season. He was bought as a more explosive finished article than Sako but injuries have reduced him to a laughing stock.

What’s the betting he comes through pre-season and some clever-dick proclaims his re-emergence as being ‘just like a new signing’?

Bloggers’ Ball II – The Party in the park

Well – that’s it then.

It’s all over for another year.

Another Bloggers’ Ball has come and gone.

Clive has disappeared back across the water from whence he came and the rest of us are kicking over the ashes of a season that promised so much but in the end delivered what most of us, if we’re being honest, expected.

But over the course of the year the pride in our team, which we rediscovered last season after two years of humiliation, blossomed in our breasts.

And the growing affection which we feel for Kenny Jackett warmed our cockles.

Well, it certainly did for me and the PMDG’er!

A play off place was so tantalisingly close. How many of us over the last few weeks of the season said that it could well come down to goal difference?

Who are you going to blame?

The players, who probably all made mistakes at one time or another which cost us points?

The Head Coach, who perhaps got his selection wrong on a couple of occasions?

The owner and CEO who had the chance to strengthen the squad when we were top of the league, but didn’t?

When all is said and done, the finger of blame can’t really be pointed in any one direction.

Best to recognise it as a brave collective effort that fell just short.

The one thing which has remained constant for me in this season of ultimate disappointment is the blog – which never disappoints.

Most of you have already done it but I’d like to add my thanks to Thomas and Ben for all their work on the blog and Ben for his time spent trying to get the truth out of our esteemed CEO at the Fans’ Parliament.

I expect you will all be delighted to know that I’ve put together another epic movie that I shot mostly on location (at the Park View Hotel) and mostly under the influence (of a variety of liquids) which attempts to encapsulate the weekend spent with Clive, and the latest Bloggers’ Ball.

Getting together with some of you lot has been a real pleasure for me. It’s great to be able to meet a fellow contributor in person and tell him to his face what a load of old cobblers he spouts on the blog.

Also, a mention to Mr & Mrs Twixfix who couldn’t make it this year because of long standing holiday arrangements.

Seriously guys! Get your priorities right!!

You’re lucky I slipped in couple of seconds of you at a previous meet just so you don’t feel too left out.

Some of us travel a fair old way for our gathering – I’m not going to list everyone, you know who you are – but a special mention has to go to Clive and Clemens for going way above and beyond the call of duty.

And on Saturday one of our number made a solo journey from Oxford, by train… in an electric wheelchair!

Big respect to Jerryd!

I apologise profusely to any of you who attended either the pre match or post match gathering and don’t appear on this masterpiece of moviemaking.

I’ve only had the camera about four years and I still can’t quite get to grips with the on/off switch.

Sorry about that.

Plus, when I’m filming I’m not chatting.

And I like a chat.

Otherwise, I hope you’ll find it’s a diverting little piece.

One more thing. Some people might have got the impression that these Bloggers’ get togethers are only for an elite few.

Elite?!

Have you seen some of the characters on this film?

Next time we want more.

I’d like to think that we might arrange something for the first home match of the season, so mark it down in your Official Wolves Yearbook. Available at all reputable Wolves Megastores.

Meanwhile, I’ll try to master the camera so we can get all the faces in the frame.

Until then – Have good Summers all – and happy Blogging!

Clive’s end of season report

The dust has settled on another season, and we missed a play off place by a gnats whisker.

Clive & Jez

Despite my recurring 5 – 1 predictions, I am happy with what transpired, and the bottom line is we just are not good enough , yet.

Having only watched the Millwall game live, I suspect my comments will be slightly biased, not having seen the lads fully all season.

I’ve said all along how highly I’ve rated Richard Stearman, and the end of season accolades he has just received bear this out.

I was unimpressed with our keeper, at fault for both goals. Van la Parra can go as soon as he wants, that stupid reverse strike/chip thing he tried in the first half was pathetic, and if I’d been the manager he would have been off immediately.

Afobe had a quiet match, but he is a must keep, as is Dicko, that goal was frickin’ brill!

Sako for me is a luxury, if he goes, que sera,sera, and I don’t think he will be lighting any fires in the Prem.

The rest of the team were OK, but as I said, I’ve only seen one live match, so difficult to be too objective.

We must draw a veil over the season, and move on. All the what ifs are bollocks. The biggest what if is:

If my auntie had bollocks she would be my uncle. She don’t and she ain’t. I got over that a long time ago.

However, what I will not get over for a while is the wonderful time spent last weekend with fellow bloggers.

Some I’ve met before, some I’ve known for centuries, and some I’d never met.

People from all places and of all ages turned up and had the instant bond of The Wolverhampton Wanderers thread running throughout their lives.

There was Brompto with his moon walking alien pal, John.

Peakwolf bought me a pint, thank you kind sir.

Wolfstroker. Now there is such a soft spoken giant of a man, not one to argue with, but such a nice guy.

Stuwolf and his lovely family…much too good for you, me boy.

Thomas graced us with his presence, along with his Dad, great to meet you, sir.

I was accosted by a gorgeous, vivacious young lady, who turned out to be the beautiful Mrs Rachel Smallman, wife of the very lucky Ben, mother of young Arthur who was proudly wearing his new T shirt.

Colin, Steve Showcase, and others I’ve probably forgotten.

Big Mark G Davies and Scooped, ever presents…..until Scooped’s hangover from Friday night finally caught up with him, and of course the ever young Mrs and Mrs Doogooder, otherwise known to their friends as Mark and Sue.

I cannot stress enough how much at home I felt, amongst new and old friends, and the banter, piss taking and general friendship was of the highest order.

Thanks everyone for a fun filled couple of days.

Wolves 4 Millwall 2

It’ll always be difficult to reflect on this season without thinking ‘what if?’.

Dicko heart

What if we’d just kept things a bit tighter in that difficult November?

What if we’d not thrown away that three goal lead at Millwall?

What if Scott Golbourne had just put the ball in the stand at St. Andrew’s?

What if we’d beaten Ipswich? Or drew at Middlesbrough?

What if? What if? What if?

Opinions will vary about where that extra point or those handful of goals could have been gained, but it’s a fruitless exercise.

As many have pointed out, every team can cite stumbles over their own 46 game journey.

So a more pertinent question we should perhaps spend the coming weeks focusing on is ‘what now?’.

What must be done in the summer months to ensure this burgeoning Wolves side are adequately equipped to go at least one better next season?

Replacing Bakary Sako will be high on the to-do list for Kenny and co. His goals and assists alone will leave a gaping chasm in our armoury that even two players may struggle to fill.

The winger toiled for much of this game but still walked off the pitch (after a tearful farewell) having played a part in all four of the goals scored (including one signature strike of his own).

Needless to say, his exit must be the only significant outgoing business we do. Any approaches for the likes of McDonald, Afobe and Dicko must be aggressively rebuffed.

Dicko took his tally to 15 yesterday; a solid return given mid-season injury woes. Even without Sako, one would expect him to better that total next year.

And if Benik Afobe can come anywhere near a repeat performance, scoring goals should not represent the challenge it was for parts of this season.

Kevin McDonald remains the fulcrum of the team and I suspect Kenny Jackett may – for a second consecutive summer –  attempt to unearth a suitable foil for his considerable talents.

Jack Price made a better fist of it than most, but is the head coach suitably convinced the pint sized passing machine can go the distance in the Championship hurly burly?

Defensively, it might be an internal shake-up rather than external recruitment that delivers progress. Both Hause and Ebanks-Landell could inject the pace and physical presence that’s been too often lacking.

Meanwhile, Dominic Iorfa looks the complete package at full back, leaving the highly capable Matt Doherty out in the wilderness.

And who knows how many other prospects may emerge from the academy next season giving Kenny Jackett an even wider pool to choose from?

Goalkeeping cover will be on the agenda with the flamboyance of Thomas Kuszczak dividing opinion. Love him or hate him, I think he could have done better with both Millwall goals yesterday.

Unquestionably though, the greatest challenge next season will be handling the weight of expectation. Progress has been as swift as it is impressive since that gloomy day at Brighton exactly two years ago.

The club, the manager and players are all victims of their own success, meaning there will be no debate about what constitutes success and failure come August.

Molineux no longer hopes, it expects.

And when that’s the case, there’s little tolerance for ‘what ifs’.

Highlights

Wolves Vs Millwall Preview

It’s nice to be going into this game with something to play for.

Millwall

The most likely scenario is disappointment, but even that’s not as sad as the end of season dead rubber.

I’m expecting Derby and Brentford to take charge of their respective matches (against meager opposition), thus rendering our efforts pointless.

If they don’t though, Wolves should fulfill their duty. An unlikely five or six goal victory may even bring Ipswich into the reckoning, who have the toughest fixture on paper. We have the firepower.

Millwall

Millwall_FC_logoThere’s always debate over whether or not it’s good to be facing a team with nothing to play for. Personally, I don’t think it makes a lot of difference.

Millwall were relegated in midweek after Rotherham’s win over Reading, so Neil Harris arrives at Molineux with nothing but pride at stake.

He’ll want a good performance though, particularly against Kenny Jackett who he enjoyed a good relationship with during their time together at the New Den.

For anyone who hasn’t read the excellent Family: Life, Death and Football: A Year on the Frontline with a Proper Club, which chronicles a season at Millwall in which Kenny Jackett guided them to promotion from League One – I strongly recommend it.

League One is where they’re heading back to now, which owes to a lack of goals scored (only Blackpool and Wigan have score fewer) and far too many conceded (72). Only Rotherham and Blackpool have a worse away record.

Wolves

It showed good character and commitment to comeback from the deflating result against Ipswich. It would have been easy to wilt and die at Wigan, but with a narrower midfielder, they dug in for a scrappy Championship 1-0.

Wolves team Wigan

A big victory isn’t beyond the realms of possibility, so if everyone is firing and the chances are taken, overhauling Brentford and Ipswich’s goal difference isn’t impossible. Highly unlikely yes, but not impossible.

Realistically though, defeat for Derby at home to Reading and a Wigan draw at Brentford is our greatest hope of creeping in.

Relying on one of those results would be a big ask, so the odds are long on both falling short. Hopefully they toil long enough to at least keep things interesting.

The gaffer

Predictions

I have full confidence Wolves will win this, but victory won’t be enough. That Scott Golbourne error at Birmingham was a turning point the team haven’t recovered from.

Even a point from that game would have given us an infinitely greater chance of overtaking either Derby or Ipswich tomorrow, but as it stands we’re just too far back in the queue.

A 6-0 victory would mean Brentford need to win by at least 2 and Ipswich could be overhauled if they lose narrowly to Blackburn.

I just wonder what mentality Wolves will adopt if they do get ahead? Will they go for goals or just take the win and hope for even less likely results elsewhere? I hope it’s the former.

Regardless, I think it will end up a win – 3-1

Up The Wolves

DSA Appeal Bike Ride

My name is Stuart Alves, MBE, but Wolves Blog readers might know me better as StuWolf. 

Stu Wolves bike ride

Like all of you, I’m a massive Wolves fan. My wife Jenny and I are season ticket holders and regularly attend away games and U21’s matches.

In January I joined the Wolves Disabled Supporters Association (DSA) as an able bodied member to try and improve conditions and human rights for our Disabled fans – both at Molineux and when visiting away grounds.

This is a cause I feel passionate about and well qualified to support following 33 years with the Staffordshire Emergency Ambulance Service.

I also ran a very successful Charity from 1999 until 2013 after being asked to take part in a Government project to assist the former Yugoslavia in Sarajevo during the first ever Bosnian conflict at the request of the then Prime minister John Major.

My charity has since donated and delivered some £8.5 million of Humanitarian aid in the form of Ambulances, Hospital equipment and medical supplies to the peoples of Bulgaria, Macedonia, Albania, Nigeria and Ukraine. This, in case you were wondering, is why I was awarded my MBE.

Anyway, that’s my potted history. Back to the matter at hand…

Last year I made a decision that I wanted to cycle from Lands End to John O’Groats, so this year on July 24th and over a period of 14 days, I’m going to do just that, raising money for the Wolves Disabled Supporters Association (DSA).

This will entail cycling an average of 70 – 80 miles per day and a distance of around 1020 miles in total. As a 63 year old supporter with a very fragile heart (from being a Wolves fan) this is no easy task, but it’s a long time personal goal and a great opportunity to raise funds for a wonderful cause.

My hope is that the money will help the DSA establish their Association, gain a better quality of life and enjoy a more comfortable viewing experience at our beloved Molineux.

I am asking all Wolves management, players, staff and fans near and far to find it within their hearts to think of our disabled supporters who like all of us enjoy attending games, but who often have to suffer harsh and uncomfortable conditions.

The Wolves Disabled Supporters Association and the fans Parliament are working alongside Wolves FC to see what can be done. From experience, I know more could be done if we could find funding.

As part of my medical teaching role I was fortunate enough to work with the Porto FC Doctor at the Man Utd European Qualifying game a few years back, when I saw the luxurious conditions afforded to their disabled fans. It left me speechless, but that experience has only made me more determined to help our guys & girls with basic Human rights.

Please I beg you, if you can find it in your hearts, help me support these wonderful fans of ours. Our big claim to fame is “that we are a family club”, I have seen such generosity from Wolves supporters over the years for numerous causes, there surely can be no better cause than this one.

And that means all of us, able bodied or disabled alike we all share the same passion – The Wolves. It’s just that some of us have had to endure hardships able bodied fans cannot comprehend just to watch a game.

Thank you in anticipation, we’ll be setting up forms for sponsorship (ask me in the comments if you’d like to help collecting) or you can simply send donations directly to the Wolves Disabled Supporters Association.

Yours Sincerely

Stuart Alves, MBE
Wolves Fan since Autumn 1961