Wolves Vs Bolton Wanderers Preview

I’ll get over the play-off semi-final defeat one day.

But as firmly as I’m clinging onto that particular grudge, I’m glad Bolton have managed to stay afloat after a few uncomfortable years.

I don’t like seeing any club struggling to maintain their very existence, so it’s good that they’re still here and we can resume the rivalry.

Despite the 28 point gap and the obvious gulf in quality you wouldn’t put it past them to throw a spanner in the works.

Bolton

I am surprised they made an immediate return from League One given the turmoil on and off the field that Phil Parkinson inherited.

Persuading him to join from Bradford was a smart move given his success in the lower leagues but maintaining their Championship status will be an even tougher challenge for a manager who is yet to prove his credentials at this level.

The Trotters come into this game second from bottom with only two wins from their eighteen matches.

Both of those victories came at the Macron Stadium and they haven’t beaten anyone in their nine away matches to date. Hopefully it’s not tenth time lucky.

Former Wolves skipper Karl Henry is back in town for another showdown and Adam Le Fondre may also feature.

Wolves

After this game we don’t play again for the best part of ten days, so I don’t expect Nuno to indulge in rotation.

At the front of the queue is Helder Costa. He’s gradually starting to look like the player we loved and cherished last season. This might be a nice one for him.

If he plays, it’s likely Cav won’t and that’s very harsh after he enjoyed one of his best performances of the season in midweek.

Predictions

No game is easy in the Championship but Wolves are overwhelming favourites and I expect them to win.

It will be interesting to see how Bolton approach it and how much adventure they demonstrate, but based on our recent form I can only see one outcome.

They haven’t lost any of their last seven matches in fairness, but that’s likely to end if this follows the script.

3-0.

Up The Wolves!

Wolves 4 Leeds United 1

It’s not often that a sky full of fireworks greet your arrival into Wolverhampton for the game, but such is the dazzling fare on show at Molineux these days that you’d think they’d been organised especially.

Something to do with the Christmas lights in Queen Square apparently, but if Nuno had have arranged them as a pyrotechnic precursor to the football then you wouldn’t have been surprised. A sign of things to come.

Everything else the great man touches generates similarly explosive results and at times during last night’s 4-1 drubbing – particularly in that first half-an-hour or so – I was more in awe of Cavaleiro and co as I was when the Roman Candles were going off.

Molineux was crackling under the night lights and only a handful of seats remained in the house before kick-off, primarily due to the traffic around Wolverhampton with those lights being switched on. Gunpowder in the air, gridlock around the city and for the first time in years, Wolves and its immediate surroundings feel positively aspirational.

From where we came and all those mind-numbing seasons which seemed to roll into one, the transformation has been quite astounding. Only a year or two back it was a former CEO of Stockport County no less – commissioned by Jez Moxey – to tell us that if we want success, we should think again.

‘We believe in much more than the results on a Saturday afternoon,’ Jez once said. ‘We believe in these young players. It is working. (as we sat somewhere in the region of 13th place).

‘If you say you will not renew your season ticket unless X, Y or Z, then that is not a relationship I would want with supporters.’

I shudder when I think back to those days of managed decline, when expectations were managed as if we were Proles in an Orwellian world. Now we get fireworks before a ball has been kicked!

It is precisely those M&M seasons of doom that this 4-1 victory – and all the others before – feels so difficult to comprehend because after years of footballing abuse, I feel like another kick is on its way. Another slap around the chops to bring me back down to earth. To midtable obscurity.

Like a liberated state, free from the clutches of repression, it feels like we’re breathing, living and dreaming again for the first time in years. Perchance to dream, ay, there’s the rub!

Last night it was Leeds United and an accompanying bag of worry about their spritely front-line and an inevitable good result following a morale boosting win against ‘Boro at the weekend. Before that it was Villa, with a different bag of the same worry, who must surely knock us off our perch as they were so good on paper. And it was Villa, basically.

All attentions turn to Saturday and Bolton now. Maybe I’ll dust down a hessian bag of Trotter angst for their arrival too. They have always had the sign on us, broke my heart in 1995 and are showing signs of a revival under Parkinson.

Old habits die hard, I guess. After last night’s beautiful win – and the sum of Nuno’s drooling parts making a mesmerising whole – I should pack it in. Replace my ingrained pessimism with a more intoxicating brand of feels.

Let myself free. Fly on the wings of Cavaleiro, Jota, Neves and friends and enjoy this ride like the South Bank are doing. Live in the moment like those players last night and think positive thoughts.

No matter how many negative ones I put in the way of this phenomenal side, they keep kicking them away. In style, of course.

Wolves Vs Leeds United Preview

The one thing Wolves haven’t managed yet is a long winning run.

Mick McCarthy’s title success in 2008 was underpinned by two runs of seven consecutive victories in the first half of the season.

His team limped and struggled down the final straight, but the gap they’d created with that lightening start proved the difference.

To be clear, I’m not complaining.

Even if Wolves lose tomorrow, they’ll still have won two thirds of their games and the current points average will see them blow away Mick’s 90 point haul.

But if we can add to this current sequence while the going is good, it just gives us some breathing space if the sticky patch ever arrives.

Leeds

Talking of sequences, Leeds were on a stinker prior to Sunday having lost three on the spin to send them spiralling towards midtable.

In fact, based on the last 10 matches they’d be in the relegation zone such has been their fall from grace after briefly reaching the summit in September.

But a good win over Middlesbrough at the weekend, made all the sweeter by getting one over former boss Gary Monk, might be the catalyst for a comeback.

Goal difference is the only thing keeping them out of the play-off places so it’s all up for grabs again.

As is increasingly the fashion in the Championship, they’ve shaped their team with foreign talent and I’m looking forward to seeing Sáiz and Lasogga (if fit) in particular. I’ve heard good things.

Away from Elland Road they’ve won 4, lost 4, scored 12, conceded 12, so do with that information what you will. Maybe they’re due a draw?

Wolves

Injuries are as crucial to a promotion push as anything else. If you keep your best players fit, half the battle is won. In that sense, it’s nice that Nuno is still playing with a full deck.

The main decision is whether to bring Douglas back in for Vinagre after his suspension. The Scot was instrumental in the win over Fulham in our last home game, so I imagine he’ll play.

There must be a temptation to try Costa again from the start after using him sparingly to rebuild fitness and confidence?

Flashes of last season’s Player of the Season won’t have gone unnoticed by Nuno. But then again, if it ain’t broke, why fix it?

Betting

If you fancy a flutter on a fourth consecutive Wolves win, you can get 11/20 at 888 Sport according to the Bookmaker Advisor. Their key bet, interestingly, is a Wolves win with less than 3 goals scored. Visit the site for a full preview for the game.

Predictions

I suspect this might be a draw and I wouldn’t be overly upset by a 4 point return from the next two matches.

But like everyone else I’m buoyed by how things continue to shape up so have to back us for another win.

Leeds are a decent side and will bring a big crowd as always so it should be a good battle, but 2-1 to us.

Up The Wolves!

Reading 0 Wolves 2

Groundhog Day is a film I’ve often described as being akin to watching Wolves.

Rarely has the comparison been used with flattery in mind.

Year after year we’ve endured one insipid performance after another, with an occasional upset victory cheering us up every now and then.

At times, it seemed as if there was no light at the end of the tunnel.

That has been provided in spades, however, by the promotion chasing juggernaut assembled by Nuno and co.

They too are a predictable bunch, the key difference between them and their predecessors in old gold being they can’t stop winning.

It’s a quaint feeling being a Wolves fan nowadays, with each victory carrying an alien sense of inevitability.

Yesterday, we were put to task by a Reading side that appear as talented as they are limited.

And yet the scoreline would suggest another leisurely afternoon for the league leaders.

The old adage goes that the best teams can win games without playing well and, though I’m not usually one to indulge in cliches, the saying is ringing true at present.

We play some breathtaking football at times, but our resolve when under pressure is just as impressive as our swashbuckling play in the final third.

After being subjected to years of calamitous defending by various coaches, it’s a pleasure to see Wolves be able to cope with onslaughts in the manner in which they did yesterday.

Ryan Bennett, Connor Coady and Willy Boly were in imperious form, particularly during a second half in which the Royals had plenty of chances to level the score.

John Ruddy, meanwhile, had arguably his best game since joining the club, keeping the home side at bay with a string of crucial saves.

As we all know, such solidity provides a platform from which our creative forces can do damage and both goals were once again pleasing on the eye.

Diogo Jota’s through ball to Ivan Cavaleiro was a thing of beauty, as was the latter’s ensuing shimmy round the opposition goalkeeper.

Matt Doherty left it late to prosper from some sumptuous build up play in the game’s dying embers, no doubt prospering from some tired Reading legs as he slotted cooly past a hapless Vito Mannone.

It all seemed rather routine, and quaintly poetic given the opposition had former subjects of ire in their ranks.

Jon Dadi Bodvarsson and Dave Edwards always gave their all for the club, but they’re a million miles of the standard required to play in this current vintage.

Whether this air of invincibility will prevail over a notoriously bruising winter period remains to be seen, but promotion is currently looking an elementary task for this side.

* Wolves are looking strong odds for promotion so to maximise your returns with freebetting make sure you check out what’s on offer from the leading bookies.

Reading Vs Wolves Preview

It’s been a long old fortnight.

Maybe it’s because we played on the Friday prior to the international break so it’s consequently been two blank weekends without a fix?

Either way, it’s felt painful.

I’m so buoyant about our prospects right now I just want to get through the games as quickly as possible.

Bring it on.

Reading

That said, I smell danger in this one. Edwards, Bodvarsson, former players, our record, etc, etc. You know what I mean.

Add to that the fact that Reading’s form has improved of late and a 4-2 win at Derby certainly raised a few eyebrows.

It’s worth remembering too they came within a slither of reaching the Premier League last season so have pedigree.

Along with the players they recruited from Nuno’s ‘no longer required’ list, they also added Sone Aluko from Fulham for serious cash. His pace and guile could prove problematic.

Equally so, big Yann Kermorgant. We’ve struggled against target men this season and he’s been a thorn in our side before.

The Royals have only mustered 2 wins from their 7 homes matches thus far, so there’s nothing to fear in terms of fortress Mad Stad, despite our record being iffy at best.

Wolves

Hopefully no injuries or excessive fatigue knocking around Compton after some of our best and brightest jetted off to represent their countries.

I suppose that will become evident in Nuno’s team selection tomorrow. If everyone is fit and available I’d expect something very close to the side that saw off Fulham.

There’s plenty of competition for places though so I won’t be too disheartened if we see changes for the greater good.

Predictions

It’s a tough looking game on paper but we’ve got nearly twice as many points as Reading, so perhaps it’s they who should be fearful?

I haven’t seen a lot of them this season, but if they’re still about retaining possession and building up slowly I think that suits Wolves.

In a game of chess, I would back us to get the win every time.

2-1.

Up The Wolves!

Conor Coady – an apology

At some point during our impoverished recent past, I could take no more.

It could have been any one of Preston, Ipswich or Rotherham and it almost certainly featured Edwards, Saville and Coady.

I recall big black clouds, Red Row signage, a smug shrug of indifference from the director’s box and an assertion that if I didn’t like it, I could stay at home.

In Molineux, nobody could hear you scream, so I took to the blog to make myself heard, pumping out a torrent of invective like a machine gun, aimed at the owner, the CEO and amongst others, Conor Coady.

I called him a ‘terrible footballer’ and wrote him off as a useless failure, who I’d have been happy to see the back of along with the majority of his pathetic team-mates.

Were he to leave now I’d cry salt tears for the world we couldn’t conquer, such is his importance to the side. And for that Conor Coady, I am sorry.

For all the justifiable hype about Neves, Jota, Boly and co, Coady’s transformation to defensive lynchpin has surely been Nuno’s biggest revelation to date.

As the great man said upon his arrival: “I really think we can progress the players in a short period of time.”

Never has a truer word been said in the case of Coady, whose strengths have been accentuated in a new position few of us thought of him as a plausible candidate.

As is so often the sheet we sing from, we don’t like square pegs in round holes, we want defenders to defend and if a club like Huddersfield would sell a player for £2 million, then how good must he be anyway?

With the exception of perhaps Pep Guardiola, we think we’ve got the most progressive football mind at Molineux right now and I can’t help but draw up a parallel between Nuno and the ex-Barca boss, who our new cult hero might well have stroked his beard at when contemplating Coady’s future.

The following passages from the excellent Secret Footballer – Guide to the Modern Game book gives some insight into Pep’s preference for another ex-Liverpool midfielder who probably shared the same Melwood training ground as our number 16.

“English football has been misreading the tectonic tactical plates for years. When I played against Javier Mascherano he was just another holding midfielder that our team had to navigate around.

“At the time, Liverpool were relying on Fernando Torres for goals, with Steven Gerrard supporting him and Xabi Alonso supporting both with his initial pass. When Liverpool lost the ball, Mascherano would go haring towards it and, so long as you could by-pass him you were at Liverpool’s back four.

“We dominated the match by moving Mascherano all around the pitch like a moth to the flame. We achieved it by sending one of our strikers into a wide position as a decoy and sure enough Mascherano followed. Once he’d left his hole we sent a midfielder through the middle and pushed the opposite wide man and full-back high up the pitch. Liverpool couldn’t cope.

“But while we patted ourselves on the back in the changing rooms and labelling him as ‘basic’, Barcelona were appraising his performance.

“When Mascherano signed for them for €24 million, most of us scratched our heads. There must have been a mistake. But there he stayed and even more bizarrely, he was played as a centre-half.

“All that was made possible because Barcelona discovered that, in a team that kept the ball, a player like Mascherano was the perfect cover at centre-half. He was strong, he was comfortable on the ball, he was quick enough across the ground and he was brave.

“Pep Guardiola had come to realise that Claude Makalele started Chelsea’s attacks and his rationale told him that if he took that player out and put him centre-half, then he would not only start counter attacks directly from the back four but he would also have one extra attacking player. It all rested on finding a midfielder who could play centre-half.”

It must be said that comparisons between the capabilities of an Argentinian Champions League and La Liga winner and Conor Coady are not being drawn (not least by me who had consigned him as ‘useless’ only a year or two ago!).

But me expecting last year’s Makalele in Championship mode was to miss the point entirely with Coady. A tier-two version of Mascherano is far more preferable in a progressive mind.

Thankfully Nuno saw what this mere-mortal missed and Coady’s effervescent leadership, cool distribution and exceptional decision making are all beacons of light in an already dazzling side.

That I’d have deprived us all of the above makes me a numpty. An apologetic numpty.

Sorry Conor.