A splash of Manders Paint required

While much of the footballing world is musing over Manchester United’s apparent fall from Fergie, us Wolves fans have been consumed with a far more onerous question…

Davis Wolves midfield

…How do you solve a problem like our midfield?

To answer the conundrum, which has directly contributed towards Crawley, Swindon, Walsall and – to a lesser extent – Shrewsbury domination, I refer you to Sir Alex himself, and a team-talk given to his embryonic title winning side back in 1993.

As he demanded that full backs Irwin and Parker both bombed on as frequently as their little legs would carry them, centre half Steve Bruce politely enquired about the ensuing implications.

‘It would leave us 2 v 4 at the back boss,’ whispered Bruce, to which Ferguson promptly replied: ‘Deal with it then!’

Okay, so the anecdote might have been paraphrased a little, but you get the general gist, which led me to a flashback to the opening games of the season, when our gold shirts were glistening brightest.

Both full backs – Matt Doherty in particular – were marauding past our widemen to get in behind opposition defences more times than we’d seen in the past 3 years put together.

Doherty’s ability to pretty much dictate the entire flow of one Gillingham game was testament to his own athleticism, if not the away side’s various inadequacies.

These days, I barely see Doherty passing the halfway line in my biggest disappointment of recent weeks.

That our midfield four look increasingly isolated and one dimensional as a result is an inevitable consequence, rendering the argument over Davis, McDonald, Evans, Price, Foley or Edwards as largely irrelevant.

In the eyes of sage footballing critics more knowledgeable than I, players make successful teams rather than the systems they operate in.

From seeing a number of perfectly adequate if unspectacular central midfielders this season, I think the opposite actually applies to this Wolves team.

Some fans have been taking a step down memory lane of late, to the days when we were last in division three and battering virtually every team to come to Molineux in 1988/89 (bar Bristol Rovers and that damned Nigel Martyn!)

Nostalgic visions of Bull and Mutch light up their senses as they recollect d’Artagnan’s answer to football, with a dose of Nigel Benn-like belligerence lumped in for good measure.

As a nipper, I still remember Mark Venus and Andy Thompson as dots on the horizon, bombing up and down the pitch like a game of Commodore Pong. I can still remember Thommo belting in a long ranger at the South Bank against Mansfield Town (6-2 win), courtesy of a Mark Kendall-created divot that groundsman Billy Pilbeam once wagged his finger at!

In those dewy-eyed days of unbridled happiness, we would respect our opponents first and batter them so heavily thereafter to consign the very notion of defeat as irrelevant.

The most exciting aspect of this season’s beginning is the very real prospect that those days can easily return – irrespective of midfield personnel – if we add a splash of Manders Paint spirit to our upwardly mobile side.


  1. robertsbridgewolf says:

    Blimey …love it just love it !! Respect is good and gracious ..but in footie terms those should vanish at the kick off whistle .

    Sheffield on Saturday for example , big club etc etc …great fans …but they’re in the doldrums so let’s aquire the idea that we should beat them , by working our socks off and not being cautious..go for it ! Should he be fit , a Griffo first hat-trick anyone ?

    OK , call the nurse ….UTW


    • Why not Bobby?! The point I guess I’m making (in typical waffle intended to seduce all readers!) is that we’ve been a tad risk averse of late. Can’t complain at all, as the results have been great.
      I just wonder if, for example, effectively playing 5 in the middle against Walsall, as opposed to a clear instruction to push our fullbacks on and pin them back a bit, might have been more profitable.
      Easy in theory, but when Mantom, Chambers and Featherstone were impressing so much, it might have been more scary in practice.
      The game of football was so blissfully simple back in the days of yore, wasn’t it?!


    • 6 minutes for Cassidy ( Paul Featherstone) says:

      We had a certain Keith Downing who used to bite the ankles of anything not wearing a gold coloured shirt who it seemed at times had no regard for his own mortality he wasn’t the most skillfull in fact he was, but not in the conventional way his skill was he never cared about who he played against how big they were he just won the ball and not to do him disservice he could pick out a pass and chipped in with the odd goal here and there. How we could do with someone like him know. P.S even though he’s gone over to the Dark Side I forgive him.


  2. Thomas says:

    I agree, attack best for form of defence (for a non-existent midfield).

    What’s been frustrating (at home anyway) hasn’t been our openness without the ball, but more our inability to retain possession.

    Davis in particular has been culpable of repeatedly picking out the opposition, so it will be interesting to see how we fare without him on Saturday.

    I suspect Dave Edwards might start alongside McDonald and that could be an interesting combo. There’s certainly more muscle, which perhaps is the key to being more dominant at this level.


  3. Steve L Biles says:

    Question for Ben. As I may not be around a laptop/PC/Iphone etc on Friday/Saturday may I put my prediction on here?

    If so, I predict that Wolves will keep another clean sheet but this time will win more comprehensively.

    Wolves 3 – 0 Sheffield Utd (Sigudarson hat trick)



    • You’ve just done it mate! Thomas will log this. He is the monkey of the relationship to my organ grinder. Ain’t that right Boffy?!


  4. London wolves loyal says:

    I find myself agreeing with you as you write so well and have a romantic vision of our old gold but when I sit at the games and watch our new left back go marauding up the pitch we seem to look exposed . He doesn’t seem to bring anyone into play and then counter attacking teams seem to put us under pressure . Maybe it’s just me , I don’t see a good buy in de la goldbourne . I hope I am wrong and you are right


  5. dave h says:

    Totally agree with Ben about the shackles being put on Doherty on the right. This could explain why Goldbourne is not doing the same on the left, manager inflicted restraint rather than lack of nounce and flair.
    Lets hope the shackles are taken off for the Sheffield game and we start accumulating some attacking momentum, we will need it when we start playing the likes of Peterborough and Leyton Orient.


  6. Interesting perspective Ben and probably spot on!


  7. AJ Wolf says:

    Great blog Ben.

    It seems we’ve spotted it but has anyone else – we look awful without a true right winger. Doherty is a key player for us and offers a real threat going forward yet he can’t overlap a player that is cutting in due to the natural instinct of a central midfielder – Edwards, Evans, Price. Nor can he overlap a striker played out of position – Bjorn. He doesn’t even get past Sako who seems more determined half the time to just wait on the half way line instead of doing his job as a winger and running at somebody.

    Until Kenny trusts Ismail fully, I don’t think we’ll see the best out of Doherty.

    Golbourne and Sako on the left look interesting. Scott needs to have the confidence to put balls into the box as he does hesitate too often for me. Sako aka Mr Opinion Splitter will always be a lazy commodity for me. Rarely willing to run, often losing possession trying to beat his man too many times and frequently making attempts to knock out sections of molineux with powerhouse shots that lack any sort of quality. As long as he scores the odd tap in, penalty and deflected free kick, the masses will accept him but I’d be looking to replace him with someone more honest and hard working in January – Matt Jarvis #2 please


  8. theDOOGooder says:

    Another lovely piece of writing Ben and, as usual, bang on the money.

    I know he’s not the first person on this blog to say it but I also agree with Paul (6 minutes for Cassidy) Featherstone when he lusts after a genuine ball winner in midfield.

    Put those two things right and we’re pretty near to cracking it I reckon.

    Karl Henry anyone?

    It’s alright lads, I’m only joking.

    …Or am I?


    • Clive from Houston says:

      And if the new left back is not up to snuff, we can instantly recall our wonder wizard Ward from Brighton.
      Ah, nostalgia, it aint what it used to be!


      • Steve L Biles says:

        Sarcasm is the lowest form of wit ……….. but I love it.

        Have you noticed that your friend has left the group Clive?

        UTW and because your forgot …. FOWB


  9. The Newt says:

    Well put Ben,

    It’s become clear to see that the midfield isn’t quite clicking into place yet and to me looks a bit unbalanced. Davis is the only natural ball winner but is off form at present, McDonald is the playmaker and Evans, Price & Edwards are all quite similar in style. I would like to see Evans and Price get more time on the pitch but not stuck out wide. Edwards unfortunately needs to be slowly phased out of the picture. Nothing against him but his injury record is poor and he is blocking those young lads from getting an opportunity (watch him score the weekend now!)

    Perhaps a three man midfield would bring a better balance but then we would have to sacrifice a striker which I don’t think we should do in this league. We are also light of options on the wings but both Doherty and Goldbourne are capable of pushing forward if given the licence to do so.

    At the weekend I would play Foley instead of Davis alongside McDonald with Sako and Ismail on the wings and Grifiths (if fit) and Sigurdarson up top. Stick with the same defence (sorry Stearman) and get back to playing a high tempo game so as not to allow the opposition time to settle.



  10. Banbury Wolves says:

    or…how about this – 5-2-1-2 – attacking wingbacks and a man in the hole??

    Doherty, Stearman, Ricketts, Batth, Golbourne

    Edwards, McDonald

    Sako (Ismail or Price if he goes missing)

    Griffiths, Siggi

    Can you tell I am bored at work and thinking of ways to see us score a bucket load??



  11. olsadgit says:

    The trouble with Wolves supporters is that we are not used to getting penalty decisions and when we do get them it comes as a bit of shock. People always trot out the old chestnut that things even themselves out in the long run. Not if you are Wolves they don’t ! I’ve lost count over last few seasons of the stone wallers turned down and the ludicrous ones given the other way. No its not gold and black tinted glasses weve been shafted time and time again. But for a couple of fairly dubious penalty decisions we would be on 15 not 19 pts. Just off the pace and that I think would be a fair reflection on how well we have played. For all intents and purposes we are a brand new team. Yes of course we have quite a few players who were here last year but don’t forget its just as hard for them to get used to the new players as the other way round. We have several really raw inexperienced youngsters as well. At this stage of the season 8 games in with a new team I think we are doing more than OK. Don’t forget these teams weve struggled against are long established with more or less the same players they had last season. They are taking good form from last season into this. Walsall don’t forget only lost twice after the new year! Swindon only lost out in the playoffs thanks to a 93rd minute penalty. Jackett has been experimenting with his line ups and tactics. I’d be surprised if we settle down to a first choice line up much before Xmas. I think supporters have got to be patient because we wont see cohesive team football for a while yet. It just takes time! Never mind Leyton Orients fantastic run . If you listen to what Russell Slade has to say about it its because he’s managed to keep the same loaners as he had last season. Wolves aren’t reliant on loaners who could go back to their parent club any minute. Its no good either having a fantastic run at the start of the season or the middle of the season. As we found to our cost back in 2001 its the club that has the fantastic run at the end of the season you need to worry about


  12. olsadgit says:

    And talking of marauding full backs did you know that the Swindon manager Mark Cooper is the son of England and Leeds Terry Cooper.. Now he was a full back…and a half


  13. graziano says:

    Not as good as the great Bobby Thomson, one of the very few full back’s in the World that could play George Best. R.I.P lads.


  14. I’m going for a 3-1 home win, I think we;ll have more than enough and Supermac will shine vs his old team, we are due a good performance


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