Thanks…for nothing

Michael Kightly appears to be closing in on a move back to the Premiership with Stoke City, shutting the door on his six-year affiliation with Wolves.

Leaving for peanuts

In the cold, analytical light of day you can understand the deal from all sides. Kites obviously craves Premiership football, Wolves don’t want to risk losing a talented player for nothing next year and Stoke aren’t having to take a substantial gamble on a player yet to really make his mark on the top flight.

Handshakes all round then?

Not quite for me I’m afraid.

Should Michael not be showing more loyalty? For three long years, everyone connected with the club (particularly the fans) have stuck by him through what seemed like an endless run of injuries and grave misfortune.

He’d just begun to repay that faith with a welcome return to form in the closing stages of last season, but that, it would seem, is our lot. Thanks for nothing.

At 26, one more season wouldn’t have hurt him, even if that ultimately meant he leaves for nothing this time next year.

The club obviously see things differently, preferring to cash-in now rather than keeping the player in the hope he helps us bounce back to the Premiership at the first attempt.

Is this short-sighted though?

You can’t replace a Michael Kightly for £1.5-£2.5 million, particularly when you’re plying your trade in the Championship.

At this level, he’s something a bit special, a proven performer capable of unlocking the door, both creating and scoring goals for fun.

Even in Solbakken’s preferred narrower shape, he appeared to be a vital cog in the wheel in those early pre-season games, slotting in just behind the forwards and picking out  killer passes in the final third.

I’m not sure who else can currently fulfill that role? Certainly not a Forde, a Davis, an Edwards or a Jonnson. Perhaps if O’Hara and/or Fletcher hang around, they can bridge the gap, but neither are a like-for-like replacement.

With only two weeks to go to the start of the season we don’t want to suddenly have the rug pulled from underneath us, with our biggest assets (Kightly, Fletcher and Jarvis) all heading for the exit door, with no time to bring in suitable reinforcements.

The current squad is more than adequate to compete in the Championship, but without certain key figures, it suddenly assumes an unwelcome sense of the average and unproven.

For now though, I suppose all we can do is grin, bear it and give the manager and club the benefit of the doubt.

But as for Michael Kightly, that wound will take slightly longer to heal.

Welcome back

Digest the following: if it weren’t for Michael Kightly, this very blog wouldn’t exist.

Summer 2009, in the halcyon aftermath of our triumphant promotion to the Premier League I happened upon this picture:

A picture that's worth 275,000 words (approx) and counting

So taken was I with this photograph centering on our flying winger that I immediately set about searching for an online Wolves publication, so that I could contact them to suggest they use the image in some capacity.

Upon finding that no such website existed, I decided to build one myself, more to test my burgeoning web design skills than create any sort of old gold magnum opus.

Still, pleased with my efforts, I posted a handful of articles, convinced a young scallywag by the name of Ben to join the force (he had his own site at the time) and the rest, as they say, is Wolves Blog history.

540 posts, 20,000 comments and 3 years later, I think it’s fair to say things have gone rather well.

How intolerably cruel then that the very man who set the blog wheels in motion has spent the duration of it’s lifetime clambering for escape from injury hell.

Indeed there were times when it appeared that the real Michael Kightly would never truly re-emerge.

End product, how we've missed you

Sure, he sporadically pulled on the shirt in between lengthy stints on the treatment table but never once did you get the impression he was operating anywhere near his best.

It was painful to watch.

Understandably then, despite returning from a successful stint at Watford this month, many around Molineux still questioned whether he could do it at the top table.

However, the dour 0-0 at St. Andrew’s a few weeks back was notable in my eyes for a singular reason – Michael Kightly.

By no means did he light up that abhorrently dull contest, but there was most definitely a spark, a spring in his step that hadn’t truly been seen since late 2008.

Buoyed by this I immediately called for his inclusion at Spurs in my preview, which Mick duly obliged with.

Another encouraging, if not spectacular performance at White Hart Lane had me believing there was more to come last Saturday against Villa.

I was not disappointed.

For 25 glorious minutes leading up to half-time, things were as they always should have been.

Gone (hopefully never to be seen again) was the flinching imposter who’d tarnished the reputation of one of our finest players in recent history.

It was all there.

Darting into space, running his defender on the diagonal, sliding incisive passes between the lines and deservedly capping it all with a beautifully finished goal.

It was a powerful and immediate reminder of just how good a player he has the capacity to be and the one quality he brings to our side that we desperately lack – end product.

Of course on this occasion it all proved to be in vain as the ruthless nature of the Premier League bit back in the second half and Wolves collapsed in every way imaginable.

Yet on the day that we finally dropped into the bottom three for the first time this season, the one chink of light I cling onto is that we may have rediscovered a player who can ultimately dig us out again.

Welcome back Kites.

What’s wrong with Michael Kightly?

Unless you’ve had you head buried under a rather large rock (or alternatively don’t get chance to procrastinate from work every 30 seconds to scan BBC Sport) you’ll have heard the news that Michael Kightly has been omitted from the Wolves squad.

Michael Kightly - left out

That means he will not play a game for us until January at the very earliest, when Mick McCarthy can revise the 25-man roster.

Gutted. Well, I am anyway.

Here’s a little secret – I love Michael Kightly.

Some might have gathered this already. The flying winger has after all adorned the banner of this very blog from it’s inception, and there, despite constant struggles with injury, he has remained.

That iconic image from Wolves 5-1 demolition of Nottingham Forest two years back was perhaps Kightly’s finest hour in a gold shirt. He tormented them that day, scoring two of the finest goals I’ve ever witnessed at Molineux and spanking another sizzling effort off the bar.

Of course he’d already found a way to my heart long before that glorious sunny afternoon.

His arrival from Grays Athletic in 2006 coincided perfectly with an immediate upturn in our fortunes and a string of tireless performances almost single-handedly dragged us into the play-offs.

The following season was filled with frustration as he was besieged by injury and with Wolves only missing out on a top six finish on goal difference, I couldn’t help but think at the time that things would have been different had Kites remained fit.

Even in our Championship winning campaign he spent lengthy spells on the sidelines and despite contributing significantly to our success, he never hit full stride after limping off at home to Reading.

Last year he played a handful of Premier League games but was a shadow of the player I’d come to love. An impostor. A lack of match practice was probably the underlying factor given that he’d missed the entire pre-season.

Glimpses of the real Michael Kightly emerged in that horrendous 1-0 home defeat to Blues, but that turned sour when he rocked his ankle and subsequently sat out the rest of the season.

We were then promised he’d bit fit and ready for the start of this campaign. Then we were told he was a few weeks behind. Then we were told he wouldn’t be ready for the Stoke game. And now, finally, we’ve been given confirmation that he’s not really anywhere close to full-fitness and definitely won’t be pulling on a Wolves shirt until at least January.

The rational side of me recognises that when a player has been out for as long as Kites has, it’s always going to take a while to get him back fully fit and perhaps it is best that he takes another month or two to get into his stride.

But it’s massively frustrating.

Last week’s news that Matt Murray was hanging up his boots came completely out of left field, even if retrospectively it didn’t seem like a massive shock. It hit home that some players just never return from long-term injuries and it resonated when the big man said ‘I just didn’t feel I could get up to the standard I’d want to be at’.

You see, that’s just it, we don’t want the shabby 2009 Michael Kightly back. We want the 2006 vintage. The marauding wide man, capable of winning games on his own with a moment of sheer brilliance.

A return of that Michael Kightly, is long overdue.