February 12th – a day to remember

When golden shirts shimmered in the hazy autumn sun, nobody could have predicted where we’d end up come February 12.

Cyrille predicted a close game

Heads down and shoulders slumped come 4pm was pretty incomprehensible, but rocking up outside the Hawthorns at the first light of dawn was nigh on impossible.

Like a couple of lost fish swimming way too close to the shore, Thomas and I were wondering around the Hawthorns in a daze at 8am, trying to find a way into the s**thole to meet a load of Albion fans!

Barely believable to us two, let alone our dear wives, who usually can’t shift us out of our pits on a Sunday morning with a stick of dynamite and a spatula.

We were there in aid of lifelong WBA and Wolves fans Kieran Caldwell and Ian Marrey, who had organised a 10 mile ‘March to Molineux’ to raise money for Acorns Hospice, which is playing an invaluable role in looking after their children.

We met Cyrille Regis and Bobby Gould in the Hawthorns car park, exchanged pleasantries with some amazingly eloquent Baggies fans, high fived some similarly dazed Wolves ones, and took a walk towards our path of righteousness.

With rivalries used as a topic of endearment, we dissected each other’s teams, remembered the good old days and chose which player we’d like from either side.

Pre-match warm up

Fletcher was their near unanimous choice, while one Albion fan said he liked the look of ‘that lad called Guedioura’ who he thought was the man-of-the-match in last season’s corresponding fixture.

Cue non-stop laughter from Coseley McDonald’s all the way to Parkfields School when I mumbled where the Algerian was now residing!

Within hours of us marching through Tipton, along the Birmingham New Road and into the city we call home, we were thumped 5-1, Mick McCarthy was sacked and a tortuous two weeks ensued.

With the managerial merry-go-round twirling ever since, I didn’t think a blog about a walk was a priority to write about – until I remembered how the experience made me feel.

When materialism and cynicism rears its head with the monotony of a West Bromwich Albion attack, the Beautiful Game doesn’t always appear so scrumptious nowadays.

But when a chorus of ‘The Lord’s my Shepherd’ thawed the freezing Molineux air, you can tell how much I’m back in love with it that I wanted to sing along.

Thanks again Kieran, Ian and everyone involved with the March to Molineux.

Wolves 1 West Brom 5

Humiliation can take many painful forms but none, I’m quite sure, are as excruciating as this.

I’m not just referring to the scoreline either.

That didn’t even flatter them.

In every possible way that one team can better another, they did so emphatically.

Odemwingie pefectly mimmicks every Wolves attack

And of all the damning statistics in Albion’s favour on this grave occasion, 26 shots on goal is perhaps the one that appropriately underlines their dominance in a match that served to highlight the crippling deficiencies of this Wolves side.

Where do I start?

Above all else, our chronic inability to pass the ball inside the opposition’s half continues to upend our progress.

Aside from Fletcher’s juggling act and majestic finish to drag us level completely against the run of play, our tactics were as one-paced and predictable as they normally are.

In possession we have 2 routes to goal, namely:

1. Pass to Jarvis.

2. Go long and feed off scraps.

That approach, however well executed, will rarely get the job done at this level, as 5 wins in 25 matches will testify.

We need more craft, more variety, more guile.

You know, attributes that actually separate us from lower league sides.

Today’s teamsheet, whilst suggesting a refreshing, attack-minded approach, simply offered no cohesion.

It was lunacy.

Yes, that 11 brought home the bacon against 10-man QPR but surely we needed a cuter strategy in a local derby against a side with a full compliment of players on the pitch?

Obviously not, if your name is Mick McCarthy.

And that brings me to the inescapable fact, that above and beyond anything or anyone else, he is to blame.

He picks the team, he defines the strategy and he shapes the style of play.

The buck stops with him.

And his time is now up.

You simply cannot argue against it.

What frustrates me most about a man I have the utmost respect for, is that he patently does not learn from his mistakes.

Case in point, we were slaughtered in the first half today and only bailed out by a moment of brilliance.

Now surely any rational manager (or human being for that matter) would gratefully clasp this second chance and alter their tactics accordingly?

He did not and ultimately, every gold shirt inside Molineux paid the price.

Now he must do the same.

I’m of the opinion this group of players are capable of better; much better in fact based on today’s debacle.

Yet some still seem to question whether any manager could do better?

My response is simple:

Could anyone do worse?

Wolves Vs West Brom Preview

When Steven Fletcher swiveled to volley home the winner against Sunderland at the start of December, I didn’t think we’d be sitting here two months later still waiting for our next Molineux-maximum.

But we are.

No way through at the Hawthorns

Make no mistake, survival very much depends on Wolves doing better business on their own patch, with Bolton and Blackburn still to pay a visit after Sunday’s gargantuan match against Albion.

Speaking of our dear neighbours, their need for a win is becoming as desperate as ours.

Swansea’s victory at the Hawthorns last weekend means they now boast an even worse home record than us with just 2 wins to show from their 12 matches to date.

What’s keeping them afloat is their away form, which is sumptuous, particularly for a team in their position. With 5 wins and 3 draws, they’ve collected more points on their travels than Arsenal and just 2 less than Chelsea.

Gulp.

Just as well the form book goes out the window in a derby then…right?

The Team

Both teams have been struck down with injuries of late.

Brunt and Gera are long-term absentees for Albion, which is a plus for Wolves as they’ve definitely been thorns in our side over the years.

Shane Long is in a race to prove his fitness and after the anarchy he caused in the match at the Hawthorns, it would probably be better for us if his name didn’t appear.

Still, enough about them, what about us? This is the team I would personally pick:

Hennessey, Foley, Johnson, Bassong, Ward, Milijas, O'Hara, Edwards, Jarvis, Doyle, Fletcher

That’s very similar to the side that finished the match at QPR, but as we’ll be starting off against 11 men this week, we probably need to be a little more cautious, hence Milijas added to the midfield.

I like the idea of Doyle playing from deep. We need to get him facing the play more as it brings out the best elements of his game, so starting him wide on the right and allowing him to drift inside could be a good bet. He might have to do some defending though.

I hope the introduction of Bassong at the back will be as telling as I believe it should be. Too often over the last 5 years or so, Albion have had pace up front that’s caused our lumbering defenders problems. We’ve lacked any real athleticism at the back, so I’m pinning my hopes on the Spurs man to solve the problem.

So that’s my preferred team, but as to what eleven Mick will send out, I’m not so sure.

I think he’ll want to play Doyle from the start and I can’t shake the suspicion he’ll move Foley into midfield again and play Stearman at right-back. Most likely a 442 I’d say.

Prediction League

Well done to the 10 pundits who kept the faith and predicted a win against QPR.

Hats off to Morph, Putney Wolf, Philly Pete and Hudds Wolf who got the 2-1 scoreline too. They get the maximum 3 points, the others take a single.

I said before the Liverpool game I thought we’d take 4 points from the next 3 games.

So we had the defeat to the scousers and a fantastic win at QPR, which leaves a draw to support my logical conclusion.

Can’t see either team keeping a cleansheet, so how about this for a prediction – 3-3.

I genuinely believe there’s nothing to choose between the sides in terms of ability, so on any given day the result could be pretty much anything.

If you’re at Molineux Sunday, be loud and make the place bounce rather than boing. This would be a massive win if Mick and the boys can pull it off.

Up The Wolves.

* Just one final plea to support our March to Molineux fundraising efforts. Ben and I will be doing the 10-mile walk on Sunday morning to raise money for Acorns children’s hospice and any donations would be gratefully accepted. Here’s the link to our fundraising page. It’s a wonderful cause, so be please do dig deep.