Archives for July 2010

Fun & Games

Back by popular demand, the Wolves Blog Fantasy Football League is alive and kicking for the 2010/11 season.

Just like last year, we’re hosting the competition on the Fantasy Premier League website here:

http://fantasy.premierleague.com

If you didn’t enter last season, get yourself over there, register with the game and pick your squad. Once you’ve done that, you can then join our league.

The code you’ll need to enter to join the Wolves Blog Fantasy Football League is: 474801-115640

The great thing about this particular game is that you can enter your team into as many leagues as you like, so if you’re already involved with another competition don’t fret, you can also join the Wolves Blog Fantasy League with the same team. You don’t have to create another.

I believe that all players who entered the league last season will be automatically included once they’ve activated their team again for the new season.

We had something like 50 teams involved last year, so it would be great to get even more this time around.

As with last year, I’ll come up some kind of prize for the winner.

Prediction League

As a few people asked for it, I’ll also be running a prediction league for anyone who wants to get involved.

I want to keep it as simple as possible (to begin with at least), so it’s only going to be Wolves scores that are predicted.

As you know, we run a preview prior to every match so all you have to do is leave a comment with your prediction: For example:

My prediction: Wolves 10 – 0 West Bromwich Albion

You get 3 points for predicting the correct score.

You get 1 point for predicting the correct outcome. So if you said Wolves 10-0 Albion but it was only 9-0, you’d get 1 point.

And that’s it. Told you I was keeping it simple! 🙂

As some of you will know, Mark Lawrenson predicts all the Premiership scores every Friday on the BBC website, so just for a bit of fun I’ll be tracking his predictions too and including him in the table.

Again, I’ll come up with some sort of prize for the winner (unless it’s Lawro).

For your consideration

Batth gained good experience at Colchester

Despite losing 2-1 at Reading last night, one big positive to come out of the game was the performance of young Danny Batth, who seems to be receiving almost universal praise from the club and supporters alike.

This is the second game the center-back has featured prominently and although I wouldn’t expect Batth to make the starting lineup come August 14th, perhaps he could have a role to play during the season.

Whilst you’d imagine Jody Craddock, Christophe Berra and Steven Mouyokolo are all ahead of him in the pecking order, a couple of injuries could see the 19 year-old thrust into the limelight. If that were to happen, I think we’d all be pleased to see a genuine homegrown talent (he’s from Brierley Hill) grace the Premiership stage.

Batth isn’t the only player to emerge with credit from his pre-season outings though and with Mick McCarthy openly stating that anyone who ups their game could earn a starting place, a few others seems to have raised their game. So, for your consideration:

Richard Stearman – Back from the dead, the former Leicester man seems to be the preferred cover for Ronald Zubar at right-back, with Kevin Foley resuming his duties in midfield. Stearman’s ability to play anywhere across the back four should make him a certainty for inclusion in the matchday squad. So despite making a sloppy error at Reading last night and conceding a penalty, I expect the England U21 to clock up considerable game time this season.

Greg Halford – Fell out of favour big-time towards the end of last season and seemed destined for the exit door. He might yet move on to pastures new, but has featured in nearly all of Wolves pre-season matches, assisting both goals with his missile throw against Charleoi. He can slot into a defensive midfield role, so if the rumoured arrivals of Mancienne and N’Daw don’t materialise, perhaps Mick will keep Halford around as cover?

Carl Ikeme – Another player to have clocked up considerable game-time. Played the full 90 again last night and seems to be pushing Hahnemann and Hennessy hard to break into the matchday squad. He probably won’t be too chuffed with another season of being third choice, particularly with Matt Murray lurking in the background too, so this could be make or break time for Ikeme.

Ashley Hemmings – As I started with a homegrown talent, I’ll end with one. Ashley Hemmings played and scored against Walsall, as well as another 45 minute cameo last night. We’re certainly short an out-and-out wideman at the moment, so perhaps the youngster could make his mark?

So these are my dark horses for the season ahead. Who are yours?

Putting my shirt on it (Part 1)

You can always put your shirt on Wolves Blog to produce some sturdy, hard wearing debates with a dash of flair and a weave of nostalgia.

So what if the lads are still in pre-season, the season ticket is in the post and Mancienne is still washing his hair? The Wolves Blog production line is ready for another fashionable item for discussion.

I was in the loft a few weeks back and stumbled upon all of my old Wolves shirts, so I thought I’d share them with you and compare and contrast them with today’s much maligned Burrda number.

To make this exercise a completely comfortable fit, I have a Primark-proof formula to establish my favourite Wolves shirt I have ever worn.

I am giving each shirt a mark out of 10 for style, plus another mark out of 10 for its success on the team, multiplied by the first memory in my mind when I think of it.

This then, will give you the most successful Wolves shirt since the late 1980s. Fact! Well, only the ones I’ve ever owned.

I’ll start with the shirts from 1987 to 1990 for now, and post my 1990s shirts later in the week.

1987/88 Spall / Staw Distribution

My first ever kit, so nostalgia says it gets a high mark. Beautiful bold v-neck, strong, yet subtle shadow stripes, and the kit that made me a Wolves fan.

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Apparently Ron Flowers had sold out of the Liverpool Crown Paints strip that I yearned for (well, so Grandad and my old man said) and Ron only had this unrecognisable gold shirt left. I fell in love with it, and soon loved the notoriety of supporting a team that none of my mates knew of.

I also thought Ron Flowers was family friend who I’d never met, such was the warmth with which he was associated. Pretty cool of Grandad’s mate Ron to own so many football shirts for us to choose eh?!

Unfortunately, we played Chorley three times in this strip (including horrid white shorts at Burnden Park if memory serves), the lowest point in our history.

We did then sport the same strip the year after, winning the Sherpa Van Trophy and division four, and Bully bagging 52 goals.

Style: 9 plus

Success: 7 multiplied by

My first memory: 8 (Looking at the ‘We’re Back’ LP record sleeve, and seeing the players on the picture, glistening in this strip)

TOTAL: 128

1988/89 Scoreline / Manders Paint & Ink

I didn’t think the last shirt could be beaten, but this tops it. Forget the fact that the sponsor’s name rubbed off in the wash, this was a beauty.

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It featured the same lovely v-neck style, but with narrower shadow stripes all over, and tight, ball breaking shorts. An ode to an 80s kit if ever I saw one.

I loved the Scoreline brand on the sleeves most. I thought it was ingenious that a football shirt could tell you what direction you should be kicking towards on the pitch, thanks to the little arrow. It was as if we had a secret weapon that other sides didn’t.

How else do you explain pissing the league, an endless run of almighty thrashings and Bully’s outrageous eye for goal?

I soon revised my belief when I cottoned onto the fact that some players played the way they were facing, and they’d get confused attacking both ends at the same time. (Maybe Jackie Gallagher can be explained!!)

I gave Graham Turner the credit instead.

My first memory of the team in this shirt is my first ever game. Reading at home. Kendall, Bellamy, Thompson, Streete, Robertson, Robinson, Vaughan, Chard, Bull, Mutch, Dennison. God bless the lot of you! Won 2-1.

I’m sure we did the double over the Albion in this strip too, the year after, thanks to a pair of Bully winners. It doesn’t get any better does it?

Style: 9 plus

Success 9 multiplied by

First memory: 10

TOTAL: 180

1990/91 Scoreline / Goodyear AND Bukta / Goodyear

Talk about exciting! Not just one new kit in a season, but two! And a new club sponsor in the form of Goodyear, one of the world’s most recognisable brands.

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No Jez Moxey to blame for cynical exploitation back then, but Scoreline went bust halfway through the year (at least I think they did), so Bukta came in and took over.

It was shadow squares, like a gold table cloth to start the season with, and then beautiful little Wolves crests in the body of the shirt once Bukta took over.

Check out the popped collar on these! This shirt was exciting, and nothing like I had ever seen before. Notwithstanding the cock up with the manufacturer, it signalled the dawn of an untapped commercial era, even from our little wooden shack of a club shop at the back of the North Bank.

I’ll always remember seeing the lads in this for the first time. It was Oldham Athletic at home, in glorious August sunshine.

Dad told me to take two pairs of cotton slips to the game, as I would piss the first pair within five minutes of kick-off, such would be the hilarious sight of the ‘worst striker in history’…Ian Marshall.

Good job I took his advice on board. I’d soaked my pants in sheer panic when this terrifying tramp / bear hybrid smashed in an outrageous hat-trick. We lost 3-2.

Dad promised never to insult an opposition player ever again in a bid to get me back onside. That lasted all of 6 games until Frank Stapleton got the same treatment from ‘The Oracle’ as we prepared to play Blackburn.

‘Never had such a talentless, overrated donkey ever made more out of the game’, apparently.

I reached for the three pack of boxers before we set off this time, just in case my previously unquestioned father might actually be spouting bollocks again.

I’m glad I did, as the ex-Manchester United forward bagged a clinical hat-trick in the first half hour, with a touch more finesse than Marshall. We lost again 3-2. Nice work Dad.

Incidentally, that was the last time Blackburn Rovers ever won at Molineux and the last time Dad has ever talked down of an opponent before a game. I think it may have been the last goals Stapleton ever scored in his career too.

I was also mascot in the Bukta version of this kit, against the Albion at the Hawthorns. Rob Hindmarch scored in the 8th minute of injury time to get a 1-1 draw.

We finished in 12th for the first of many, many seasons.

So with all that in mind:

Style 7 plus

Success: 6 multiplied by

First memory: 2 (Two marks for each of Bully’s goals against Oldham)

TOTAL: 26

And finally…

Wolves on Tour 1989 / 90 T-Shirt

In the bin liner, amongst all the old gold, I stumbled upon one or two leisure T-shirts as well.

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This particular one, which I’d forgotten all about, almost made me laugh and cry at the same time.

To celebrate our promotion to Division Two in 1989, Dad bought me this little top, as we looked forward to some heady away days in some esteemed company.

Talk about irony…A T-shirt with an emaciated looking wolf on the front, whose tongue is hanging out like he’s gasping to get on the M1 down to Brighton.

And on the back, a map of the UK, with 23 pinpointed locations to whet the appetite for the new challenges that lay ahead.

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The prospects of Boothferry Park, The Goldthorne Ground, Dean Court and the Manor Ground were so damn electrifying that we made an official top to commemorate them!

Little did we know that these once thrilling propositions would turn into utter nightmare scenarios as we made the same journeys, year after year, for the next 20 odd seasons.

We certainly didn’t need a T-shirt to remind us!

Those blissfully unsuspecting days – completely ignorant of the slings and arrows that lay ahead – are those that I still miss today. I’m either a glutton for punishment or too bloody sentimental for my own good.

Baby come back

With another busy summer of comings and goings at Molineux in full swing, I’ve been thinking about the past players I was sad to see heading for the exit door.

You chant their name, print their number on the back of your shirt and sob when you see them in another team’s colours.

Here are five such heroes I cried a silent tear for.

David Kelly – It was around 1993 that I start going to matches regularly, which coincided with Kelly’s arrival from Newcastle. He formed a good understanding with Bully, scored quite a few himself and wore his shirt untucked – what a rebel. Memorable goals against the Albion and that diving header against Leicester only further enhanced his reputation.

He played a major role in the 94/95 season, helping Wolves to the semi-finals of the play-offs and some memorable FA Cup victories, most notably that dramatic penalty shootout victory over Sheffield Wednesday. He gave us the lead in the replay of that tie and then coolly slotted home his penalty to keep us in the shootout. Despite only being at Wolves for two seasons, he was a hero to me, so needless to say I was gutted when we shipped him out to Sunderland for a million quid in 1995. I’ve never fully recovered from the loss.

Dougie Freedman – Prior to 1997, I’d only ever heard my dad say anything positive about two footballers – Pele and Steve Bull. That all changed when Dougie Freedman arrived on the scene from Palace, smashing home a brilliant goal on his debut against Swindon to cement a place in my old man’s heart.

Unquestionably, the Scot was one of the best natural finishers I’ve ever seen in a Wolves shirt, which is a strong statement to make given that he only played one full season and scored 10 goals for the club. But a memorable hat-trick against Norwich and an absolute thunderbolt of a volley at home to Blues showed what he was all about.

Selling him to Forest for just under a million quid was a big gaffe but perhaps understandable given that we also had Goodman, Bull and Keane on the books at the time.

A few years later my dad won some dosh by betting on Freedman to get the first goal against Wolves for Palace. He duly obliged with a trademark finish early in the game. If I remember correctly, there were protests outside the Billy Wright stand at the end of that particular match.

Robbie Keane – There’s an element of Shakespearean tragedy to Robbie Keane’s time as a Wolves player. Whilst it was a pleasure to see such raw talent turn out in the old gold, we all knew he’d eventually break our hearts and move onto the bigger stage.

Arsenal, Man Utd and even Barcelona were linked with the Irish International, so it seemed only a matter of time before one of the big boys came calling.

Imagine my surprise then to pick up the paper and read that we were moving on our brightest star to Coventry flippin’ City. That was a sad day, particularly when it emerged that we hadn’t negotiated a sell-on clause. Doh!

Of course in recent years there’s been talk of the prodigal son returning, but I’m not certain that would be a good thing. He played just 73 games for Wolves but achieved universal admiration from the old goal faithful. I’d hate to see that tainted should he return to Molineux a 30-something has-been.

Ade Akinbiyi – Don’t laugh.

I know, I know, we got 5 million smackers for a very average Championship player when we sold him to Leicester, but at the time I was gutted to see him go. He’d formed a solid partnership with Michael Branch and we’d had a successful run at the tail end of the previous season.George Ndah had also arrived from Swindon and there was a feeling about the place that we could do something under Colin Lee.

So selling Akinbiyi, who had a pretty good scoring record in his time at Wolves, just seemed like a massive step backwards and I still think about what might have been had we kept him another season.

Incidentally, I’ve heard Wolves supporters aim chants of ‘Where were you at Molineux?’ at Akinbiyi on the odd occasion he’s returned, which baffles me given that he always did well for us. Perhaps I saw something they didn’t.

Alex Rae – He’s got no hair and we don’t care. Probably my favourite Wolves player of all time, Rae spent three full seasons at the club after arriving from Sunderland in 2001 for £1.2 million.

In his first campaign, he formed a sparkling partnership with Colin Cameron, which saw us surge to the top of the table but eventually come crashing back down to earth, missing out on automatic promotion to that lot down the road. The following season he was in and out of the side following the arrival of Paul Ince, but still played a crucial role in getting us promoted by scoring the winner in the second leg of the play-off semi-final against Reading.

His finest hour was our Premiership campaign though, where he single-handedly kept us afloat in the opening months, smashing in 8 crucial goals, pretty much all of them spectacular. How he didn’t win Fans’ Player of the Season that year is beyond me. Those who voted for Camara, hang your head in shame.

He moved onto Rangers for nothing after our relegation. Had we kept him, I’m sure we might well have bounced back much sooner than we eventually did. He’s actually still playing to this very day, turning out occasionally as player-coach for MK Dons.

So have you got any others?

Or how about players you were delighted to see the back of? I’m sure there are plenty of those.

Walsall 0 Wolves 4

There were four big reasons to be cheerful at the Banks’s Stadium last night, and that was before Jelle Van Damme and Steven Fletcher even took to the pitch.

The four goals were a wonderful ‘welcome back’ present to enjoy, but it was the appearances of Danny Batth, Scott Malone, Ashley Hemmings and Sam Winnall that were really worth the entrance fee.

Danny Batth goes close-ish with a header (not that you can see much!)

The first half featured Malone (left back) and Batth (centre back) in a back four alongside George Elokobi (centre half) and Richard Stearman (right back).

Greg Halford played right midfield, with Ashley Hemmings on the left wing, with Dave Edwards and Kevin Foley in the middle.

Sylvan Ebanks Blake and Sam Vokes led the line and looked particularly impressive in doing so.

A cynic on Twitter bemoaned six defenders in the starting XI against a piss poor Walsall side. I hadn’t noticed at first, but he needn’t have grumbled.

We looked comfortable and inventive right from the moment we won a string of corners in the first couple of minutes.

So comfortable infact, that George Elokobi could afford a touch of swagger, in between some hearty words of encouragement of his partner Batth.

While the young defender wasn’t troubled much, it was great to see him in a Wolves shirt, looking strong and assured.

But it was Malone who really shone at left back, getting up and down the pitch with all the eagerness of a young whippersnapper.

Meanwhile, Ashley Hemmings looked a bag of tricks ahead of him, showing lightning quick feet and a rapid turn of pace.

It was great to see him opening the scoring, and was worth a bet too, as he smashed in goal after goal in the pre-match warm up in front of us all.

Halford – another to look extremely assured – whipped in a beauty of a cross, which Hemmings headed home with aplomb after 10mins. It was good to be back!

Then Malone stole the limelight, working a space on the left and crossing for Vokes to slot away, in front of that seething mass of Walsall fans. (all 10 of them)

Vokes then underlined his lean, mean new demeanour with a stylish finish before half time, rounding the keeper with some composure.

Then it was left to the same team to impress us all over again in the second half, attacking us away fans behind the goal.

The biggest roar of the night came when SEB capped a fine individual performance with a goal that had shades of the Charlton Athletic about it.

Okay, he didn’t pull off that cheeky backheel trick like he did at the Valley, but he collected a flick-on by Halford in the same area of the pitch, muscled past his defender, and powered in a snorter from a tight angle.

He looked like the old Sylvan we know and love, and if the goal was good, his all round play was equally impressive. Definite man-of-the-match contender.

Then it was time for a raft of subs. One of which, Sam Winnall, looked like he had been playing in the team all his life.

After a year out with a knee injury, I didn’t have a clue who he was at first, but I think we may be seeing him a lot more in the future.

Winnall played just behind Fletcher and Doyle, who gave us more cause for cheer.

The pair linked up excellently, and will surely be the first two names on the teamsheet come August, in spite of what looks like a rejuvenated Sylvan and Vokes.

Let’s make no mistake, Walsall were tripe, but it was great to see four young starlets make an impression, and even better to be back amongst our extended gold and black family again.

An Irish stroll

Fletcher scored the second goal on his debut

Wolves comfortably overcame Bohemian 3-0 in their opening pre-season friendly. I wasn’t there so I can’t really do a report, but there were one or two talking points to come out of the game, which are certainly worth discussing.

First off, the team selection.

Van Damme was given his debut in the back four alongside the first choice trio of Zubar, Craddock and Berra and by all accounts had a good game. I’m going to guess he wasn’t given a particularly thorough examination in his first outing but still nice to hear he came through impressively.

It was a shame to hear Ronald Zubar suffered an ankle injury, so fingers crossed that’s not serious. He was superb in the second half of last season and even with Kevin Foley to come in as a replacement, I’d still consider him a serious loss should he be out of action for a lengthy period of time. Interestingly though, it was Stearman who came on to replace Zubar, so perhaps that’s his best route back towards a first team recall.

Henry, Jones and Jarvis all went about their business in midfield, but intriguingly Mick went with three strikers from the start, selecting Doyle, Keogh and Fletcher. Whether one of those players dropped into the right side of midfield I’m not sure but it certainly shows that Keogh is still very much a part of the manager’s plans. He’s been impressive in training according to Mick, so his inclusion is no-doubt reward for his endeavours.

It was great to see Fletcher get on the score sheet with a fierce strike to make it 2-0, adding to Craddock’s trademark header from a corner. Hopefully our joint-record signing can bag a few more and hit the ground running at the start of the season, something SEB and Doyle never really managed last time out.

Mujangi Bia came off the bench and added the third goal in style, linking up with SEB and finishing confidently to wrap up the victory. Wouldn’t it be a bonus if the winger could get his act together and prove himself to the Molineux faithful? I think very little is expected from him so perhaps that could count in his favour, with less pressure on his shoulders to perform.

In his post-match interview, Mick was pleased with what he’d seen, particularly from his two new signings. However, he was quick to remind everyone that van Damme had a job on his hands to cement the left back position, with Ward back and ‘chomping at the bit’ to play, as well as big George also lurking in the background.

So all in all, plenty to discuss. What do we all think?

Just found the highlights from YouTube. Enjoy.