Archives for September 2010

Wigan Vs Wolves preview

To describe Saturday’s game at the DW Stadium as our most important in the last 12 months might be stretching things a bit far.

With only six league games gone and so many points to play for, it simply can’t be measured as such.

Another win at the DW would be brilliant

But every so often, maybe three or four times a season, a fixture gathers so much momentum in the minds of us fans that it assumes the tag of ‘must win’ or at worst, ‘daren’t lose.’

Our game at Wigan feels like one of those occasions, where it will either end up being a cathartic experience for the good, or a miserable memory to shape a season.

There just seems to be a collective angst simmering beneath WV1 that could do with shifting before it turns to anger.

Some of the pressure goes with the territory of a poor run of form. It just feels that a larger part is the fact that this is one of those ‘must win games.’

Maybe it’s because some fans have played down our last three losses to a pair of Europa League sides and a Champions League outfit, that the expectation cranks up for this more ‘winnable’ one.

Add our 2009 victory at Wigan to the mix and the game assumes even more importance. A loss would be far more symbolic than the other ones put together.

Sprinkle in Albion’s fine run of form, starring players they bought in the summer and choose to play, and the recipe is potentially quite disastrous, should we lose.

Let’s hope not.

Whenever one of these games come up – where we worry beforehand that little bit more – Mick and his men deliver.

Just last season, we rose to the occasion in style at Upton Park, when defeat seemed unthinkable at the time, and the game assumed gargantuan proportions.

Our wins against Spurs were also massive in the context of our league position, not to mention horrid defeat to Blues so soon before.

Going back further, a few fixtures in the promotion winning season felt just like this one.

Most notably, the brilliant back to back wins at Crystal Palace and Sheffield Wednesday when every ounce of my being dreaded the games after our sudden loss of form.

And who could forget Derby County away, when at 2-1 down, we could all be forgiven for a 2002 flashback.

For good measure, how about Leicester City at the Walkers Stadium? 1-0 down in a game we had to win to make the play-offs in 1997, against a side I’d never seen us beat in their home town ever.

Whenever a ‘must win’ arises (in our minds or otherwise), Mick finds the winning formula from somewhere, and makes you feel slightly dirty and unfaithful for every questioning him in the first place.

This is why I’m backing the boys to win on Saturday, by hook or by crook.

Prediction League

Thomas: Ben handled the preview as I’ve been away for a few days, so thought I’d tag the Prediction League update on the end.

Nobody correctly guessed a 2-1 to Villa last weekend, but Dazza in Brisbane, Ben, Yoda, Ezz and Hallam all correctly predicted we’d lose so well done to them for picking up a point each.

You’ll all be glad to know that I remain on top of the overall table.

As always, if you want to join in with the Prediction League, simply leave your prediction for each game in the comment section of the official preview (such as this one).

This weekend, I’m going for a 3-1 Wolves win. Call it blind faith if you will.

If you’re heading up to the DW, have a great time and roar the lads on.

Up The Wolves.

The ones that got away

It’s quite fitting that scientists have found a cure for migraines when we’re all suffering severe head pains.

The past three results – and sickening manner of them – are enough to bring on a bad headache for every gold and black fan, although there’s another contributing factor at Molineux that really has me screaming for mercy.

Losing always hurts. But when there’s a self inflicted edge to our misery, the suffering becomes all the more unbearable.

Thomas: You can't see me!

In previous seasons, the dull, throbbing ache would give rise to agony whenever I saw footage of Stan Collymore, Chris Marsden, Jason Roberts or even Dougie Freedman.

In recent times, the same symptoms would engulf my poor temples at the mere sight of Dan Fox or Scott Dann.

Scientists call it a migraine. Those without the medicinal know-how might describe it as ‘the one that got away.’

If ever there’s a club to lament a premature departure or extreme short sightedness in the transfer market,  then it’s surely us.

And now, as we all scurry and scamper to avoid any reference to the Premier League table, two more players’ faces are everywhere we turn. The fact they play for the Albion quadruples the pain.

  1. Jerome Thomas. A player with Sportingbet on his shirt and the bookmakers taking no more bets on him joining Wolves last summer for free.
  2. Nicky Shorey: The outstanding candidate to fill the aching left back chasm that has been ‘filled’ by Mulgrew, Neill Collins, Stephen Ward, Matt Hill and George Elokobi in recent years.

Can someone, somewhere, tell me why we didn’t pursue these two players with a modicum of effort and urgency?

Thomas, who masterminded Albion’s excruciating win at Arsenal, was at times unplayable and unanimous in the red tops’ team of the day picks. Never mind shoehorning in Dave Edwards and swapping over Jarvis, we’d have had two flying machines and moreover, a round peg for a round hole.

That we told him he needed to spend longer proving himself at Compton adds insult to injury.

Then there’s Nicky Shorey, who dovetails so well with the ex-Charlton man and is widely regarded as the Baggies’ unsung hero.

Meanwhile, we persist with the limited, if not stoic, Steven Ward until the point of a far fetched injury to get him off the pitch. (hmm, no mention of his symptoms on the club’s injury board BTW)

With every passing point our arch rivals accumulate, the pain gets worse as two players who could so easily have been ours mastermind a season of real promise.

Hindsight is a wonderful thing of course, and there maybe be stories to tell that an ignorant, unwashed fan like I will never be entitled to hear.

One thing’s for sure, it is infuriating as hell to witness, just like the rumours of McGhee opting for Corica over Solskjaer.

The doctor has told me to drink plenty of water and take 2 paracetamol every four hours…

…A sight of Van Damme, Mouyokolo and Hunt might help first.

Wolves 1 Villa 2

Hands up who’s getting worried?

After another defeat, another team targeting our hapless left back (until he’s taken out of the line of fire with an ‘injury’) and another late goal, the autumn chill is starting to bite.

Villa can reflect on a job well done.

Hmm...I wonder where we should target?

Mick McCarthy can reflect on a shocking refereeing decision not send off the already booked Warnock, who then goes on to set-up the winner.

Meanwhile, most Wolves fans might reflect on another baffling team selection where World Cup player Guedioura again lost out to Championship bit part Edwards and Ward kept his place despite being so horribly out of his depth.

Gerard Houllier isn’t so well respected for nothing I guess. After being back in England for all of five minutes, he still spotted the Eircom striker masquerading as a defender beforehand and told Albrighton to attack him at every opportunity.

I lost count of the raids on Ward before the inevitable goal came. Maybe Mick didn’t, because a familiar ‘injury’ reared its head and the Irishman was back in the changing room. (Sheffield United anyone?)

In full credit to Big George, Albrighton was subbed off in the second half and never got a look in from the moment he came on, poor distribution aside.

That we completely ignored the possibility of purchasing Nicky Shorey from the Villa will continue to haunt me until the position is finally sorted.

Four years after the much maligned Lee Naylor left, it was ironic to see him back on the pitch at half time, as his departure still hasn’t been addressed with the seriousness it warranted.

The first half was forgettable as we launched too many long balls to Fletcher and Doyle, the latter looking as ineffective as I’ve seen in a Wolves shirt, and we went in a goal down.

Apart from a great double save from Freidel from the strike pair and a glaring chance for Edwards that was either missed or tackled, we offered little threat and none of the encouraging form of late last season.

The second half was a different story however, and with Jarvis coming more into the game in a change of shape (with Fletcher going wider too) we asserted some pressure.

When the goal came from Jarvis it was fully deserved. After the goal we didn’t have nearly enough quality to break Villa down.

The pivotal moment came when Mick made his final change.

Managers live and die by their decisions and maybe ours will regret subbing Foley for Stearman, who was swamped for Villa’s winner when Warnock romped towards the South Bank and crossed for Heskey to score.

To blame Stears would be unfair though. We did our usual trick of opting for the wrong choice around their box and it was Doyle who scuffed an ambitious shot from 25 yards with others far better placed.

Would SEB have been a better choice from the bench in a bolder attempt to win the game?

Guedioura certainly shouldn’t have been there in the first place, so to see Sidwell’s sickening challenge on him in after coming on makes me so angry on so many levels.

At least Mick won’t have to make excuses for not picking him now, as we contemplate a loss which already looks to be lengthy.

Make no mistake, this Villa team was there for the taking and was infinitely worse than its 2009 version, with no Dunne, Milner, Agbonlahor or Carew in the starting line-up.

The biggest worry is that we’re looking worse too – with or without a £20 million spending spree.

Wolves Vs Aston Villa Preview

Wolves kick-off their local derby assault this weekend as Aston Villa make the short trip to Molineux looking to give Gerard Houllier the ideal welcome on his return to the Premiership.

Since Martin O’Neill packed his bags and left just days before the start of the season, it’s safe to say it’s been an up-and-down start for our neighbours. Solid wins against West Ham and Everton are juxtaposed with a 6-goal thumping at Newcastle and a disappointing exit in the Europa League.

SEB slammed home a late equaliser from the penalty spot last season

A last-gasp defeat to Stoke and a home-draw with Bolton make up the remainder of Villa’s results to date, leaving them with respectable seven point haul. But having failed to emerge victorious in either of those last two winnable fixtures, they’ll be keen to build some momentum with three points on Sunday.

For Wolves, back-to-back Premier League defeats have dented what was an impressive start to the season, but Mick McCarthy and co can take solace from the fact they took the lead in both matches and but for some silly late mistakes, would have added vital points to their tally.

We can also look back fondly on last season’s meetings with Villa, both of which ended in draws. We stood toe-to-toe with them home and away and arguably deserved to win at least one of those games having successfully bridged the considerable gap between the sides in the league table.

It’s getting a little bit trickier to guess the Wolves side and arguably a few more players might have put themselves into contention following the 4-2 midweek victory over Notts County in the League Cup. This is my guess at the starting XI:

Hahnemann

Foley
Berra
Craddock
Ward

Jarvis
Henry
Jones
van Damme

Doyle
Fletcher

I hope Jarvis and van Damme can shake off their respective injuries, as they give us two very different options down the flanks. At the back, I fully expect Berra to return to the side having missed the game at Spurs through suspension. Fletcher and Doyle will surely get the nod up front, having both found the net in midweek and demonstrated their considerable quality.

Prediction League

A few people successfully predicted the outcome from last weekend’s defeat at Spurs, so well done to Stourbridge Wolf (his first points of the season), Hallam, Jon Sidwell and last but by no means least, er, me.

That vital three point salvo elevates me to the summit of the overall table.

As always, if you want to join in with the Prediction League, simply leave your prediction for each game in the comment section of the official preview (such as this one).

This week, I’m backing Wolves to get the win. We’ve looked solid enough on home-turf so far and if we can keep things tight at the back, I’m positive we’ll create chances against Villa.

2-1 Wolves.

If you’re going to the game, have a great time and get right behind the lads. There’s bragging rights at stake here.

Up The Wolves.

How long will Mick stay?

Following back-to-back defeats in the league, the usual ‘Mick-out’ brigade have been making their voices heard. In response, Martin takes a more pragmatic look at how long our manger might remain with the club.

Could anyone have done better than Mick has?

Having asked the question, let me say straight away, I think the bloke’s top drawer. If I was appointing a manager in any business, many of the qualities I would be looking for, McCarthy holds in spades- honesty, fairness, hard work etc. And his achievement in getting us into, and staying in, the Premiership in just a few years has been remarkable.

I was pleased when he got the job over Ince. I remember thinking, this guy will connect with the club and the supporters – no nonsense, straight talking and to the point. Just what we needed after the Hoddle experience.

And he came with a pretty impressive CV as well; promotions to the Premiership, as well as international experience. He was a pretty decent player as well, for those who can remember him. Whether you wanted him or not, it would be hard to criticise his achievements so far. Statistically, as I write, we are the fifteenth best team in the country rather than languishing in the depths of the Championship as we were when he arrived.

But no manager stays forever. There are only two constants at a football club – the shirt and the fans to whom it means so much. I’m not suggesting anyone at the club is, or should be, thinking of replacing him either now or in the immediate future. As I say, we lie fifteenth in the table and have had a fairly solid start. None of his new signings have been injury free and, of course, Hunt hasn’t played at all yet. I’m expecting him to make a big difference. I think he will suit Mick’s style perfectly and will add tempo and a continued attacking threat we dearly need. Who knows, he may transform us into a fairly high scoring team. That would be nice!

I think we should also remember that this success on the field has been achieved whilst adhering to the chairman’s long-term strategy. Which has meant:-

1) Only buying players who are young enough to develop and become a greater asset, not a liability, on the pitch and financially. Prior to Morgan taking over, I can hardly remember us buying a player and selling him later for a profit. It was all quick fix over-the-hill has-beens (usually £1million a go) who eventually succumbed to injury and left on free transfers. Even when we had assets to sell, like Keane and Lescott, we sold ourselves short with no sell-on clause etc.

2) Only buying players within an affordable price range and, even more importantly, within a wage structure which is sensible and fair throughout the team. Any idiot can spend £5m on Jimmy Bullard (that reminds me, we’re having chicken legs tonight), put him on £40,000 a week and pray you’re not in the Championship next season.

3) Whilst spending fairly heavily on the team, at the same time keeping financial reserves for an exciting stadium redevelopment, spread over a number of years, depending on results. If things go to plan initially, we will have a revamped 37,000 seat stadium to be proud of. It will mean we have maintained our Premiership status and it will be then that we can start planning for the next stage. With the extra income from the new stadium, we will be able to spend more on players and their wages. In fact, filling the stadium will depend on providing better players and an exciting winning team.

But all that is some way off at the moment. Mick has had to cut his cloth accordingly. Sure, he’s spent fairly heavily on young emerging talent, such as Fletcher, plus a wonderful bit of business with Doyle. But attracting the more established players to our club with our wage structure is pretty much a non-starter at the moment. Personally, I think this is almost a strength rather than a weakness.

For the first time in my 50 years of following Wolves, I can see the club has a clear long-term plan and no business can be successful without one. I honestly think Morgan has a dream of establishing Wolves as one of the powerhouses of the game and such dreams don’t happen in the blink of an eye. What is happening at Wolves is very much evolution, not revolution. It is being built from the bottom up on very firm foundations.

The training complex, the fitness laboratory, the re-laid pitches, the extended scouting system and, of course, the stadium redevelopment – all this isn’t happening by chance. A lot of intelligent planning has gone into this and I think we should all be excited and proud of what’s going on. You think of how many other teams got into the Premiership, spent wildly on so-called stars and their wages, and are now trawling the lower echelons of the football league.

So, given the parameters within which Mick has been asked to operate, I’d say he’s done a pretty decent job so far. He’s transformed us into a Premiership club, with a young team just about holding their own at this level. But there are definite areas for concern. For one, any results are achieved largely through Mick’s old favourite, ‘putting a shift in’. I would say that, as far as creative, flowing football is concerned, we’re right down there at the bottom. This even includes teams like Blackpool, who have spent far less than us, and McCarthy and Connor have got to take some responsibility for this. Whilst the team is filled with runners and tacklers, a player like Milijas sits on the bench and watches. All teams have to have balance and, at this level, you have to keep the ball. Instead, we spend most of the game trying to get it back (and in the process gain a reputation for being over-physical). It’s up to the manager to find a way to fit the class players into the team.

For all his strengths, McCarthy is no master tactician and I also wonder if the coaching is up to Premiership level. Everyone likes Terry Connor but we often look so totally devoid of attacking ideas, I wonder what they do learn on the training pitch. We all desperately want us to stay in the Premiership but, ultimately, we watch football for entertainment. There’s a limit to how long you can endure watching your team being outplayed and outclassed. If we are going to stay in this division, we need to start playing Premiership football. His prime responsibility this season is to keep us up, but there have to be signs that we are starting to belong here through ability and not just graft, not least so we can actually enjoy the games.

McCarthy will always be remembered fondly by most Wolves supporters for what he has already achieved. Whether he can take us on from here to another level, we will have to wait and see. I think the man at least deserves the chance to try. The question is, for how long.

Wolves Blog Quiz #1

With our early season optimism dampened by two miserable trips to the capital, the time is right for Wolves Blog to inflate everyone’s spirits with an exciting – if not thought provoking – new Wolves Blog feature.

The time has come to cheer everyone up with an official Wolves Blog quiz.

But be mindful…This isn’t any old quiz. It is actually a testament to how great our current squad and management team are because when you have a look at this motley crew, you’ll be thanking your lucky stars that this lot are nowhere near Molineux today! (well, most of them, as we do like a couple in there!)

So the format is: We’ll do a quiz round every fortnight, starting today. There’ll be six rounds in total and at the end of it all, a winner will be announced.

Just email your answers to bennyboy.smallman@gmail.com before Monday October 4 and we’ll let you have the answers when we do the second round.

You can leave comments at the bottom of the blog if you like, perhaps to laugh at one or two of these players without revealing their names, obviously!

We have an excellent prize for the overall winner of the first ever Wolves Blog Quiz, so if your blood isn’t racing now, it never will be.

So here goes. This is the picture round, so all we need are the names for the six players. Email us the answers on the address above if you fancy a bit of a laugh.

I’ve put a comment next to each picture, which won’t be much use!

1. So bad, that manager Graham Turner sent him running up and down the South Bank as punishment.

2. Scorer of the best own goal I have ever seen while facing the South Bank without an opposition player within 30 yards of him.

3. One German in this picture wasn’t bad. The other has his tongue hanging out.

4. Not sure what is worse….this player, or the strip he’s wearing.

5. A fan behind us once shouted at this player ‘Change gear!’ It seemed to perfectly describe his running style.

6. For that hat-trick and some memorable Masters performances, we salute you.

Good luck and please remember, DO NOT leave answers to this quiz in the comments.