Archives for October 2010

Wolves 2 Man City 1

At 4.56pm, the grand old hands of the North Bank clock momentarily unlocked and the piercing shrill of a force 12 Molineux subsided.

For one nanosecond the world stood still – including David Edwards – as referee Mike Dean slowly, painfully and grudgingly pursed his lips to concede defeat.

A hurricane strength roar ended two months of frustration and at that precise moment, there was nowhere else in the world I would rather have been.

We’re back!

Man-of-the-match? Take your pick.

We can watch Match of the Day for the first time since August; we can fawn over Sarah Jane Mee (in particularly enticing blue number on Sky Sports); we can buy a six pack of Carling with a smile on our face and more importantly….we can believe again.

Forgive a possible over-reaction so soon after the event, but I can barely remember a more satisfying winning feeling in 25 years of watching the Wolves.

We were skilful, brave and utterly relentless in the face of adversity, as another bent referee did his damndest to cheat us out of what we thoroughly deserved.

Never mind the opposition’s endless pot of money on transfers and wages, we looked the genuine million dollar men as we outplayed and outfought City.

That has to rankle with their fans. So too the perplexing omission of Adam Johnson.

But enough of them. Mick McCarthy has, and will continue to have his critics, but his team bore all the hallmarks of what we love most in him. Honesty, endeavour and an indefatigable will to win.

With the odds stacked firmly against us, Adebayor scored from the spot after a Silva won a penalty for a piece of play that will never earn us a spot kick at the other end of the pitch.

This, coinciding with an impressive opening from City had most of us fearing for the worst, but we needn’t have worried.

Our 4-5-1 system looked as fluid as it has done all season with Hunt and Jarvis making it a genuine 4-3-3 set-up and we seized the upper hand.

After hitting the post from a corner, we equalised through the one player that glued our formation together so effectively – Milijas!

The classy Serb was the most refreshing sight of the afternoon, offering us bucket loads of quality that has been missing for so long this season.

His goal was the least we deserved, and we didn’t stop there.

Man City’s men bore a team who expected everything to land on their plate, as if we should be a bunch of sycophants that they are so used to seeing off the pitch.

How refreshing that we weren’t. Even more refreshing was the sight of us going for the second goal and getting it, through the much maligned Edwards.

The Shropshire lad has got more stick than most since returning to the team after his injury lay off, but I’d take a hundred of his ilk than one Bolletelli, who pissed and moaned round the pitch as if 200k wasn’t enough.

The goal was fully deserved and a fitting end product to the work of Doyle, who worked hard to help create the opening and revelled on his own up front.

The plus points were everywhere. In Jarvis, we have the outstanding Englishman never to play for his country and in Hunt, a genuine outlet on the other side to bring balance and attention away from our matchwinner

Henry fitted in well, Ward had his best game in a Wolves shirt and Berra and Stearman were just immense.

 Foley was another hero to shine, displaying all the understated class that made us all fall in love with him when he first joined us.

As one former Wolves boss once said: “The trouble with Wolves fans is that their highs are way too high and our lows are far too low.”

Maybe he’s right. But as I sit here with a beer in hand on Saturday night, I couldn’t care less!

Wolves Vs Man City Preview

Without a win since the opening day of the season, Wolves are in desperate need of some home comforts against big-spending Man City tomorrow.

And whilst we can take positives out of last weekend’s narrow defeat at Stamford Bridge, that’s still five defeats in the last six games, leaving us joint-bottom of the table.

Carlos Tevez scored twice in a 3-0 City win last season

Hardly cause for great optimism.

Of course City will be smarting too following that 3-0 home defeat to Arsenal in their last outing, putting a minor dent in their title-chasing ambitions. They’ll be without Carlos Tevez, a player who netted twice in this fixture last season and has seven Premier League goals to his name already. Even with the likes of Adebayor and Balotelli to come in, the scrappy Argentine will be missed.

For Wolves, Karl Henry returns to action following his three match ban and with our skipper certain to waltz back into the starting eleven, someone has to make way. Looking at Mick’s team selection for the midweek Carling Cup defeat at Old Trafford, I suspect the player to drop out will probably be David Jones.

Stephen Hunt must also be pushing for his first Premier League start, but I suspect Jelle van Damme might keep his place, with Mick McCarthy preferring the Belgian’s physical presence down the left flank.

That would mean a team of:

Hahnemann

Foley
Stearman
Berra
Ward

Jarvis
Henry
Milijas
Edwards
van Damme

Doyle

With City almost certain to deploy a five-man midfield also, it could get pretty competitive in the middle of the park. Let’s just hope we come out on top.

Prediction League

Unsurprisingly, many of us correctly predicted that Chelsea would beat Wolves last weekend, but only one person got the score spot on, so congratulations to t’OM for picking up the maximum three points on offer.

I still lead the overall table though. So there.

If you want to join in the Prediction League, simply leave your forecast below and do the same for all official previews in future matches.

This weekend, I’m going for a Wolves win. We’re desperate for a big-result to ignite our season and City look vulnerable away from home. They’ve scored 12 goals this season and Carlos Tevez netted 7 of them. Without him in their side, I think this might be our day. 2-1 Wolves.

If you’re going to the match, have a great time and get behind the lads.

Up The Wolves.

A day with a legend

Mark Davies, illustrious Wolves Blog contributor, celebrated his 60th birthday last week and no, he is not the legend referred to in the title.

So, Scooped from Ludlow turned up, and Clive flew in from Houston, and Andrew, son of Mark, together with wife Nicola, also turned up unexpectedly, and there we all sat, in the hotel cocktail lounge, imbibing of various beverages when one of the hotel staff came in and asked Mark if he minds one more joining us for dinner.

Mark, being the obliging chap he is says “The more the merrier”, and in walks The Legend, Mr. Steven George Bull.

Mark meets legend

Of course we all knew he was arriving, except Mark, who for once was speechless, even if only momentarily.

After shaking hands with Mark, Bully asked where is John from Ludlow, and Clive who flew all the way from Texas.

He then proceeded to be the life and soul of the evening, telling football anecdotes, answering the usual “did you smack Lineker at Italia 90” and other obligatory questions.

He is extremely passionate and committed to his various charities and talked long and hard about his money making ventures for charity.

We had a wonderful evening, wining and dining, but that was only the appetizer for the following day.

After a nice early breakfast of all things fried and greasy, Mark, John, Bully and I proceeded to the local golf course, where we donned the oversized but striking gold and black shirts lovingly prepared back in Houston, in honor of Mark’s birthday.

Attire made in Houston

If Bully ever challenges you to a game of golf, beware. He is brilliant. A natural athlete, and the hardest hitter of a golf ball I’ve ever seen, and straight down the fairway as well.

We had a riot of a day.

Nothing was off limits, and we spent all day taking the piss out of each other, and laughing until we cried.

At one point, after being told I looked like a girl the way I played golf, I said to Mark and John, “ I never thought I would ever say this, but Bully, f*@# off!!”

Absolutely wonderful sense of humor, and a rapier wit. True Black Country at its best.

I am crap at golf, but all throughout the day, Bully was offering advice and tips to me, trying to help.

I bet other “superstars” would not be anywhere nearly as patient and helpful.

Happy 60th Mark

Mr. Bull is a man of many talents, and top of the list is his humility.

Not once did he brag about goals he’d scored or games he’d played in, just answered our questions quietly and calmly, as though scoring a record number of goals for one of the most famous teams in history was no big deal.

A couple of times other golfers came up and asked the significance of the gold shirts, and then…”Are you Steve Bull??’ and every time it was a quiet acknowledgment and back to the golf.

A very, very down to earth guy from the Black Country, with no airs or graces, who is so passionate about The Wolves, and the wonderful conversations throughout the day about the current team and other teams, will of course remain private.

At one point I asked him if he gets fed up with certain questions, and he said that when he is asked if he regrets not playing at the highest level (The Premier League) he answers by saying he did, he played and scored for England, and that is as high as it gets.

The golf finally finished, but Bully was in no rush to get away, we had a coffee in the clubhouse and then drove back to the hotel, where we sat and had sandwiches and more coffee, and Bully seemed genuinely reluctant to leave.

Bully and friends

He signed a picture for me with the words “Shit golfer, top man”

I am still walking on the clouds when I think about that day, one of the most memorable of my life. Not only meeting a legend, a footballing hero to thousands, but getting to know him slightly, and to have the piss royally taken out of me, in a wonderful way.

Steve Bull has gone even higher in my estimation, if that is possible. He is one of the best men I have ever had the pleasure and the privilege to meet.

Bully, thank you.

And thank you Mark for turning 60.

Man Utd 3 Wolves 2

I’ll keep this short and to the point.

A highly irritating defeat, given the overall balance of play and the chances we created but you simply can’t afford to be profligate in front of goal at Old Trafford and expect to get a result.

Big George scored his first goal for Wolves

With that said, rather than go into detail, here are just one or two thoughts on each player’s individual performance:

Hennessy – Handled and kicked well throughout. Wasn’t at fault for any of the goals, but will be disappointed to have shipped three in the second half.

Foley – A brilliant performance both defensively and going forward, capped with a neat finish for the second goal.

Berra – You know what you get from the Scotsman. Good in the air and largely reliable but his lack of pace sometimes gets him in trouble.

Mouyokolo – Good in the air, a nice turn of pace and some clever distribution. The first time I’ve seen this guy properly and he was impressive. Could he challenge Stearman for a place on Saturday?

Elokobi – I think big George can be pretty pleased with his effort. Bebe stumbled his way passed a few times, but on the whole, our giant full-back came out on top. Timed his run perfectly to power home his first goal for Wolves and must surely be pushing Ward hard for a game at left-back.

Hunt – In his first competitive start, Hunt was pretty slow to get going and had an appalling first half hour. Looked sharper in the second half though and came close to giving us the lead, but could only hit the top of the bar from a glorious chance. Could and probably should start against City on Saturday.

Mancienne – On the huge Old Trafford pitch and with only Jones for company in the middle, the Chelsea youngster struggled to anchor the midfield as well as he has in previous games, but probably did as well as he could have under the circumstances.

Jones – Hit and miss from David Jones for me. Picked out some clever passes and was often the player giving Jarvis the ammunition to cause havoc, but he does have the tendency to dawdle on the ball and lose possession in his own half. Certainly looks more comfortable in a five man midfield than a four.

Jarvis – Man of the Match and not just for Wolves either. Easily the most dangerous looking player on the pitch and caused United all kinds of headaches with his pace and trickery. Sir Alex even sent Gary Neville on with obvious instructions to stop our winger getting in behind, but Jarvo just dropped his shoulder and sped passed the veteran without breaking sweat.

Fletcher – Sorry to say it, but Fletch really irritated me throughout this game. Aside from the intelligent flick inside for Foley’s goal, he was largely anonymous and nothing he tried seem to come off. At such an early stage, you’ve got to be willing to put it down to a bad day at the office, but for a £7 million striker, he must do better.

SEB – In stark contrast to Fletcher, SEB really impressed me. Had his work cut out against Chris Smalling but held the ball up when he could, picked out his passes and came within a whisker of finding the back of the net, first with a fierce drive that was blocked on route to goal and then with a sweetly struck effort that flew agonisingly wide with the keeper rooted to the spot.

Mick McCarthy – I applaud Mick for putting out a strong side and giving United a real game, but the substitutions towards the end defied logic. Surely Jarvis and SEB could have managed five minutes more to see if they could win us the game inside the 90 minutes. Fair enough, take them off if we’re into extra-time, but I think I speak for the overwhelming majority of Wolves supporters when I say I’d have liked to have seen those two players given the chance to finish the job.

Man Utd Vs Wolves Preview

When it comes to the League Cup, I’ll hold my hand up and admit I’ve been a fair-weather fan.

I didn’t go to our extra-time wins against Southend and Notts County, nor did I even bother doing a match report for either.

Danny Wellbeck scored the only goal in last season's tie

But now Wolves are heading to Old Trafford competing for a place in the quarter-finals, things have got that little bit more interesting.

So yes, I’m crawling out of the woodwork.

In fact, we all should be, considering Wolves haven’t made it to the quarters since Coca-Cola sponsored the competition 15 years ago.

Come, join me.

Realistically though, what are our chances against the only side in England yet to have been defeated in any competition thus far?

Well, United will be fielding a second-string, so if Mick picks a decent eleven, there’s every chance we could, at the very least, give them a run for their money. He’s been quoted as saying:

“It’s a full strength team that’s going out. There are a few changes from Saturday but it’s a first-team that’s playing – nothing in any shape or manner of a reserve team by any stretch of the imagination.”

I won’t hold my breath, considering he said the same thing last season after he’d changed all 10 outfield players for the league game.

This is something like the team I’d expect to see:

Hennessy

Elokobi
Mouyokolo
Stearman
Foley

Mujangi-Bia
Mancienne
Edwards
Hunt

Fletcher
SEB

Mick is bound to give Hennessy, Elokobi, Mouyokolo and SEB a run-out. Mancienne will be fresh after his weekend off, so he’ll almost certainly play and the remainder are those who either need a game to regain fitness or simply have to play as there’s nobody else.

I wouldn’t expect to see the likes of young Danny Batth starting at Old Trafford, but he and other youngsters could be named amongst the substitutes.

Perhaps Mick will surprise me by picking a stronger eleven, but I imagine he’ll consider Saturday’s home game against City the priority and rest the likes of Doyle, Jarvis and Milijas.

As for a prediction, I feel we’ll probably come up short, as United always seem to find a way of winning these games. Last season, even with a man advantage for nearly the whole game, they still beat us comfortably, which was highly depressing.

I’ll go for 3-2 to United. (This doesn’t count towards the Prediction League by the way. That’s only for Premier League games.)

If you’re making the trip to Old Trafford, have a great time and get behind the lads.

Up The Wolves.

Welcome back Nenad

When Nenad Milijas signed for Wolves in the early summer of 2009, he was arguably the club’s most exciting Premiership signing. Yes it’s true; Kevin Doyle was the club’s record purchase. But it was Milijas that had that hint of the exotic. After all, it was the captain of Red Star Belgrade no less – conjuring images of Dejan Savicevic, Robert Prosinecki and the club that had been champions of Europe as recently as 1991.

However, concerns about the player were there from the outset. The esteemed European scout turned pundit Tor-Kristian Karlsen listed the purchase as one of the worst buys of the summer, describing Milijas as follows:

“Great set pieces but if you want to have a prototype of a player who does not fit English football, you can take out a patent on Nenad Milijas. Classic Balkan playmaker, gifted but about as mobile as a refrigerator.”

There were moments of magic in that first season but, in truth, Karlsen’s assessment proved spot on. The set pieces were there for all to see, never more dramatically than in his appearance off the bench to provide two assists and a valuable point at Stoke City. The gifts were displayed fleetingly but memorably: a thunderbolt against Bolton, a delicious back heel to help win the late penalty versus Aston Villa. And the lack of mobility was evident in abundance – written through every performance he nearly delivered.

And yet the nagging suspicion remained – if the platform for success is in place, Nenad Milijas could still prove an asset. For all the false dawns, the axing and recalls, the bald statistics of Milijas’ Wolves career to date read:

1,532 minutes, 4 goals, 7 assists.

1,532 minutes. The equivalent of 17 games. Extrapolated over a league season it equates to something like 9 goals and 16 assists – a contribution that compares favourably with almost any midfielder in the game.

Nonetheless, it seemed likely that the mercurial playmaker’s days in the Premiership were numbered. Indeed, it was something of a surprise that Milijas was not offloaded in the summer – to France, to Turkey, to Russia … frankly anywhere but England.

And then a funny thing happened. Milijas became useful again. Injury to Adlene Guedioura was followed by the suspension of Karl Henry. Even then, the Serbian man would most likely have been ignored for the visit to Chelsea but for the ineligibility of Michael Mancienne to play against his parent club. As a result, Mick McCarthy was forced to make use of his £2.6m signing – and so he began to talk up the player’s ball retention skills:

“We can’t chase the ball for 90 minutes – we have to keep it. And if we do that, it certainly stops the wave after wave of attacks. Nenad’s a very talented player who can keep the ball and pass it to a shirt the same colour as his. We’ll have to do that because if you just keep giving it back to them by booting it up the pitch, it will keep coming back.”

On the face of it, Stamford Bridge seems the unlikeliest of venues for the Serb to prove his worth. However, he performed admirably and it can hardly have been lost on McCarthy that the player did exactly what was requested of him:

As the Opta data shows, not only did Milijas keep the ball with remarkable ease, he also managed five shots on target as Petr Cech faced what was statistically the busiest afternoon of his Chelsea career. For a team like Wolves, a player who can keep the ball and provide a goal threat is one the club ignores at its peril. It perhaps also requires a re-evaluation of the way Milijas has been used by his employer thus far.

It was always one of the curiosities of Milijas’ 2009-10 season that he was dropped from the side just one game after McCarthy elected to switch to a 4-5-1 formation. The new system proved a success, with fellow left-footed playmaker David Jones to the fore. But after its initial appearance in the home draw against Liverpool, Milijas himself saw just an hour of league action in the remaining four months of the season.

This seems an anomaly for the simple reason that Milijas would appear to be a player made for a 4-5-1 system. The extra man in midfield ensures simple passing options are regularly available and would allow others to do his running. After battling gamely in a 4-4-2, Milijas was discarded just as Wolves began to operate with a formation that may have allowed him to flourish.

Stamford Bridge may have been a false dawn. Nenad Milijas may be out the team again by next week when Henry and Mancienne return. But the weekend was a welcome reminder of the talents of Wolves’ gifted Balkan playmaker with the mobility of a refrigerator.