Archives for November 2010

Jelle Van Damme – Numpty!

The word ‘numpty’ has been used a fair bit by our esteemed manager in the last couple of days.

Shame that he didn’t once use it to describe Jelle Van Damme, who can now go down in the annals of history as the worst signing Wolverhampton Wanderers has ever made in its 133 year history (barring Zeljko Kalac).

Fancy a fight Audley?!

It was 1 up to us when we allegedly beat the Baggies to his signature, as our arch rivals had to settle for Nicky Shorey from the Villa. Ha ha, who’s got the last laugh now losers!

Yet after just five months, Van Damme has gone back home in the most anti-climactic farce since Audley Harrison.

Brought in as a savior to our insolvable left back problem, the lean, mean footballing machine soon had us worried when Max Gradel pulled his pants down at Elland Road a dozen times or more.

First impressions last, for sure. Perhaps he saw a load of withered England flags on clapped out cars, circling a withered, clapped out ring road.

We saw the most racked off debut since George Weah got his mate a game for Southampton under Souness.

Maybe he was homesick even back then. Most fans were just pig sick that we still had a gaping hole in our back four that £2.5 million couldn’t fill.

So the question now is, what do we do with the £2.5 million that must now be back at our disposal for the January window?

 It should pay for a chunk of David Bentley’s wages  shouldn’t it? Or even better…a bone fide left back of some description!!

Up for the cup?

When it comes to euphoric, unforgettable victories to treasure, nobody does it better than the FA Cup.

It’s always the same at this time of year. The waft of Deep Heat cuts a warm path to the heart as you recollect some of your fondest footballing memories – often to do with the competition we have won four times.

Last season's cup run ended in humiliation at Selhurst Park

FA Cup third round weekend is football from the old school. Teams going at each other like rabid dogs, fervent supporters so close they are on the pitch, floodlights illuminating the chill and preferably, the sight of a terraced stand or two.

When we heard we had dropped on Doncaster Rovers at the Keepmoat, most of us sighed.

Not me. ‘Tis the stuff that dreams are made of! We might all moan to one another about the prospect, but deep inside we get off on it. The only shame is that the Belle Vue ground isn’t the backdrop for the muck and nettles that will follow.

Bland Premier League theme replaced by a tub thumping local beat; accent of Yorkshire PA announcer thicker than a pie crust and the sight, somewhere, of a cardboard FA Cup covered in tin foil.

If we win, we can moan some more about the injustice of having to go to Doncaster in the first place, which was obviously the most unenviable draw for any club in the history of the competition. As we progress through the rounds, we can all harp on about the day we had to beat Doncaster Rovers at their place in arctic conditions.

If we win, we can enjoy the best Match of the Day programme of the year, watching a Bedlington Terrier or a Vauxhall Motor doing remarkable things in front of a packed grass bank.

Like a 10 year-old kid and his faith in Father Christmas, I still believe in the FA Cup and won’t listen if anyone tells me otherwise.

Come January 8, we will all keep one eye on the game and the other on page 2 of the Premier League table.

I won’t be. I’m going! Most probably in two pairs of thermal socks and a pair of Long Johns.

Why? Because I still remember us scoring three second half goals at Mansfield, O’Neill Donaldson, an injury time Kevin Keen goal at Vale Park and a brave defeat at Brian Clough’s Forest.

I know we all yearn for Premiership survival. But for one weekend I just want a Tony Gubba voiceover, a Lightning Seeds soundtrack and a bit of magic for the good old days.

Wolves 3 Sunderland 2

Ten minutes is a long time in football.

Entering the final stages of this one at 2-1 down, misery had returned, Mick McCarthy was clueless and Wolves were all but relegated.

Yet somehow, by full-time, it was smiling faces, Mick was the hero and the fightback was very much on.

SEB clinically despatched his late chance

Happy days.

And make no mistake about it, our manager deserves a substantial slab of the credit for this result. After all, both his substitutions paid off big time, with Hunt tapping in the equaliser and SEB clinically slamming home the winner in the dying moments.

The gaffer’s influence spread further too. Playing Elokobi in the middle, bringing the awesome Ronald Zubar in at full-back and moving Foley into midfield proved a masterstroke. After all, big George proved to be our stronger center-half, Zubar was man of the match and Foley coolly slotted home the opener. Can’t ask much more than that.

It didn’t all go right though.

Having gone a goal up just after the break, Wolves immediately set about defending like it was the final five minutes. And you can’t camp out in your penalty area when there’s still half and hour to go, particularly against a side with a wealth of attacking options.

We nearly paid the price for that negative approach too, going from a goal up to a goal down in the space of ten horrid minutes. First, Richard Stearman let a flick-on run across his body, allowing Darren Bent to scamper clear and finish emphatically. And when a cross from deep was nodded passed Wayne Hennessy by the unmarked Danny Wellbeck, I think we all feared the worst.

But if there is a lack of quality in certain areas of this Wolves side, you certainly can’t question the character and determination of anyone in a gold shirt. You only have to look at the desire shown by Elokobi, climbing highest to power in the header that lead to Hunt’s equaliser, to see how desperate these players are to turn things around.

Two players you can’t question the quality of are Doyle and Milijas, both of whom conjured sublime passes from nothing, opening the gates for SEB to power home his fourth Premier League goal of the season.

And what a finish it was from our number 9, readjusting his feet in the blink of an eye and taking aim to lift the ball high into the net, gobbling up a chance we quite simply couldn’t afford to miss.

What a moment.

Of course, this crucial win won’t turn our season around on it’s own.

But it’s a start.

And after the last few miserable weeks, I’ll take that.

Wolves Vs Sunderland Preview

With Wolves now five points from safety and hampered by a growing list of injuries, there doesn’t seem much cause for optimism ahead of Saturday’s game against Sunderland.

Following last weekend’s deflating loss at Blackpool, Mick McCarthy is now under intense pressure to deliver a result against his former side, knowing the consequences of another defeat could be severe – both for him and the club.

Wolves won this fixture 2-1 last season

Karl Henry has been ruled out for two months with medial knee ligament damage and with Dave Edwards and Adlene Guedioura already on the sidelines, we have very few options in midfield.

Christophe Berra will also sit this one out having picked up his fifth booking of the season. Still, there’s some good news on the defensive front, as Ronald Zubar could well be named in the squad having completed his return from injury with an hour’s run out for the reserves.

But what of Sunderland?

Well, they’re currently seventh in the table and following that impressive 3-0 win at Chelsea, all eyes are very much on them in their first away match since the victory at Stamford Bridge. Interestingly though, that famous triumph was their only win on the road to date, with four draws and two defeats in their other games away from the Stadium of Light.

In fact, they’ve only won four games in total this season, which just goes to show how important scraping a few draws together can be.

Steve Bruce has his own injury problems to contend with too and will be without his first choice center-half pairing of Titus Bramble and Michael Turner for this one. That’s a massive boost for Wolves as the Mackems have built much of their success to date on a consistent and solid back-line.

The question is though, can we exploit that?

This is the team I think we’ll see from Wolves:

Hahnemann

Foley
Stearman
Mouyokolo
Elokobi

Hunt
Mancienne
Jones
Milijas
Jarvis

Doyle

I’m certain we’ll go 4-5-1 and given our lack of options in defence and midfield, that lineup seems the most likely bet. Mick could opt to throw in Zubar, Ward or van Damme at the back, but I’d be surprised to see any of them recalled. He could also give Fletcher a start on the right side of midfield instead of Hunt, whose struggled in recent games.

Prediction League

Well done to Jed and Stourbridge Wolf for getting the result spot-on last weekend. Special mention to Stourbridge too for correctly predicting Doyle would break his duck against ‘Championship defenders’. No extra points I’m afraid though, especially as you’re rapidly closing the gap on me at the top.

Kowloon Wolf, Exeter Wolf and Martin all picked up a point each for guessing we’d lose, without predicting the correct score.

This weekend, against all better judgment, I’m backing Wolves to get that all important win.

I think we’ll once again struggle at the back against the pace of Bent, Wellbeck and Gyan, so a cleansheet seems unlikely. But I’m hoping this will be the game where a few things come off for our attackers, particularly against a weakened Sunderland defence.

2-1 Wolves.

If you’re going to Molineux this weekend, get right behind the lads and lets really show our support. They need it more than ever.

Up The Wolves.

Free Sunderland ticket up for grabs

What do you get when you cross an Irish woman, an impromptu trip to Dublin and a 2 year-old kid?

You get my ticket to the Sunderland game, that’s what!

My wife is going back to her native homeland for her Aunty’s birthday (rather you than me dear) and it means I’m left holding the baby as I am not prepared to stump up £30 for a babysitter.

So instead of my lovely seat going to waste, I’m offering it out to one of you all to make the most of.

So if you fancy indulging in an afternoon of fun and festivities as we replicate our memorable 2-1 win against the Mackems with a similar brand of attacking football, then just email me at bennyboy.smallman@gmail.com with the words ‘I want to sit in the Billy Quiet stand for free!’

Terms and conditions are: (i) You have to sit next to my old man who will talk to you about golf (ii) You will sit behind some old boys who have to be humoured. One of whom has a big bald head which my spittle often lands on when I’m screaming at the ref. He doesn’t seem to mind (iii) You must offer to buy a coffee for Mike who sits next to my Dad, even though he always buys them himself and gives away free Crunchies (iv) You must join in with shouting ‘SIT DOWN’ at anyone who arrives late. One of the most repetitive gags that the natives can never get enough of.

That’s it I think. Just drop me an email at bennyboy.smallman@gmail.com and if you want my ticket, it’s all yours. Please leave your mobile number too.

I’ll pick a winner at random and will let him or her know by 4pm tomorrow afternoon, with details for Saturday!

Up the Wolves!

What would you do?

The hot topic this week is undoubtedly whether Mick McCarthy should keep his job or not, but whichever camp you’re in I’d like to put that to one side for a moment.

You see, regardless of whether or not our manager gets the boot, we’re pretty much stuck with the same group of players until January.

So I ask the question: what would you do?

Wolves have conceded early in the last 3 games

I’m talking about Saturday’s match against Sunderland and also the four other games leading up to the New Year, which are likely to shape our season.

Here are my thoughts.

Goalkeeper

Up until a few weeks back, Marcus Hahnemann was the almost-undisputed number one, but a shaky run of form culminating in a poor performance in the defeat at Blackpool has had more than a few people championing Wayne Hennessy.

I’d like to see the young Welsh international given another chance at some point, but whilst we’re struggling at the back, I’d stick with Hahnemann. I think we need his experience to come through this horrendous run.

My pick: Hahnemann

Defence

The defence seems to have been the biggest bone of contention to date and despite various players coming in and out over the last few weeks, the end result has remained the same – conceding silly goals.

Kev Foley has played well this season, but must shoulder some of the blame for the early goal at Blackpool. He let Varney gather the ball far too easily and wriggle away to unleash his wonder strike. This might seem cut-throat, but I’d stick Zubar back in there as soon as possible. We’ve missed the Frenchman’s strength, pace and heading ability, not to mention his drive and passion.

The center-back positions for me are easy. Craddock and Berra. Yes, they’re slow. But the simple fact is, we’ve got nobody better. Stearman is superior on the ball but makes the kind of errors in one game you’d never see from Craddock over a whole season. Mouyokolo is unproven but will hopefully emerge as an important player for us as the season progresses. But right now, with everyone fit, I’d revert to the old-guard who defended solidly in the tail end of last season.

Left back is a difficult one. Ward is good on the ball, but cannot defend, particularly against wide players with pace. George is far more solid defensively, but has the tendency to ball-watch at times and struggles with his distribution (although his crossing against Blackpool was much-improved). So which one would I pick? Well, neither actually. I think it’s about time we gave van Damme a run out. I don’t care if he’s heading out on the first available Eurostar in January, we need results right now and this guy has played in the Champions League. I strongly feel he’d tighten us up, particularly from set pieces, as he’s commanding in the air.

This Saturday is likely to see us without three of my four picks, so their replacements are indicated in brackets.

My picks: Zubar (Foley Saturday), Craddock (Stearman Saturday), Berra (Mouyokolo Saturday), van Damme

Midfield

With Karl Henry joining Edwards and Guedioura on the sidelines, we’ve only got three central midfielders left to choose and given that I’d definitely play 4-5-1, I have very little option but to choose Mancienne, Milijas and Jones. Still, that’s not a bad trio of footballers in my opinion.

Out wide, Jarvis is the first name on the teamsheet, but Hunt has been less convincing. Mick has already dabbled with Fletcher on the right-wing and the consensus seems to be that it didn’t work. I’d probably agree with that too, so I’ll stick with Hunt and hope he can lift his game and channel that tenacity into a telling contribution.

My picks: Hunt, Mancienne, Jones, Milijas, Jarvis

Forwards

As I’ve already stated my preference for the 4-5-1, my choice for the lone-forward becomes obvious. Doyle hasn’t matched the giddy-heights of last season yet, but following his late goal at Blackpool he should be feeling a lot better about himself so hopefully we’ll see a much-needed return to top form.

My pick: Doyle

The team

Hahnemann

Zubar (Foley Saturday)
Berra (Stearman Saturday)
Craddock (Mouyokolo Saturday)
van Damme

Hunt
Mancienne
Jones
Milijas
Jarvis

Doyle

The tactics

For some unknown reason, Jarvis has been drifting inside and swapping flanks with Hunt in recent weeks. This makes no sense to me because his best position is, without question, hugging the touchline on the left wing. Yet he only seems to play there when we’re chasing a game, which is perplexing to say the very least. He needs to stay out on the left and we need to just keep picking him out, time and time again.

We saw the impact Milijas can have in an advanced midfield role at Blackpool so we need to get him into forward positions where he can pick out passes and hopefully unleash one or two rockets. The Serb also needs to handle set pieces because his dead-ball delivery is nearly always exquisite, where as Jarvis frequently fails to beat the first man.

So, in essence, that’s what I’d do.

What would you do?