Archives for January 2011

Wolves 0 Stoke City 1

Well, that was horrid.

On another sub-zero weekend, on the decaying Molineux pitch, Stoke came out on top with their trademark brand of agricultural non-football.

20 smackers well spent? Probably not.

Free header anyone?

Wolves for their part were easier on the eye, but only a little, attempting to pass the ball throughout on the uneven surface but rarely penetrating the typically well-organised opposition.

Mick deployed a strong side, resisting the urge to field the fringe and keeping faith with 9 of the players that started against Liverpool. And in many ways, the performance was very similar to last Saturday’s.

Once again, for all the huff and puff, nobody in a gold shirt seemed capable of sticking in the knife.

The only difference being that the strikers can’t blame the service this time.

Ward sent over a delicious ball just prior to the interval that Fletcher could only head against the post.

Sam Vokes was also profligate, guiding a superb inswinging cross from Jarvis straight at Thomas Sorensen, when a bulging net seemed inevitable.

Then finally, in the dying seconds, Milijas wasted the greatest opportunity of all, sending a meek spot-kick towards goal that the Stoke keeper once again repelled with ease.

That would have secured Wolves a deserved replay, but instead the FA Cup journey is over for another season.

Still, we can have few complaints about losing after Robert Huth was inexplicably left all alone in the six-yard box to power home the only goal of the game. It was a moment of slackness in an otherwise solid defensive outing, but again, it’s costly.

It was a dull game truth be told, that only really sprung to life in the final 15 minutes, but it demonstrated the crucial difference between two sides. Stoke, for all their shortcomings, kept things tight and made us pay for a moment of slackness. Wolves switched off at a crucial moment, then failed to capitalise when handed a reprieve.

Frustration was the overriding feeling, summed up perfectly by Mick McCarthy’s touchline rage following the Milijas penalty failure.

It’s quickly onto Bolton now, where we can’t afford wasted chances and hard-luck stories, particularly with a Man United/Arsenal double-header to follow.

We need points. Not excuses.

Wolves complete O’Hara signing

One piece of good news today is the loan signing of Jamie O’Hara from Spurs. Read the full story on the club site here:

http://www.wolves.co.uk/page/News/0,,10307~2279998,00.html

He’s unquestionably an excellent addition to the squad, but hasn’t played a competetive game all season following a back injury. Fingers crossed he can hit the ground running because he’s definitely got the ability.

With the transfer window only open for another 24 hours, is there still time for any further additions? We’ve used up our last loan on O’Hara, so any additional business will have to be permanent.

Wolves Vs Stoke Preview

Stoke visit Molineux for the second time this season on Sunday with a place in the 5th round of the FA Cup up for grabs.

Wolves were victorious against the Potters on the opening day and good value for the win, so a repeat performance from the boys in gold would do just nicely.

Remember when everything seemed perfect?

The two teams have enjoyed contrasting fortunes since that early-season encounter, with Stoke eventually finding some consistency after a terrible start to see themselves safely ensconced in midtable.

Wolves, as we know, have struggled at the bottom and would almost certainly swallow a defeat in this game if it meant victory against Bolton and three precious Premier League points next Wednesday.

Despite this thinking, I believe Mick will field a strong side for, whilst also giving a few players the chance to force their way back into the first team. Depending on injuries, I expect a lineup something like this:

Hahnemann

Doherty
Craddock
Mouyokolo
Elokobi

Edwards
Jones
Henry
Jarvis

Doyle
Fletcher

It’s a shame Hammill is cup tied as I think we’d all like to have seen him given a chance in this one but the likes of Craddock, Henry, Mouyokolo and Edwards would  all benefit from the game time as they work back up to full fitness.

In terms of a prediction, it’s a difficult one to call, as nobody can know for sure (as I write this) how strong either team will be.

But based on the fact that Tony Pulis has been moaning (with justification in my opinion) about the fixture being moved to a Sunday ahead of a Premier League fixture in midweek, I think he’ll make a number of changes. Their away record isn’t that great either, with 7 defeats from 11 league matches. However, this is a cup tie so all that goes out the window.

Neither team will want a replay though and something tells me we won’t need one.

3-2 Wolves.

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

* As always, cup games don’t count towards the Prediction League.

Take a boo son

So, Andy Gray has been sacked by Sky Sports following further revelations of inappropriate conduct.

And what a silly, silly boy he’s been.

Just in case you’ve had your head buried under a rock, both Gray and Richard Keys were recorded making sexist comments about assistant referee Sian Massey prior to Wolves game against Liverpool on Saturday.

Gray - sacked

This footage was then leaked to the media and predictably all hell broke loose.

I won’t rake over exactly what was said, but the long and short of it was that they implied female officials were useless and didn’t even know the offside rule.

If you actually listen to the audio (which I’ve added below), it’s hard to determine whether they’re joking or being serious. It sounds like dark humour to begin with, but a spiteful undertone certainly becomes evident as the clip progresses.

And it’s for that reason that I find myself divided on what I make of the whole mess.

You could dismiss it as ‘banter’ or even point out that they’re entitled to their opinion. Freedom of speech and all that (I’m a blogger. I have to wear the badge).

And it’s not like they said it live on air either. They were caught with their trousers down when they thought nobody was listening. And who hasn’t said something outrageous to their mates in such situations?

Oh and make no mistake about it, Sky punished them for getting caught, not for making the comments. This is a point only further reinforced by today’s developments.

It seems the final nail in Gray’s coffin was a suggestive remark he made back in December towards colleague Charlotte Jackson, which has miraculously ‘just come to light’.

Sky obviously did nothing about this incident at the time, because nobody reported it, because nobody really cared. But fast-forward a month and it’s suddenly red-hot footage because of the media feeding-frenzy.

And for that reason, I have some sympathy for Gray, as I feel this second incident is really a bit of nothing, shown out of context to maximise effect.

However, I don’t agree or condone his comments prior to the Wolves Liverpool game, particularly if he intended them to be taken seriously.

And I’m not surprised Sky have taken a hard line either. They have to look after themselves, protect their image and be seen to be doing what’s morally right.

Gray should have known better. It’s not the first time the sports channel has sacked a pundit for making a close to the knuckle comment.

I’ll never forget sitting in my parent’s front room and watching good ol’ Rodney Marsh making a tasteless joke about the Tsunami in early 2005. My dad turned to me at the time and said ‘He’ll be sacked for that’; a prophecy that was fulfilled the very next day. You plonker Rodney.

Then of course, there’s the infamous ITV ‘N’ word incident, which saw Big Ron given his marching orders for making a racist comment about French centre-half Marcel Desailly. (As a side note, nobody ever mentions that he also called Francesco Totti ‘a little twat’)

The stupidity of all these guys is actually astounding, but I can’t shake the feeling that the lesson to be learned from this hat-trick of broadcasting gaffes isn’t to avoid making contentious comments, but to make sure you’re not being recorded saying them.

Say what you like. Just don’t get caught.

* By the way, I recognise that this article isn’t specifically about Wolves so forgive my artistic license. There are a few tenuous links but mainly, it’s just to mix up the conversation for a day.

Trust and transfers

Ask Sir Clive Woodward, Andy Flower or even those five Mosconi Cup winning reprobates.

Ask them what makes a great winning team and they’ll all utter the same word at some point…Trust.

According to a slogan on a particularly uninspiring office poster – featuring the obligatory golden eagle – if you ‘believe in others you can really fly.’

Can anyone imagine such a sickly soundbite above straight talking Big Mick’s desk?!

Yet the Yorkshireman might share more in common with that cringeworthy poster than we all think – big beak and all.

22 days, 23 days, 24 days...ready or not window, here I come!!

Mick keeping faith in his players, while all those managers around him are losing their jobs, is a trait worth its weight in gold.

With trust, according to my marriage counsellor, comes forgiveness.

George Elokobi’s past misdemeanours could have earned him a one way ticket to Dulwich long before now, while Wayne Hennessey’s frequent dithering in 2009 could have caused many managers to lose their hair, if not the plot completely.

Never Mick. And never have two players looked so much better today. (the list goes on)

Dougie Freedman, one of the newest managers on the merry-go-round, might well show similar traits.

He’ll remember Mark McGhee showing no forgiveness for an alleged training ground bust-up and perceived lack of effort. We all remember what happened in that FA Cup semi-final against Arsenal, as our 12 goal top scorer sat in the stands. (Again, the list goes on)

So as this transfer window stumbles to a particularly underwhelming conclusion, can’t we do some forgiving of our own if Mick decides he doesn’t need to strengthen where we’d like and does things his own way?

Maybe. But maybe a proven, quality defender is showing more trust in the group of players that are serving him so loyally right now.

After all, if there was cash in the pot for Robbie’s wages 12 months ago – not to mention Jelle Van Damme’s £2.5 million – money can not be the issue, right?

Sir Clive Woodward’s conversion of Jason Robinson from rugby league tyro into world class winger was not done to betray his troops, but to make them winners. Eight years on and they’re still winning.

Then there is Andy Flower, whose inclusion of Chris Tremlett mid-Ashes was hardly a lack of trust in Stephen Finn, but an attempt to make him and his colleagues history makers Down Under and national treasures back home.

A new left back by January 31 is no more a betrayal to Stephen Ward as a centre back would be to Berra.

Both of whom gave their all in a gallant defeat at Manchester City last weekend with nine other heroes.

Ignore their need for help – however noble the justification – and they will continue to flap at the wrong end of the Premier League.

Subtly strengthen in the next seven days, and a picture of them next to that golden eagle might not look so sickly after all.

Wolves 0 Liverpool 3

‘We’ve scored 10 goals in three games, we have beaten Liverpool at Anfield already,’ screamed the PA announcer before kick off.

‘We can do it again today, and take a giant leap up the Premier League,’ he yelled.

At 12.44pm, we were everywhere and nowhere baby, so where were the team?

Nowhere. In a performance to rival our hapless Boxing Day no show against Wigan, the lads were at it again, producing a first half performance that Jamie Redknapp described as the worst we will play for a year.

Ball puts a shift into the net

Thirty eight minutes before a solitary shot at goal and a complete inability to string more than two passes together as we lumped ball after ball after ball in the general direction of Doyle and Fletcher.

In some ways, this was worse than Wigan because we didn’t have the ‘early goal ruined our plans’ excuse that was pedalled so idly in the aftermath.

This time, there was no plan.

Liverpool, with their extra man in midfield, cut through the rusty Henry and anonymous Milijas like a hot knife through butter.

And when the two midfield men are having a tough time, our 4-4-2 formation looks as ugly as the Molineux pitch itself.

Speaking of which, how can our state-of-the-art, £1 million surface have ever fallen into such a shocking state of disrepair?

A horse of the year show would struggle to do such damage, never mind a glut of fixtures and reserve games week after week, which the turf hasn’t been subjected to this season.

If Adam Hammill felt intimidated before he stepped onto the ‘grass’, then God knows how he felt when he realised he had to run with the ball at his feet through the terrain for 17 minutes.

Not that this is an excuse for what happened today. Liverpool put paid to the myth that they are a two man team, full of useless, foreign failures.

In Meireles they have a real class act, whose bald pate was head and shoulders above any other player on the ‘pitch’, while Dalglish has added organisation to their previously failing back line, replacing flakiness with feistiness throughout the rest of his team.

And we all know about Torres.

Couple this with a listless home performance and there was only ever going to be one result.

How can Milijas, who ran the Anfield midfield so majestically only weeks ago, look so anonymous? Even Sammy Lee – who covered 24 miles of technical area according to Pro-Zone – looked more proactive.

How can a team, who could all claim to be man-of-the-match contenders at Anfield, look so utterly lost this time around?

Zubar trod water, (or was it the quick sand pitch?) Berra looked ponderous, while Stearman did at least battle on gamely, annoying Torres frequently and catching the eye occasionally, if not the odd divot and ballboy.

Collectively, the back four were inexplicably incoherent, summed up by Zubar’s daydreaming for the first.

Stephen Hunt started the game feverishly, but ended it lost like the rest of his team.

Then there was Jarvis, who played as badly as most can remember, in another showing that defies explanation.

Forget the ‘harsh scoreline’ nonsense. 3-0 was more than fair considering all of Liverpool’s misses in the first half, featuring fine Hennessey saves off Torres and Maxi, not to mention Meireles’s rasper that grazed a post. In reply, we had a Fletcher half chance easily saved.

Liverpool started the second half as they played the first and scored a belter through Meireles. Anyone who dubs his 30 yard strike as ‘unlucky’ is frankly delusional, considering the same player had a one-on-one saved by Wayne within minutes of his wondergoal. Was that unlucky too?

Yes, we created numerous crossing opportunities as the second half progressed, but none in the vicinity of our strikers, whose happy knack of being in the wrong place at the wrong time is starting to grate.

And if we are to keep peppering the box in the games to come, then surely we need a big man who can head a ball with meaning towards the target?

A couple of shots on target in 90 minutes tell their own story.

Adam Hammill at least offered one glimpse of promise on an otherwise unfathomable afternoon.

Of whom, Mick said in ominous belligerence: “He’s going to be a good player for us and will fit in because he’ll work hard and is prepared to put a shift in.”

Our 14th and heaviest home defeat of the season suggests we might need a bit more than hard work Mick, however much we love the lads for it.

Wolves Vs Liverpool Preview

After last Saturday’s spirited defeat at Man City and the convincing midweek triumph over Doncaster, Wolves entertain Liverpool in tomorrow’s early kick-off.

With 8 defeats from their 11 away games to date and only one win, it’s easy to see why Kenny and co find themselves down in 13th place. They’ve picked up more points at home than Arsenal, but their wretched away form continues to derail any possible progress.

Wolves are looking to complete a famous double

Pundits accused Roy Hodgson of employing negative tactics, which is hard to dispute given that they’ve only mustered 8 goals on their travels. So it will be interesting to see whether Dalglish attempts a more adventurous gameplan tomorrow.

They’ll still be without Steven Gerrard, following his sending off at Old Trafford a few weeks back, which is unquestionably a boost for Wolves. He might not have been firing on all cylinders prior to his suspension but we know he’s capable of brilliance.

For Wolves, I expect to see a couple of changes to the side that lost out at Man City, with Karl Henry restored to the midfield and Steven Mouyokolo coming into the back four. That would mean a lineup of:

Hennessy

Mouyokolo
Berra
Stearman
Zubar

Jarvis
Henry
Milijas
Hunt

Fletcher
Doyle

If that does turn out to be the starting eleven, I’d pretty much agree with the selection. I think we’ve got to go 4-4-2 and have a go against a struggling Liverpool defence, but by bringing Karl Henry in to anchor the midfield and picking four proper defenders, we should add some steel.

The subs bench should also be a lot stronger than it’s been in recent weeks, with new signing Adam Hammill likely to be named in the squad. He’ll be hoping to get one over on the club that launched his career.

Prediction League

Congratulations to Stourbridge Wolf for usurping me at the top of the Prediction League table. Although the point he scored for predicting defeat Man City was only enough to draw him level, he takes the lead courtesy of ‘S’ coming before ‘T’.

Unsurprisingly, nobody went for 4-3 to City, but many did forecast the correct outcome along with Stourbridge. So take a bow Kowloon Wolf, Jed, Exeter Wolf, Clive from Houston, Philly Pete, AikiWolves, Dazza in Brisbane, Martin, These are the days and last but by no means least, kwolf.

This weekend, I’m plumping for a draw.

Our home form has been good in general this season and I’m expecting us to give them a thorough examination defensively. However, we still have a propensity for conceding slightly soft goals, which I think will give them a chance.

1-1.

If you’re going to Molineux tomorrow (I hear it’s a sell-out), have a great time and get right behind the lads.

Up The Wolves!