Archives for February 2011

Remembering Deano

Saturday’s vital win over Blackpool was accomplished against a backdrop of great sadness following the death of our former defender Dean Richards.

It goes without saying that any loss of life is a tragedy but as Mark Lawrenson pointed out on Match of the Day, ’36 is no age’.

Dean Richards - 1974-2011

Anyone who followed Wolves in the mid 90s will remember Deano fondly and the great excitement that greeted his arrival from Bradford City, on loan initially, at the end of the 94-95 season. Rumours that Graham Taylor had seen off interest from Manchester United to secure his signature only served to ratchet up expectation levels further.

We weren’t disappointed.

Not only could this tall, rangy young lad dominate in the air, but he had the pace and footballing brain to effortlessly steal possession and glide forward from defence. His ability was staggering, particularly when compared to the more ‘agricultural’ personnel he had playing alongside him at the time.

I still have the glossy poster, given away free with the matchday edition of the Express & Star, emblazoned with the simple headline of ‘DEANO’ and commemorating his debut in a 1-0 away win at Southend.

Sadly, despite his imperious presence in our back four, that season ended in disappointment with defeat against Bolton in the semi-final of the play-offs. And despite a £1.8 million permanent deal being agreed in the summer that followed, his involvement in a serious car accident restricted his appearances in a gold shirt over the next two years.

However, just prior to those lengthy injury problems, Deano produced the performance that I will always remember him for.

The match was Birmingham City at home and Wolves were 2-1 down heading into the final five minutes. Cue a trademark Deano surge into the box and an obvious trip. No penalty said the ref. Ridiculous. But wait. Still lying on the floor, Deano flicks the ball up and with the most audacious of overhead kicks, cannons the ball against the arm of the bemused defender. Penalty! Genius. Deano you beauty.

Thommo did the rest.

And we know what happened next.

A pinpoint Osborn ball over the top. Bully racing through. He can’t score from there. He has scored from there. Elation. A glorious derby win.

But prior to Bully’s magic, prior to Osborn’s sublime pass, who was it that rose highest to keep Wolves on the front foot? Deano of course.

See for yourselves:

We all know about the injury problems, the famous comeback, the goal against the Albion, the torrid afternoon against Dele Adebola, the bosman transfer and the big money move to Spurs, but more than all of those things, whenever I think of Dean Richards, I’ll remember that wonderful day.

Thank you Deano. Thank you for the memory.

Rest in peace.

* I just stumbled across this tribute video and had to tag it to the bottom. There’s some excellent footage of Deano in action for Wolves, scoring some memorable goals against Derby, Barnsley and of course the Albion.

Wolves 4 Blackpool 0

If this was the high pressure, high stakes, must-win game that Mick McCarthy suggested during the week, his team certainly had no intention of shying away from the big occasion.

From the moment Dave Edwards nipped in to win possession and set in motion the free flowing move that led to Matt Jarvis coolly slotting home the opener, Wolves remained very much in the ascendancy.

About time Jarvo


Edwards was one of two changes to the side that started at the Hawthorns and his limitless energy was infectious, particularly during the frantic early exchanges. The welsh international has been a tremendous asset this season and no more so than today.

Adam Hammill also returned to the starting eleven and it was a great shame to see his afternoon cut short with injury after a string of incisive runs down the flank. Hopefully he’ll be back for next weekend’s game against Spurs.

One player who won’t be taking to the field for that match is of course Jamie O’Hara. The on-loan Tottenham man is ineligible against his parent club and will be sorely missed on the evidence of today’s man of the match showcase.

He went searching for the ball at the beginning of the second half, getting Wolves going when it looked like the tempo had dropped. The packed Molineux crowd certainly appreciated that.

It was he who fittingly put this game to bed, intercepting a stray pass before driving forward and finding the corner of the net with a precise finish from the edge of the box. What a tremendous player this guy is. If we can stay up, he’s exactly the kind of talent we need to elevate us to the next level.

And speaking of the next level, that’s something Sylvan Ebanks-Blake seems to have discovered, finding the net twice in a deserved 30 minute cameo. The first was a trademark poachers finish, arriving perfectly to tap in Kevin Doyle’s pinpoint cross. The second was something special, controlling Stephen Ward’s pass instantly, running clear of the Blackpool defence and planting a superb left foot finish in the corner of the net.

The perfect end to a pleasing afternoon.

Of course it’s fair to suggest that Wolves were substantially aided by DJ Campbell’s petulant sending off just prior to half time, but it’s equally acceptable to point out that we’d been in control long before that unnecessary flash point.

Blackpool had threatened in spells, mainly when benefitting from our defence’s uncertainty in dealing with high hanging balls from deep, but for the most part Wayne Hennessy remained untroubled. He’ll have been delighted to have scooped his fourth clean sheet of the season.

The back four, although stretched at times in the first half, did the simple things well and kept their concentration when it would have been easy to switch off in a relatively straightforward second period.

Karl Henry should also take a slice of the credit for the shutout. He was rightly criticised last week for being sloppy in possession, but was far more assured today and even pulled off two or three fabulous raking passes out wide. We need our captain to be at his best for this vital run in and this was a timely return to form.

17th place is the minimum requirement come May 22nd and as of 5pm on the 26th of February, that’s where Wolves find themselves in the Premier League table.

And whose to say we should settle for the minimum?

Wolves Vs Blackpool Preview

This weekend’s match against Blackpool is a must win. Plain and simple.

After the disappointment of last Sunday’s late collapse at the Hawthorns, Wolves desperately need the points. And with the three sides sitting directly above us facing difficult fixtures, escape from the drop zone is entirely plausible, but only with victory.

Blackpool battled to a 2-1 win back in December

Ian Holloway’s team have struggled of late and were sliding ominously towards the bottom themselves until a fantastic home win over Spurs on Tuesday. That will no doubt have lifted their spirits and filled them with confidence ahead of this fixture against statistically the worst side in the league.

Unfortunately for the Seasiders, they’ll have to make do without their captain this weekend, as Charlie Adam starts a two match suspension. That’s a bonus for Wolves because he’s unquestionably been a star performer in a fantastic season for his unfancied side.

Worryingly, Blackpool’s away form is impressive. They’ve already wracked up 5 wins and 2 draws, plundering 20 goals in the process (that’s double what Wolves have managed). Sure, they’ve also lost 7 matches too, but their ‘have a go’ attitude has unsettled opposition all season. Credit to them for that.

I suppose the quandary for Mick McCarthy is whether or not to bring in a second striker and revert to a more attacking 442 formation. I suspect he won’t, with the logic that if he can keep things tight and stop Blackpool pouring forward, Wolves can create enough chances to score against the second worst defence in the league. Therefore, I think we’ll see the same eleven as last weekend:

Hennessy

Zubar
Stearman
Berra
Elokobi

Foley
Henry
Milijas
O’Hara
Jarvis

Doyle

It’s difficult to know what the right answer is tactically against a side like Blackpool. Do you play them at their own game and attack? Or is that playing into their hands? Do you try to keep things ship-shape defensively and pick them off? Or is that paying them too much respect?

Either way, it will be interesting to see what Mick does.

I would probably start 451 too, but bring Hammill in for Foley and really push the two wingers forward, so it becomes more of a 433. That way, you’re having more of a go but not leaving yourself too open.

Prediction League

Well done to Bagsy for being the only person to pick up the maximum by predicting 1-1 at the Hawthorns. 7 others went for the draw but none got the score.

I’ll back Wolves this weekend I think.

We’re long overdue a decent win and when I say a ‘decent win’, I mean a game where we’re not clinging on by our finger nails in the 94th minute.

We’re strong at home (albeit not against the sides around us) and with Charlie Adam being out, I think we’ll do it.

3-1 Wolves.

If you’re going, get behind the lads. I think it’s a sell out at Molineux on Saturday, so it should be a great atmosphere.

Up The Wolves.

* Just a quick mention for my friend’s excellent online gift shop that’s selling Mothers Day gifts, so make sure you’re ready for April 3rd!

Stop all the clocks

A picture to paint a thousand words

Remember that picture of the jubilant Wolves fan, cuddling Bully through the window of the Waterloo Road home dressing room, as our hero celebrated in ‘88?

Those were the days my friend…

The days when supporters not only shared in players’ successes, but broke down the boundary of a football stand to do so.

They were the days when a Continental GT or a diamond earring was a mere twinkle in a camaraman’s lens.

Good times.

Pretty much the polar opposite of Sunday at the Hawthorns, when the white vested Carlos Vela inflicted the most painful blow of all – a blow that no amount of past experience could soften.

The morbid, satanic inevitability of it made the eyes well up.

Partly through Mick’s imbecilic substitutions, and partly through a generation of hapless cock-ups against our arch rivals, including a Keith Curle own goal, a Keith Curle penalty miss, four defeats in one season, the South Bank invasion and that capitulation in 2002.

Even Rob Hindmarch’s finest hour has been consigned to the dustbin now, as the Mexican hit the same square inch of netting from the same spot at the same Smethwick End at the same stage of the game – only this time, in a meaningful game.

Yet even the desecration of my all time favourite Wolves memory – as an official mascot to boot – doesn’t hurt as much as what has followed.

It does its best to render time as an incapable healer and proves beyond any reasonable doubt that the modern game has nothing in common with the hard suffering fan.

It’s the unadulterated bullshit.

Not from the crowing Albion supporters, but the regional newspapers and twee little social networking sites that order me to think of the positives and get behind the boys.

Back in 1987, David Instone would paint the real picture for the Express & Star, while Graham Turner would offer a far more succinct crumb of comfort in far less words.

It is like George Orwell has never been away, as reams of mind numbing drivel is thrust in front of our teary eyes, booting us up the arse with a cruel call to action.

Just tell us all to pull ourselves together and snap out of it why don’t you?

Any moron masquerading as a reporter who dares to write a single quote from Mick McCarthy saying we must be positive can ram their chewed up biros up their arseholes.

‘Mick keen to point out the positives,’ yelps the headline.

On Saturday night, ‘Mick says defeat will relegate Albion.’

So get this then! We’re 30 seconds from condemning our most hated rivals to effective relegation when we make the biggest pig’s ear of defending since Stuart Naylor was available in instalments, and we’re all told to take a big fat positive from it all?!

Can someone, somewhere, tell it like it is, or stop insulting the intelligence of every Wolves fan to have ever shed a tear in 2002. Or 1988 for that matter.

West Brom 1 Wolves 1

Has a draw ever felt more like a defeat?

Given the intolerably cruel nature of Albion’s last-gasp leveler and the significance of what would have been three precious Premier League points against bitter rivals and fellow strugglers, I can only muster a barely audible ‘no’.

This was gut-wrenching disappointment in it’s purest form.

Sadly though, the conclusion to this particular Black Country was all too predictable given that Albion had been camped inside our half for practically the entire second 45.

Don't worry Jamie. I'll remember it.

They deserved their equaliser, make no mistake about that.

If Wolves had held on it would have been because Roy Hodgson’s side continually fluffed their lines in front of goal, not because we merited the win.

Still, huge credit should go to our back four, as they pulled off a string of fine interceptions, perfectly timed tackles and vital blocks to keep Albion at bay throughout the second half siege. Had it not been for Zubar, Stearman, Berra and Elokobi, that late goal might well have been a winner rather than an equaliser.

Wayne Hennessy flapped at a few crosses, but was commanding for the most part. He’ll be disappointed not to have turned the initial shot around the post that led to Carlos Vela administering the heartbreaker.

By that point of course, Mick had already made some baffling tactical changes, in particular bringing on SEB in place of Milijas. The plan was obviously to press Albion higher up the pitch and not allow them to build attacks. Sadly, this backfired badly, as they continued to pour forward at will, but with extra room to maneuver in our final third.

I believe that significantly contributed to our downfall.

In fact I’d go as far as to say that if we’d still had that extra midfielder on the pitch for those crucial dying moments, Albion wouldn’t have got their goal. Some may disagree.

Of course we can discuss failing tactics all day long, but if Jarvis converts when clean through at the start of the second half, I think we’d all be smiling right now. Sadly, our speedy winger has an unfortunate knack of missing glorious chances at crucial moments and again today, I feel it’s cost us.

He probably should have scored away at Man City when we were 1-0 up, he definitely should have scored in the opening minutes against Bolton a few weeks back and today made it a hat-trick of wasted opportunities. How costly could all that be come May?

I’m being harsh on Jarvis for sure, but we simply can’t afford such profligacy.

What makes this result even more tragic is the fact that Jamie O’Hara’s exceptional strike wasn’t a winner. Without question, if ever a goal has been worthy of deciding such an important match, that was it.

I personally thought the on-loan Tottenham man had a fantastic game. Sure, it didn’t suit him to constantly track back, but when he got a foot on the ball, his first touch, ball retention and passing range were all exceptional. More of the same please Jamie.

He was probably the pick of our forward-thinking players.

Doyle for me was far from his best. Jarvis was superb in the first half but faded out completely after his horror-miss at the start of the second. Milijas was neat and tidy as you’d expect and it certainly came as a surprise to see him withdrawn so early in the contest. He’s a player who can put his foot on the ball and slow the tempo. I think we missed that when he went off.

As it was, Albion were able to keep the ball flowing towards our goal, eventually benefiting from the slice of luck they merited to take home a share of the points.

‘Typical’ was all I could muster at full-time and I stick by that succinct assessment, because it really is just typical of Wolves, particularly this season, to come within whisker, yet ultimately fail to deliver.

However, when the dust settles on this result, it might not seem quite so soul destroying. Sure, it’s achingly disappointing right now, but it wasn’t a loss, even if it feels like one and a win next week against Blackpool would certainly change the mood.

Like it not, we have to take our medicine, move on and carry on scrapping to the death.

Our season doesn’t end here. It starts.

West Brom Vs Wolves Preview

If this game had gone ahead back in December it would have been a midtable side (seemingly coasting towards safety) against a team struggling to keep their head above water at the bottom.

And even though Wolves remain firmly entrenched in the relegation zone we now find ourselves within touching distance of an Albion side that have only mustered one win in their last ten Premier League outings.

It's about time we had something to celebrate

In fact, a two goal victory for Mick and the boys at the Hawthorns on Sunday will see the old gold leapfrog the Baggies in the table, ejecting us from the bottom three in the process. Do we even dare to contemplate such a dream scenario?

Given Albion’s form, you have to say it’s possible.

But given that seemingly anything is possible when it comes to Wolverhampton Wanderers, the outcome of the first ever Premier League Black Country derby becomes painfully difficult to predict.

Or you could say it’s ‘beautifully balanced’.

Either way, I’m bricking it.

You just can’t help but feel that this will be one of the defining game of our topsy-turvy season and if Wolves are going to dig themselves out, now has to be the time to start. This is the moment.

Much like ourselves, Albion’s home form is decent, considering where they find themselves in the table. They’ve won five games at the Hawthorns this season and will be hopeful of making that six against the team with the worst away record in the league.

Still, they’ve conceded more goals than anyone else in the Premiership and that’s got to give Wolves hope of finding the net at least once come Sunday.

I’m expecting to see the same eleven that lost to Arsenal last Saturday, which would mean a team of:

Hennessy

Zubar
Stearman
Berra
Elokobi

Jarvis
Henry
Milijas
O’Hara
Hammill

Doyle

That would also be the team I’d pick.

However, it really wouldn’t surprise me if Mick pulled a rabbit out of the hat and played 442, bringing SEB, Fletcher or even, dare I suggest it, Ward, back into the starting lineup. Stephen Hunt could also feature if he manages to recover from the calf injury he picked up against Stoke a few weeks back. Without question, he’s perfectly suited to this type of encounter.

Prediction League

Well done to thornedog, Philly Pete and Rich for all correctly predicting a 2-0 Arsenal win last time out. You all pick up 3 points for your efforts. A handful of others also got the outcome without the score.

When this game was originally scheduled back in December, I said Wolves would win it and I’m sticking to my guns now.

Sure it’s Roy Hodgson’s first game but that doesn’t necessarily give them the boost everyone’s anticipating. Wolves only away win to date came against Hodgson’s Liverpool, so perhaps that’s an omen that we’re destined to grab another three points on Sunday.

I think if Wolves can hold it together at the back, not make any suicidal errors and get players like Jarvis, Milijas and Hammill into the game, we’ve got a brilliant chance.

I really believe we’re going to do it. 3-1 Wolves.

If you’re entering the dragon’s den on Sunday, have an amazing time, get right behind the lads and lets bring home the points. A victory at the Hawthorns is long, long, long overdue.

Up The Wolves.