Archives for March 2011

Newcastle Vs Wolves Preview

If Wolves needed bringing back down to earth after a sensational victory at Villa Park, the loss of Kevin Doyle certainly did the trick.

To be without our heroic lone frontman, potentially for the rest of the season, might well have a cataclysmic effect on our survival ambitions.

'Dirty Wolves' took a bite out of Newcastle at Molineux

But as we head to St. James’ Park looking to extend the unbeaten run to five games, Mick McCarthy will be confident, as he always is, that the squad can cope.

Newcastle themselves are still adjusting to life without a top striker, following the sale of Andy Carroll to Liverpool back in January and you sense they’re a team very much limping to the finish line rather than sprinting home.

Of even more encouragement is their poor record on their own ground, with only four wins all season against six draws and five defeats. Hardly a fortress, even though they’ve plundered 32 goals at home, which is only bettered by Manchester United.

With all this considered surely there’s never been a better opportunity to return from the Tyne with a positive result?

The Wolves XI should pick itself, save the one enforced change up front, which I strongly believe will signal a return for Sylvan Ebanks-Blake, who scored a superb goal in the feisty game between the two sides back in August. That means a team of:

Hennessy

Foley
Berra
Stearman
Elokobi

Hammill
Henry
Milijas
O’Hara
Jarvis

SEB

That’s definitely the team I’d pick too, although I’ll certainly have no objections if Steven Fletcher got the nod up front. Both he and SEB deserve the chance to shine in Doyle’s absence.

I do hope that Mick doesn’t adjust the shape as there’s a lovely balance to the midfield at present and I’d hate to see that compromised.

Prediction League

12 of you wise gentlemen correctly predicted victory at Villa Park last time out but only one person got the score too, so well done to Casper. Three points are yours my friend.

I’m jumping on the positivity bandwagon this weekend too and plumping for another barnstorming away win.

This is a good time to be playing Newcastle and I think we’ll get the job done.

Let the good times roll. 3-1 Wolves.

If you’re heading up to the land of Toon this weekend, have a great time and get right behind the lads. If it’s anything like the first fixture at Molineux earlier in the season, it should be interesting to say the very least.

Up The Wolves.

Opportunity calling

Kevin Doyle limped off in the Rep of Ireland’s 2-1 win over Macedonia last night and reports surfacing this morning are that his season could well be over. Medial knee ligament damage is the prognosis and an early estimate of two months on the sidelines is being thrown around.

If that is true, it’s a hammer blow to Wolves, particularly as Doyler and team with him in it has been hitting top form in the last month or so. And anyone who suggests his absence from the eight remaining games doesn’t have the potential to decimate our chances of survival is fooling themselves.

But unlike last season, Wolves are (hopefully) equipped to deal with the loss, with two strikers who have proved in recent weeks that they’re capable of producing the goods.

Now is the time to shine

So, step forward Steven Fletcher and Sylvan Ebanks-Blake.

Oh, but before I continue, let me address the issue of Ward. Surely even Mick wouldn’t stake our survival on his favourite squad-player when he’s got his resurgent number 9 and a bloke he paid £7 million for in the summer waiting in the wings?

Yes, Wardy came in and did a great job alongside SEB for the games against Blues and Liverpool in December, but deploying him as a lone striker in a 4-5-1 formation is unthinkable, particularly with two fit and highly-capable alternatives on standby.

I could very well be proved wrong, but I don’t think on this particular occasion our manager will turn to the prodigal son.

With that put to one side, I’m putting my full-support behind SEB to start up front at Newcastle next weekend.

I think his game is better suited to the lone-striker role than Fletcher’s and he’s shown a real appetite this season to up his game and scrap for every ball. We need that kind of desire with eight cup finals still left to play.

But more than that, SEB is evidently stronger and quicker this time around. When the ball is played into him, it’s sticking and when he gets a chance, you feel like he’s going to take it. This marriage of improved confidence and ability has transformed a player that many wrote off last season.

More than anyone, he deserves his chance.

Steven Fletcher brings a very different set of skills to the table and his close control and ability to emerge from tight spaces with the ball could come in very handy. There’s definitely an argument to say he should be deployed as our lone striker at St. James Park, but I just feel long balls up to him won’t stick.

I’m also not entirely convinced he’ll give as much for the cause as SEB and we need maximum effort from everyone between now and the end of May.

But that of course is just my opinion.

What’s yours?

Three lions or one wolf?

It wasn’t so much the crushing annihilation of England in the Aviva Stadium last weekend that brought this old hypothetical poser back out of the locker, but the grating jingoism that came with Ireland’s emphatic rugby win.

No sooner had Brian O’Driscoll underlined his status as an ethereal outside centre than the tub thumping, badge kissing quotes were offloaded like a Gilbert size 5.

Club vs Country

According to wing Simon Trimble, Ireland captain Paul O’ Connell’s pre-match speech was laden with anti-English venom.

“I can’t give too much away about what exactly he said and I’d be paraphrasing, so I couldn’t do him justice. It was very inspirational though…Real hatred.”

With self gratifying anecdotes like these in rich abundance ever since Saturday March 19, I issue the following conundrum ahead of England’s Euro qualifier with Wales.

If given the choice, which success would you rather bask in as a football fanatic?

The Wolves to gloriously defy their critics (and wage bill) by staying in the Premier League this season, or for England to win Euro 2012?

Forgive the possible monotony of having to consider this one, as it may well have been done to death on the school playing ground or the sixth form common room.

I just find the question so timelessly teasing.

While none of us know what the implications of a season in the ‘Leccy League will have on our beloved club, isn’t it worth the short-term sacrifice for the sight of our national team defining an entire generation and sticking Braveheart and his mates back in their box?

Sure, the misery of 25,000 Albion fans crowing would hurt, while another 20,000 Blues fans smirking would rub salt into the wounds, but compared to millions of Welsh, Irish, Scottish, French, laughing at us and there is no comparison, surely.

It feels like yesterday when my brother-in-law and I were in a sleepy little town called Enniskillen on the cusp of Northern Ireland for the biggest weekend of his life. He was getting married and it just so coincided with England’s Euro 2004 qualifier with Portugal a few days earlier.

Blissfully unaware of the geographical tempestuousness of such a place, we bounded into Willy McRamblers to watch the game at a ‘warm and welcoming local pub.’

To say there were more replica Portugal shirts than V-necked T-shirts was an understatement.

A sea of bitter, contorted faces spat bile into their beers as they compensated for their own country’s pathetic underachievement by basking in our obligatory near miss.

At the point Vassell fluffed his lines from the spot, we thought Steve’s wedding was the very definition of wishful thinking, as the footballing gods stuck two big fingers in our faces and zoomed back home to Sepp, leaving us alone to face the music.

Of course, John Terry doesn’t bring the brilliant white out of our national shirt, while Ashley Cole is too busy at the rifle range to trouble himself with wearing the jersey in the first place.

But isn’t it understandable to crave success at a major tournament for the first time in 45 years over any other domestic success currently available in the game?

Moreover, does it make you a bad Wolves fan if a tiny part of you would swap the success of the next two months for the elation of next summer to last a score year and ten?