Archives for July 2011

Learning lessons

All men make mistakes, but wise men learn from them.

As prophetic quotes go, not many hit the spot better than this offering from Winston Churchill, which has rarely offered such poignancy to a British sports fan right now.

Take England cricket opener Alastair Cook, who could have coined the phrase himself had our great Prime Minister not got there first.

George will almost certainly start the season as first choice

His head scrambled and his technique beset by indecision, Cook’s form suffered so alarmingly in ‘09 that many begrudged him a seat on the Ashes plane.

By the time the last ball of the series was bowled in Sydney, the Essex opener had scored three centuries (one a double), averaging 127.66 runs per innings and a run total for the series of 766, the second highest by any English batsmen.

The secret? A return to the uncluttered principles that got him into the team in the first place, hours of winter work with Graham Gooch and some bedtime reading of a motivational book, which pins faith in the law of attraction, apparently!

Those with shorter memories and a preference for golf could look at Darren Clarke, who made winning the Open look easier than a pitch and putt round Bantock.

Major-less after 20 years of majestic ball striking, the Ulsterman had suffered enough and did some thinking with sports psychologist Bob Rotella.

‘If I don’t hit it to a foot, I’m not going to make any birdies,’ said Clarke, before hooking up with the American and draining dozens of knee tremblers to supplement his faultless tee-to-green play.

Cue iconic claret jug, a week-long Guinness fueled bender and a place in golfing history.

As Wolves embark upon a third season in the Premier League, I hope Mick has taken note.

If a report in yesterday’s Express & Star is anything to go by, then the worry is that he hasn’t, as he declares that no more signings are likely this window, just minutes after watching Celtic’s James Forrest rip George Elokobi to bits at Parkhead.

Just days after Curtis Thompson did likewise for Notts County. Just months after the Premier League exposed our perennial left back frailties.

It is true that the time to be a Wolves fan has never been better.

It is also true that in many supporters’ eyes, a competent, reliable left back is all that is required to complete Mick’s otherwise commendable Premiership jigsaw.

Unless I am mistaken, Jermaine Pennant, Nathan Dyer and Marc Albrighton will all be lacing their boots again like last season, not to mention Valencia, Hoilett, Lennon, Ashley Young and co.

To sit back and hope teams won’t exploit the weakness for a third successive season would be folly.

A bit like Alastair Cook praying for a series of full tosses.

Celtic 0 Wolves 2

Wolves Blog regulars Andrewwfc and Super Kev Doyle tootled along to Parkhead last night to take in Wolves’ pre-season friendly with Celtic. A big thanks to them both for being kind enough to contribute this fine account (Andrewwfc words, SKD pictures I believe).

View from the away end

Pre-season friendlies are generally pretty low key affairs. Designed to get a bit of match practice in before the big kick-off, whilst desperately trying to avoid injury to key players, the result is usually a less than engaging prolonged training session.

Even before kick-off you got the sense this game might be slightly different. For a start, we were playing a Celtic team who had already begun their domestic campaign.

The Wolves support was impressive, selling-out our allocation of tickets. And any doubt was swiftly removed by a crunching Thomas Rogne tackle on Big George after just ten minutes; this was going to have a bit more bite than a typical pre-season game.

Mick McCarthy had acknowledged as much in his pre-match interview, stating “Celtic is the one that everyone wants to play in, that’s for sure…the one the players are all excited about”. As such, his team selection was intriguing:





Although a 4-4-2 on paper, in attack Kightly tended to drift more in-field to play in the hole behind Fletcher and Doyle, with Fletcher moving further to the vacant right flank. This resulted in a 4-3-1-2 with Henry lying deeper, O’Hara directing the play from midfield, Hunt adding width and Kightly linking up play with the two forwards.

With the possible exception of the injured Jarvis, who’d be surprised to see a vastly different starting XI at Blackburn?

Wolves started brightly, with Doyle and O’Hara linking well. Doyle in particular looked lively, harassing defenders and chasing loose passes with his usual enthusiasm.

The opener came after a swift passing move involving Doyle, O’Hara and Kightly, a promising combination throughout the first-half. Hunt was played through only to be brought down and O’Hara duly despatched the resulting free-kick with pinpoint accuracy.

Over 700 Wolves supporters took in our second win of pre-season

As if to underline the more competitive nature of this friendly, Wolves first changes came on the hour mark, with Ward and Hammill replacing Fletcher and Hunt and Wolves’ second swiftly followed. Ward latched onto a Doyle through ball, beat his man and sent in a low, fizzing cross which was accidentally bundled in at the back post by Celtic’s Twardzik.

The last fifteen minutes or so ebbed away with the usual multitude of substitutions, although Hennessey also deserves a mention for an assured performance with two fantastic close- range reaction saves.

In general, this was a very promising prelude to the new season, with the occasional cause for concern. With the exception of Johnson, who looked every inch the solid signing we hope he’ll prove, question marks remain over the rest of the defence.

Berra gave away the usual string of needless fouls, and Stearman isn’t a full back. He’s just not. Elokobi, whilst appearing surprisingly comfortable on the ball and making some encouraging foraging runs, still got skinned one too many times by Celtic’s right winger.

However, as stated earlier, you can’t read too much into a preseason friendly. With two goals, none conceded and, probably most importantly, no injuries, there was much to be pleased about at Celtic Park.

*Two unrelated notes:

1. Three rows in front of us sat a group containing, if the elated fan sat next to me is to be believed, Jamie O’Hara’s better half. She definitely got a warm reception from the crowd!

2. There was nothing “friendly” about walking away from Celtic Park in a Wolves shirt. Just glad I don’t speak Scottish…

The kids are alright

Ask any football fan about the most heart-warming sight that they can associate with and a rags to riches tale about a local lad doing good will not be far from their lips.

Tough to qualify, but glaringly obvious in the chests of Liverpool fans whenever Gerrard excels. Ear splittingly obvious whenever Robbie Fowler would score.

Mark Davies - the last Premier League player to come through our academy

Such decibel levels have seldom been heard on Merseyside since, save for Dan Gosling’s FA Cup goal against the Reds at Goodison, or Jack Rodwell’s snorter at the Gwladys End against United.

It’s a shame for us Wolves fans that we’ve got nothing to compare, not least because we’d dine out on such memories for years and years to come.

After all, we all know where we were the day Robbie Keane shone in brilliant white away at Norwich, while we might even remember Matt Murray’s less illustrious debut at Selhurst Park against Wimbledon.

I can even recall two youth inspired moments that ended in disappointment! Mark Little’s barnstorming run against Sunderland at Molineux when teeing up Leon Clarke for obligatory scuff and Dan Jones’ free kick at Burnley in August 2006 which smashed the woodwork.

Maybe it’s a sign of the unforgiving Premier League that renders so many promising youngsters so readily dispensable at Molineux. Maybe Mick could blood them a bit more liberally in the inevitable cup games that will arrive. Maybe they’re just not good enough.

One thing is undeniable: The Academy should be producing far, far more first team regulars in 10 years than Murray, Lescott and Hennessey. Particularly when Aston Villa can boast more today in one single game.

Many Mick detractors have used this topic as a stick to beat him with over the years and will continue to do so when he opts for Mujangi Bia, Leigh Griffiths, Kyel Reid and co over some young and hungry kids closer to home.

(And I won’t even go into the Mark Davies debacle for the sake of railroading this blog!)

David Davis

I’d prefer to stick to the old adage that if they’re good enough, they’re old enough. I’m sure Mick does too, which is why Zele Ismail is still to make any meaningful impression.

So with all this in mind, I’ve gathered some feedback on the prospects of David Davis, Scott Malone and Sam Winnall, who all showed signs of real progress while on loan at Shrewsbury Town, Burton Albion and Burton Albion respectively.

David Davis: (from Shrewsbury Town season ticket holder Greg Jones)

David Davis was a superb signing, far too good for League 2. Getting him and Wroe into our midfield turned the season round as we were going nowhere fast. He was a breath of fresh air, a guy at this level who looks up and can play a good pass to feet, definitely has a good future whether it is with Wolves or elsewhere.

He isn’t ready for Wolves team yet but a season on loan would benefit both clubs a lot and once he has had 50-70 games you might have a very good player on your hands. Just needs the experience to go with his undoubted talent.

Scott Malone (from Burton Albion press officer)

Before this report, check out his goal for AFC Bournemouth in pre-season, who he is now on loan to. Wow!

Scott joined the Club on an initial one month loan in October, making his debut at left back against Bradford City where he was the man of the match. Due to the injury of regular left back Paul Boertien, Scott continued in the position and his loan was extended until January.

Scott continued to be a regular in the team his loan was extended until the end of the season. For the closing months of the season Scott played as a left sided attacking midfielder, suiting his natural talent going forwards.

He was called up to the England Under 20 squad but was forced to withdraw through illness. Scott scored his only goal for the Club in the 1-1 draw away at Southend in the penultimate game of the season, the point ensuring Burton Albion’s survival in the Football League.

Sam Winnall (from Burton Albion press officer)

Sam Winnall

Sam also joined the club on an initial one month loan deal and scored his first goal for the Club away at Wycombe Wanderers in a 4-1 defeat. This goal was Burton Albion’s 100th goal in the Football League.

Sam continued to play regularly and after scoring twice against Lincoln City in a 3-1 victory his loan deal was extended until the end of the season. Sam also scored a vital late penalty against Macclesfield Town as the Club earned a much needed 3-2 victory.

Unfortunately a straight red card for Sam away at Bury sidelined him for three matches but he returned to make a substitute appearance in the final game of the season.

Not sure all this sheds too much light, but all good food for thought.

Will these three ever make the step up? History would tell us no, but it feels that along with Ebanks-Landell, Danny Batth, Mendez-Laing, Johny Gorman and co, the conveyor belt is certainly moving in the right direction.