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:

—————Hennessey——————–

Stearman—Johnson—Berra—Elokobi

Kightly—–O’Hara—–Henry—–Hunt

————-Doyle——Fletcher————-

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.

Walsall and Notts County wrap-up

A big thank you goes to Mark Davies, who kindly took on the role of our roving reporter, making the journeys to Walsall last Wednesday and Notts County over the weekend. Here’s what he made of the action.

Walsall

Desperately needing a football fix, and wanting to add the Bescot Stadium to the list of football grounds I’ve visited. I slopped off early from work in Chesterfield, had a cup of tea with my 86 year old mum in Walsall, then went to the match.

I am always surprised by the enthusiasm of Wolves fans who turned up in numbers far too many for the incompetent stewards at the Bescott. It’s a joke really that they had to put back the kick off by ten minutes to get all the Wolves fans in.

Kightly scored the opener at the Bescot

It was wonderful to see the gold shirts, hear the chanting and the crack from the fans. There was nothing really in the first half to get excited about but I’d make the following points:

Danny Batth looks good enough for the first team, give him a go.

Why did we spend 45 minutes hoofing long balls for SEB, and the even smaller Griffiths? They never won a header and against big defenders they never would. Seems bonkers to me. There was no height in the side.

Poor in midfield with Foley out paced, out muscled and unable to control the game in any shape or form. Surprised by his new contract extension, surely he was one who could have gone?

Big George surged past his marker and crossed from the goalline for a tap in goal, why doesn’t he do this more often? With his pace and physicality it’s a threat not utilised often enough.

Mackens’s goal would have graced any game. I missed Walsall’s second goal but the service for my coffee and kitkat was better than the service on the pitch to our front men.

Griffiths has pace but is lightweight, whether he will ever play first team is debatable.

The second half was far more entertaining and we looked far more threatening. The best comment from a chap behind me was that saying a player was the best left back in football, was like having a lesser type of sexually transmitted disease. However I’d make the following points.

Unbelievable Ward came on to play left wing before Jarvis or Hammill, before going to left back. George looked ok though.

David Davis looks a player, mobile, pacy and tenacious, he could replace certainly Foley or be back up for Henry in midfield.

It was only when Hammill, Jarvis and Doyle came on and added their pace and movement to the game that we looked a class above the opposition.

We still lack pace in central defence although the right back who came on looks very tasty.

Milijas can still spot and make passes no-one else at the club can.

It was only a pre season friendly being used for fitness purposes. Enjoyed my football fix, don’t think we learnt anything new as many of our big name players were not involved. Winning was a bonus, although I left 15 minutes early as I had over an hours drive home.

Notts County

On a beautiful sunny afternoon with perfect conditions for a football match, MM picked what may well be his first pick eleven for the coming season.

For 45 minutes the Wolves fans present were treated to a super show of football which should have provided more goals. Playing 442 with Doyle and Fletcher combining very well, chances came thick and fast.

The defence was very assured and in midfield with Henry winning his tackles, we had plenty of the ball to play with. O’Hara was excellent but for me the standout performer was Hammill whose one touch play, movement and ability to see a pass was of the highest order.

O'Hara was back in action at Notts County

Zubar physical presence and pace always makes a difference, and our defence overall coped very efficiently with everything the opposition tried. If it had been a boxing match the referee may have stopped the game.

The second half rang the changes and we had the passing but only Kightly was providing any movement, and unfortunately neither Keogh or SEB could hold onto the ball to help build attacking play.

David Davis was probably the standout performer in the second half but apart from big George no-one else looked anywhere near the starting eleven.

In conclusion probably the best pre season first half performance I can recall for a while, a big step forward from the Walsall game. The one touch passing and movement of O’Hara and Hammill was a revelation, the link with Doyle and Fletcher looks very promising and lets hope its agood omen for the first game at Blackburn.

Mick McCarthy – 5 year review

It’s been widely documented that today marks Mick McCarthy’s five-year anniversary as manager of Wolverhampton Wanderers football club.

And what a five years it’s been, for the club, for the supporters and for the man himself.

It was low-key arrival for Mick

Here’s a brief summary of my opinions on each of Mick’s seasons at the helm.

Year 1 – 2006/07

Greatest success – Picking up the tatters after Glenn Hoddle’s traumatic era, building a team with little to no resources and miraculously getting us into the play-offs. We lost 4 out of 5 encounters with Albion but the memory of Jay Bothroyd’s goal and Matt Murray’s heroics in the 1-0 home win will never be forgotten.

Greatest disappointment – Getting tonked at home to Albion in the FA Cup was probably the low point (not least because of the ‘Pie and a Pint’ debacle) but everyone appreciated the club was in transition and our rivals just simply had better players.

Overall – A strong first season at the helm for Mick. I think most fans knew that both manager and players had overachieved. Better times were ahead, particularly with Steve Morgan taking over the reigns from Sir Jack with the promise of investment.

Year 2 – 2007/08

Greatest success – Although this season would ultimately end in disappointment as we narrowly missed out on the play-offs, Mick made several important additions to the squad, bringing in the likes of Foley, Jarvis and SEB, who as we know would ultimately make big contributions to the success that followed. The best match was probably the 3-2 away win at Charlton featuring that goal from SEB and a dramatic late winner from Karl Henry.

Greatest disappointment – Not making the play-offs – simple as that. After doing so well in his first season and bringing in better players, fans expected to make the top six as a minimum. Sadly though, the likes of Kightly and Jarvis both missed huge chunks of the season and the whole Freddy Eastwood saga caused the first serious divide between manager and fans.

Overall – A real low point in McCarthy’s tenure. The fans felt the team was more than capable of making the play-offs but team selections, specifically the constant emission of Eastwood, were pinpointed as a major factor in our failure to do so. Many wanted the manager gone.

Year 3 – 2008/09

Greatest success – Winning the Championship. A whole generation of fans had never seen us lift a trophy but that all changed in 2009 thanks to Mick. Everything just seemed to fall into place. Kightly and Jarvis played were finally paired together and other key additions were made in the form of Sam Vokes, Dave Jones, Richard Stearman and the awesome Chris Iwelumo. These players were ultimately the difference between missing out on the play-offs and winning the league. Mick identified them and brought them in. Simple as.

Promoted against QPR

Greatest disappointment – Not much to quibble about this time around. Some of the performances after New Year were very poor but we got over the line, which was fully deserved having practically sat on top from start to finish. Mick squeezed every drop from the players and got big contributions from everyone.

Overall – Couldn’t have gone better and his stock was at an all time high. However many questioned whether he’d be able to keep Wolves in the Premier League having struggled to make an impact there when manager of Sunderland.

Year 4 – 2009/10

Greatest success – Keeping Wolves in the Premier League. Mission accomplished. A few of the players he brought in, combined with the majority of the Championship-winning side he also assembled got the job done. Convincing Kevin Doyle to sign from Reading was a real coup and the likes of Milijas, Zubar, Mancienne, Guedioura and Hahnemann all made vital contributions to the cause. Mick also made a strong decision in completely switching tactics half-way through, adopting a 451 formation that delivered us our best run of results all season.

Greatest disappointment – Not spending big on a defender. We were linked with everyone during the summer of 2009 but only the unknown quantity of Ronald Zubar and the returning Michael Mancienne were added. We cried out for Premiership experience but got diddly-squat. Money was wasted on the likes of Halford, Surman and The Hoff, who all promised much but delivered zip. Fielding a weakened XI at Old Trafford incurred the wrath of Britain as well as a large group of his own fans.

All smiles after Survival Sunday

Overall – Success. Keeping us up was the challenge and he did that – with games to spare too. You might argue that Portsmouth, Hull and Burnley were poor competition but we finished above two other sides as well. Mick proved he could manage in the top tier and I think more or less everyone was thrilled for him.

Year 5 – 2010/11

Greatest success – Again, keeping Wolves in the Premier League. Some fans wanted more, but I always felt the league was going to be a lot tougher and therefore the challenge was greater. The signings of Hunt and Fletcher looked questionable at the turn of the year, but proved vital come May. His tactics were questioned throughout but he pulled off masterstrokes in the wins over Chelsea, Man Utd, Liverpool and of course, West Brom.

Greatest disappointment – Poor defensive signings for the second consecutive season. Van Damme, dubbed the saviour to our left-back quandary was almost immediately re-branded a midfielder and promptly left on the first ferry home, Mouyokolo barely played but looked a yard off the pace when he did and Mancienne suffered the worst of his three seasons on loan. Again, we begged for proven Premiership class but none was forthcoming. His tactics, whilst sometimes brilliant, were more often strange and seemingly illogical.

Overall – For me – success. Yes, it took basically the last kick of the season to keep us up, but it was a ruddy hard Premier League and to get more points than we did the season prior was a noteworthy achievement. It could have been better, but it could so easily have been worse.

Securing a third consecutive season of top-flight football, when you consider what he inherited is some achievement.

Yes, he’s spent some money, yes, he’s made some mistakes, yes, he’s the most stubborn, belligerent son of a gun you’re ever likely to encounter, but he’s unquestionably the best manager we’ve had for over 30 years.

Fact.

Wolves ay we – the definitive list of yam yams on Twitter

Twitter has become a prominent force in football, with players, journalists and fans all making the most of the social network to communicate.

I myself use it regularly as there are lots of Wolves personnel on there, who are worth keeping up to date with. But having looked around, I don’t think anyone has ever put a list of them all in one place, so I thought I’d have a go.

Here’s a list of current players, former players and other figures from the media worth following if you’re not already. And please feel free to leave a comment or send me an email if there’s anyone you think I’ve missed.

First Team Players

@MrJodyCraddock – Jody Craddock

@MrJamieOHara – Jamie O’Hara

@DaveEdwards4 – Dave Edwards

@GeorgeElokobi – George Elokobi

@StevenFletch10 – Steven Fletcher

@AdleneGuedioura – Adlene Guedioura

@RogerJohnson83 – Roger Johnson

@6ft75 – The Hoff

Youth Team Players

@Danny_Batth – Danny Batth

@Winnall19 – Sam Winnall

@AHemmings40 – Ashley Hemmings

@DavidDavis91 – David Davis

@Mendezlaing – Nathaniel Mendez-Laing

@JakeCassidy – Jake Cassidy

@RobbieJay_ – Robbie Jay Parry

@jordankeane – Jordan Keane

@jon1flatt – Jon Flatt

@GaryONeill_8 – Gary O’Neill

@Jakempton – Jake Kempton

@Jamesspray1 – James Spray

@mccareyA1 – Aaron McCarey

@Benditscotty – Scott Malone

@JohnnyGorman92 – Johnny Gorman

Former Players

@MattMurray20 – Matt Murray

@MStowelly1 – Mike Stowell

@SteveFroggy – Steve Froggatt

@GeoffThomasGTF – Geoff Thomas

@IwanRoberts – Iwan Roberts

@RohanRicketts – Rohan Ricketts

Staff

@Kev_Enright – Kevin Enright (Wolves fitness coach)

@Dreamdrawer – Chris Lane (Wolves groundsman)

@Wolfiewwfc – Wolfie

Media & Bloggers

@OfficialWolves – The Club

@TimNash1 – Tim Nash (Wolves Correspondent for the Express & Star)

@JacquiOatley – Jacqui Oatley (BBC football commentator & Wolves fan)

@GhostGoal – Adam Bate (Sports writer, blogger & Wolves fan)

@WWFCfancast – WWFC Fancast (A weekly podcast made by and for Wolves fans)

@BloggerWolf – Louie (Our very own)

And then there’s these undesirable characters…

@BrimfieldBen – Ben

@ThomasBaugh – Thomas

And of course the most important name on the list…

@WolvesBlog

To the best of my knowledge each of these accounts are authentic, but if you learn that any, particularly those of the players, aren’t, then please ping me a message so I can remove them ASAP.