5 things we learnt from defeat at Crewe

Wolves went down 2-1 in their first pre-season friendly at Crewe yesterday, fielding a different eleven in each half.

Every year there seems to be heated debate as to whether the scoreline matters in a game of this nature, but I don’t think there’s a definitive answer.

I certainly understand the argument that it’s a friendly and is more about building up fitness and the manager trying out a few ideas.

But surely any eleven Mick McCarthy puts out should be getting a result against a League Two side?

Doyle was the pick of the Wolves strikers and cracked in a beauty to make it 1-1

I also look back to pre-season 2008/9, where Wolves battered everyone, built up a real head of steam and started that campaign on fire, winning 7 of their first 8 games. That to me isn’t a coincidence.

With that in mind, I won’t be getting my knickers in a twist should defeat at Walsall follow but I’d certainly like to see Wolves pick up a few wins before they head to Ewood Park in August.

Moving back to yesterday’s action, here are 5 of my insights from the goings-on at Gresty Road.

1. Roger Johnson played the first 45 and got turned for Crewe’s opening goal. Despite this, he put in a solid performance by all accounts alongside Berra, winning plenty in the air, making several important blocks and even coming close to getting on the scoresheet himself.

I don’t know about you, but I personally don’t feel Johnson has too much to prove and I feel confident of what we’ll get from him. Yes, he might get put on his backside a few times by a nippy forward, but he’s strong and commanding and won’t give anything away for nothing. I expect he’ll be paired with each of the other three center-halves in upcoming friendlies to see which combination works best.

2. Nenad Milijas was impressive in his 45-minute cameo. Excellent delivery from set-pieces as usual, composed on the ball and came close with a 25-yarder. Despite the permanent signing of O’Hara and the arrival of Johnson making 442 more likely, I want to see the Serb in starting eleven as often as possible. Still the classiest midfielder we have in my opinion.

3. Mendez-Laing started the first 45 and looked strong according to Tim Nash. This lad was on loan at Peterborough last season and by all accounts did very well for them, featuring in 33 matches and scoring 5 times. Could he play some part this season? Would be nice to see him on the bench at least.

I think we’re all desperate to see young talent come through into the first team. Danny Batth, David Davis and left-back Jamie Reckford also featured at Gresty Road, so hopefully one of those lads will see some action this season, with all of them having been out on loan last season.

Although we should probably remember that a lot of our best youth players got game time last pre-season but only managed League Cup appearances inbetween long stints out at lower league clubs.

4. Sam Vokes and Leigh Griffiths both played and wasted decent chances. Can either of those players make an impact this season? I’ve never seen Griffiths play but Vokes to me looks like he needs a season of playing regularly to get his game up to speed. He’ll surely go out on loan again or be sold?

5. Michael Kightly played the second-half for Wolves in the center of midfield. I’d be very interested to see how he’d do in this position, particularly playing just off a front man in a 451. In the promotion winning season, he’d often drift inside, playing balls through for the strikers or running onto something himself. With Hunt, Hammill and Jarvis all out and out widemen, I reckon Kightly could certainly be utilised further inside. Maybe Mick thinks the same?

Anyway, just a few thoughts to kick-off the pre-season action.

As always, we’re interested in yours!

Solid as a rock

A few weeks ago I got chatting on Twitter to Wolves fan and all-round-good-bloke Matt Warrilow.

He runs his very own blog called Bloody Earworms where he posts a music video and shares his personal thoughts about that particular song.

It’s a great read and very funny indeed. I highly recommend it.

Anyway, I asked him if he’d put something together for us on Wolves Blog and he came back with this excellent post about the signing of Roger Johnson.

Thanks Matt!

So, we got him. Good old Roger, big Roger, big Johnson. The innuendos are endless.

I’m delighted, he’s exactly the player we wanted, and needed.

He’s the type of player we wanted and needed so we could start to date, go to that small bar down the side road that you say ‘nobody really knows about’. Then, the day after pay-day, go to that restaurant you obviously can’t afford, but are keen to impress.

Who we want to stay over, to lounge about for a few days, watching DVDs and eating cold pizza in bed whilst wondering ‘is it to soon to start farting in front of each other?’

Who we wanted to meet the parents, then get on like a house on fire, and as a result have future family get-togethers where he’s not there consist of ‘Where’s Roger? Footballer ain’t he? Oh he’s a keeper that one, don’t you be ruining it now!’

He’s the type of player we wanted and needed to give the key to our flat to, because you’re committed, but not quite into the moving in-together phase as it is early days.

But then, I have this thought…deep in the back of my head…it’s the nervous thing we all go through…what if…what if it’s not the one?

What if he ends up being type of player who after a few months you start thinking ‘he hasn’t text me in 20 minutes…but his last reply was 8 minutes ago…why isn’t he replying…he better not be texting that Birmingham City!’

Who you take back to that restaurant you went on that second date with to try and rekindle what you once had, telling him ‘funny stories’ about people in the office as he just smiles politely, looking at his drink, stirring his straw slowly.

Who after it’s over, you repeatedly listen to that song you made yours when you put it on that mixtape you made for him to try and make him see you in the way he used to.

Who when you meet someone new, you rank them against him, but you know, deep down inside, it just won’t be as good.

But I guess that’s the pessimistic, jealous man in me.

Personally, I think he’s the one. He’s so good and right for us, we know that we’d never be happier, we never want to let him go. If anything, we need to take him to Vegas for a shotgun marriage, just to make sure he doesn’t wake up one day and realise he could have done a lot better.

We will want to get a golden retriever, a nice Volvo estate and live out in the country with our kids and invite friends round for dinner parties with him.

We will want to grow old and go on cruises with him, standing on the deck, watching the sun go down, holding our drinks. We’ve never being happier.

Thank you Roger. Thank you for what I’m sure will be many happy years to come.

By the way, I’m not gay.

As well as checking out Matt’s Blog Bloody Earworms, you can follow him on Twitter (@mwarrilow).

Formation for thought

No sooner had the glorious ink dried on the Roger Johnson contract over at Compton than my mind drifted off to Ewood Park.

Everything was extremely vivid in my little daydream, bar one thing.

Our proud away following in hyper-active mode, bouncing towards the Darwen End like they’ve forgotten what football feels like.

Does Johnson's arrival allow us to adopt 442 more often?

Gold shirts shimmering in the sunshine and a big man mountain at the back, idly flipping Jason Roberts about like a coin he’d found in his Burrda pocket. Johnson will look resplendent and we will look a damn sight more competitive in the land of the Ribble Valley on August 13.

But my wistful thinking went a bit blurry when I started thinking of the formation we’d play. Probably because I haven’t got a clue what it should be.

When it comes to tactics, I’ve long preferred to leave it to the experts for fear of sounding like one of those self satisfying Cockneys on those World Cup betting adverts.

Forget Gabriele Marcotti and his Italian book of superior meditation, I am more of the Greg Downs mindset from his coaching days at Hereford United.

‘Don’t give it away. Don’t give it away. Don’t give it away,’ he’d purr to us youngsters, as if he had just cracked the Da Vinci Code.

Football, he would tell us, is a simple game.

So here’s a simple question that I think I need some help with…Do we play 4-5-1 next season or 4-4-2?

I remember it being child’s play for Liverpool, Everton, Bolton, Wigan and Blackburn Rovers for that matter, when we played a 4-4-2 system at home last season.

Yet here we have a stellar centre half worth the best part of £7 million in our ranks, so should we drop the perceived pragmatism and opt for positivity?

After all, our defence will be a damn sight stronger than it was last season with Big Roger on board, in place of the ponderous Christophe Berra (despite his new found rocket-pace in pre-season).

So what is the best system to use for the coming season?

In many ways, the very asking of this question underlines the progress we’ve made under Big Mick, just like the signing of Roger Johnson has.

Back in 2006, the very notion of a 4-5-1 system would have brought the big Yorkshireman out in a rash, but as time has evolved, so have we.

Greg Downs probably told his young hopefuls that good players win football matches, rather than formations.

But now we have an exceptionally good player on board to join O’Hara this summer, it will be interesting to see how they’ll line up one month from now.

Roger Johnson signs

Wolves have completed the signing of Roger Johnson from Blues on a four-year contract. See the official site for confirmation:

http://www.wolves.co.uk/page/News/0,,10307~2391472,00.html

Blues relegation opened the door for Wolves to make a move

Interestingly, the club don’t state that this is a record-breaking deal and Jez Moxey is quick to point out that the figures quoted in the press are ‘inaccurate’.

So does that perhaps mean we secured the highly rated defender for significantly less than £7 million suggested elsewhere?

Either way, I’m absolutely delighted by this vital addition to our squad.

Right from the end of last season, I identified Johnson as the number one target Wolves should be going after to plug the gaping hole in the center of defence, so I’m thrilled to see him arrive at Molineux.

He’s a natural leader, who I’m convinced will bring the very best out of the defenders we already have at the club and any other new faces that may well arrive before Wolves kick-off the 2011/12 season.

We know from experience what an asset he is and the qualities he’ll bring to the side. Strong in the air, reads the game incredibly well and not afraid to put his body on the line to make important blocks.

An old-fashioned center-half in many ways, but one that should be a significant improvement on what we already have.

Without doubt, it’s a big statement of intent from Wolves.

With the ongoing development of Molineux, the exciting plans announced yesterday for all-new world class training facility and another high-profile signing to welcome, surely nobody can question the ambition of the club right now?

The fact of the matter is, as was pointed out in yesterday’s Express and Star, there hasn’t been a better time to support Wolves in the last 30-odd years.

And when you look at the problems Johnson’s former club are having right now, we should all be counting our lucky stars at the favourable position we now find ourselves in.

Moving on

On the same day that Wolves had a sensational £7 million bid accepted for Roger Johnson, it was funny that another piece of transfer speculation was able to catch my eye.

But ESPN are reporting that Kevin Doyle is being tracked by Juventus, with Arsenal still very much in the hunt too. Furthermore, it goes on to say that if Doyle was to seal a big move, Shane Long would be immediately targeted as his replacement.

Now this hasn’t even graduated to the ranks of ‘paper talk’ yet, but I can’t shake the suspicion that our joint record signing could be heading for the exit door this summer, so lets consider the story for arguments sake.

Hands up if you're leaving

First of all, I’d obviously be gutted to see Doyler leave. Gutted.

In my 20+ years of supporting Wolves, I’ve never seen a player (of any position) with such remarkable control, balance and sublime deftness of touch. In addition to all that, for a bloke of such average build, his strength and aerial ability seem almost superhuman.

We know that goals haven’t come in spades, but the fact he’s established himself as a top Premier League striker with just 14 strikes to his name in two seasons says everything. There’s so much more to his game than scoring goals.

Put simply, he’s a class act. We know it, Mick knows it and every single pundit up and down the country have consistently shouted it from the rooftops.

So we can’t really be too surprised that a few of the big clubs are now circling our top brass.

The question is though, will he go?

Mick insists he’s happy where he is, Jez wants him in the boardroom post-haste to hammer out a new deal and the player himself is keeping a dignified silence. Like I say, a class act.

But Doyler must know that at 27 years of age, he’ll probably only get this one chance to move up to the top level, compete for the biggest prizes and maybe win a few medals.

Therefore, if a bid does materialise, surely he’ll want out, however much of a nice guy he is?

How much is he worth you might ask? Given his age, the time left on his contract and the amount we paid for him, I think a fee in the region of £12-14 million is realistic. If someone came in with that, I think he’d be on his way.

According to the ESPN report, Reading want £7 million for Shane Long, which is a lot of dough for a striker with next to no Premier League experience. But his stock has undoubtedly risen in the last 12 months and I’d be happy enough to see him brought in to compete with SEB and Fletcher should Doyle vacate his slot.

It goes without saying that the dream scenario is our star striker staying put, penning a new deal and finishing his career in a gold shirt.

Sadly though, I fear his future lies elsewhere.

But I sincerely hope I’m wrong.

Poster boys

OK, judging from the feedback yesterday and this morning (keep it coming by the way if you have any further suggestions), the consensus seems to be that I shouldn’t tinker with the overall design of the site.

The one common request is for an updated banner.

And because I value your opinions so much, here are some I’ve put together for you to vote on. Leave your preference in the comment section below. Most votes by the end of today wins it and if scores are level, I’ll have the casting vote (that’s power for you!).

Doyle

Fletch 1

Fletch 2

Fletch 3

Hunt

Hunt 2

Hunt 3

O’Hara

O’Hara 2

Comment ‘Vote’ followed by the title of your preferred banner.