Archives for April 2012

Swansea City 4 Wolves 4

Although this screwball game of Premier League football once again highlighted the crippling deficiencies of Wolverhampton Wanderers, it also served to show what might have been.

Defensively, we left our calling card.

Too much space, no closing down, non-existent marking.

Down but not out

Stand off. Stand off. Stand off.

It’s amusing to think that last season we were accused of being ‘overly physical’. Without doubt, a major problem with this current Wolves team is their aversion to ruffling feathers.

There’s just no menace, no desire and no hunger to win the ball back. The opposition do what they want.

When that’s the case, good players and good teams punish you. And for 15 traumatic minutes, Swansea did just that.

A fourth goal just before the interval after Steven Fletcher’s fantastic looping header dragged us back into the contest seemed to be the definitive nail in our coffin.

But as bad as the first half was defensively, Wolves trumped that in the second with a fantastic display of attacking football.

All of the goals were well constructed, the pick of the bunch being Dave Edwards cool run and finish after a sumptuous reverse pass from Michael Kightly.

Two other well made and well taken Matt Jarvis goals are proof positive that our offensive players can do enough damage.

The likes of Jarvis, Kightly and Fletcher are good enough for this level.

Our problem is that we’ve just never given them the platform to shine because both individually and as a team, we’re desperately weak in defence.

It’s often said that Wolves lack quality on the ball, but I believe our biggest problem is that we don’t possess enough physically strong players to upset the opposition, thus allowing our better players to show how good they can truly be.

We needed warriors over the summer, players that could add presence and put themselves about.

Presumably, this is what Mick McCarthy hoped Roger Johnson would bring to the fold back in August and what Emmanuel Frimpong would deliver when he arrived in January.

Failure and misfortune are words that immediately come to mind when you evaluate these signings.

They wrap up our season quite nicely too.

Swansea City Vs Wolves Preview

Along with many others, I was wrong about Swansea.

I thought they’d follow the much-traveled path of newly promoted sides who try to play football in the Premier League; the road that ultimately saw the likes of Burnley and Blackpool relegated.

Off the hook in the home fixture

But hats off to Brendan Rodgers and his team, they’ve been smarter, cuter and ultimately better than those sides over the course of a season. They deservedly sit comfortably in mid-table, just 3 points behind Liverpool in 8th.

What they’ve achieved in a single top-flight season is something Wolves have failed to do in 3 – find a system of play that works and stick with it.

Regardless of results, injuries and suspensions, they’ve never once flinched from their preferred method and have been handsomely rewarded. Wolves have continued to change shape on an almost weekly basis, too often resembling a group who’ve never played a single game together.

We desperately need a manager who has a clear idea about how he wants the team to play and knows the type of players he needs to achieve it. That, and only that, can bring about a sustained period of success.

Norwich, Newcastle, Stoke, Swansea and even Wigan to an extent are all clear proof of this.

Tomorrow’s game ultimately serves no purpose to either side. A dead-rubber if ever there was one in Premier League terms. Still, the home side will be clear favourites, not least because they’ve only lost 4 times on their own turf all season, plundering 7 wins and 6 draws.

The Team

I’d be keeping a 5-man midfield for this one. Otherwise I just think we’ll be pulled around the pitch as we were for large periods of the reverse fixture. Quite how we salvaged a draw out of that game, I’ll never know. This is my team:

De Vries, Foley, Stearman, Bassong, Ward, Henry, Davis, Milijas, Jarvis, Kightly, Doyle

Poor old Dorus is likely to come in for a bit of stick tomorrow, having left Swansea on a free in the summer. But footballers make these decisions and have to live with the consequences. Hopefully the 10 in front of him can help him out by delivering a result to ease the pain.

I’ve been screaming for Milijas to get a start for weeks, but it doesn’t seem to be happening. What have we got to lose now? Might as well give the bloke a few games to see if he can make an impact.

Doyle for Fletcher up front is just a personal choice. I thought he was superb against Arsenal and subsequently very unlucky to be left out against Sunderland and Man City.

Prediction League

No real surprise that an avalanche of people correctly predicted we’d lost to Man City last weekend. 32 in total.

Only two of those pundits correctly bagged the scoreline though. Or should I say one? sleachy took the cunning step of copying Kowloon Wolf (who leads the overall table) and reaped the benefits for doing so. Both get a 3-point boost.

Well done lads.

I reckon we might get a result in this one. I don’t know why. Maybe it’s the old ‘nothing to play for, pressure off’ scenario?

I’ll plump for the same score as the reverse fixture – 2-2.

If you’re heading to Wales tomorrow, have a great time and get behind the lads as you did superbly last weekend as the ship finally sunk.

Up The Wolves.

Who goes?

After relegation was finally confirmed on Sunday, Jez Moxey was quick to point out that the club is ‘financially robust’ and players don’t need to be sold in order to balance the books.

Busy summer sales ahead?

However, he did correctly acknowledge that the reality of football is that players will come and go at Molineux over the summer as they look to rebuild for life in the Championship.

Transfers are a complicated business though.

Whilst it may appear that certain players will definitely leave, they’re still tied to the club and valuations based on their age, ability and length of contract have to be met in order for a sale to take place.

With this in mind, I’ve done some digging and compiled a list of each and every player in our squad to see if we can systematically deduce who might be heading for the exit this summer. Estimated valuations are purely my own guesswork and are only applied to players I believe will leave.

Wayne Hennessey
In a nutshell: Despite a few gaffes, has enjoyed a strong season. May attract bids, despite his injury. Under contract until 2015 though, so will take a decent bid to lure him away.
Estimated valuation: £3 million – £5 million
Verdict: Leaving

Dorus De Vries
In a nutshell: Hardly played all season but will probably start next term as first choice. Surely a keeper (no pun intended)?
Verdict: Staying

Carl Ikeme
In a nutshell: Hasn’t had a sniff of the first team for a long while and his contract is up in the summer I believe. He’ll surely look for permanent first team football?
Verdict: Leaving

Kevin Foley
In a nutshell: Nowhere near as influential as previous seasons at the club, but exactly the type of proven performer we need in the Championship. Contracted until 2015 and will almost certainly stay.
Verdict: Staying

Desperate to leave?

Ronald Zubar
In a nutshell: The Frenchman has a year to run on his current deal, so would likely be available if someone was interested. I’d like to see him stay as I believe he’d be a real asset given the physical demands of the second tier, but suspect he might leave.
Estimated valuation: £1 million – £2 million
Verdict: Leaving

Jody Craddock
In a nutshell: Jody hardly featured this season, largely because of injuries. His contract is once again up and this is surely the point where the club draw a line under his 9-year stay?
Verdict: Leaving

Roger Johnson
In a nutshell: He’ll almost certainly want a move, but are the club prepared to take a hit on the fee? I can’t really see anyone shelling out the £4.5 million we did last summer. Still has 3 years left on his contract so shouldn’t leave for peanuts though.
Estimated valuation: £1.5 million – £3 million
Verdict: Leaving

Richard Stearman
In a nutshell: With two years to run on his contract, hopefully Stears will stay because he’s another that should be able to cope well in the Championship. Could attract interest though, as he does have talent and still only 25.
Verdict: Staying

Christophe Berra
In a nutshell: There was talk of him being offered a new deal back in January, but I don’t think it materialised. He’s got one year left on his current contract. He’s another who could handle the Championship and I still believe he brings consistency to the back four.
Verdict: Staying

Stephen Ward
In a nutshell: Started the season phenomenally well, but as Wolves wilted so did his improvement. Contracted to the summer of 2015, he may attract bids. For all his critics, he’s still a full international and a capable attacking full-back.
Verdict: Staying

George Elokobi
In a nutshell: Farmed out to Forrest a few months back, you would think George is heading for a permanent exit. However, he still has a year to run on his contract and a new manager might well want him to stay. I have a suspicion he will.
Verdict: Staying

Staying (hopefully)

Michael Kightly
In a nutshell: Finally managed a run of games in a Wolves shirt and looks an infinitely better player for it. Contracted until 2014, he may attract interest but I sincerely hope he stays. A devastating performer in the Championship.
Verdict: Staying

Adam Hammill
In a nutshell: Dismissed to Boro when he almost certainly should have stayed, it’s hard to know what the future holds for Hammill. Again, what will the new manager want to do? I’d be disappointed to see him leave and I reckon he might now hang around.
Verdict: Staying

Karl Henry
In a nutshell: Has two years left on his contract and will be 30 this year. That said, someone in the top flight may be interested given the admirable battling qualities he brings to a team. I think clubs will be interested, but I’d hope he’ll stay.
Verdict: Staying

Nenad Milijas
In a nutshell: Signed a four year deal when he joined from Belgrade, which I believe means he has one more year to run. It’s an interesting one to monitor because he’s never shown a great desire to leave despite failure to hold down a place.
Verdict: Staying

Dave Edwards
In a nutshell: Has a year to run on his contract with the option of a second in the club’s favour. Did well for us last time in the Championship and could be a useful player to have around.
Verdict: Staying

Jamie O’Hara
In a nutshell: My gut instinct is that he’ll want to leave, but he won’t. Penned a 5-year contract last summer meaning he’s still got 4 more years to serve at Molineux. We paid good money and is someone else willing to match the valuation? I don’t think so.
Verdict: Staying

Adlene Guedioura
In a nutshell: Has lit up the Championship by all accounts since moving on loan to Forrest back in January. We should definitely get him back and use him next season, but I suspect he’ll be sold. Has one season left on his contract, so wouldn’t command a hefty fee either.
Estimated valuation: £500K – £1.5 million
Verdict: Leaving

Any takers for Eggert?

Eggert Jonnson
In a nutshell: Eggert will certainly stay, given that he’s only just arrived and hasn’t really done much to attract interest. Hopefully it will become apparent at some point why we signed him int he first place.
Verdict: Staying

Matt Jarvis
In a nutshell: Probably the jewel in our crown. The only England international we’ve had in the last 20 years. We will receive bids for him but surely the valuation has to be right? Still has 3 years left on his contract so we can hold out if needs be.
Estimated valuation: £7 million – £10 million
Verdict: Leaving

Stephen Hunt
In a nutshell: Has a year to run on his contract and if a bid comes in, I think the club would be willing to sell. I suspect he’ll stay though.
Verdict: Staying

Kevin Doyle
In a nutshell: Signed a new deal last summer, which means he’s stuck here until 2015 unless someone is willing to pay decent cash. I still think he’d be a great acquisition for a club willing to play to his strengths. I think he’ll go.
Estimated valuation: £4 million – £5 million
Verdict: Leaving

Fletch staying in the top flight?

Steven Fletcher
In a nutshell: The goals have dried up of late, but already has a return of 10, which is pretty good when you consider the team he’s been playing in. Again, we’ll get bids but what is a fair price? Has two years left on his contract with the option of a third in Wolves favour, so should command decent money.
Estimated valuation: £7 million – £10 million
Verdict: Leaving

Sylvan Ebanks-Blake
In a nutshell: Only has a year to run on his contract but will surely stay, particularly if the above two players leave? With the right service, I’m confident he’ll again score goals for fun in the Championship.
Verdict: Staying

Sam Vokes
In a nutshell: Has a year left on his current deal and could have a role next season, depending on who leaves and who arrives. I think he’ll fancy his chances of playing though, so he’ll likely stay.
Verdict: Staying

The Kids

Danny Batth – Staying
David Davis – Staying
Leigh Griffiths – Leaving
Matt Doherty – Staying
Anthony Forde – Staying
Jamie Reckford – Staying
Nathaniel Mendez-Laing – Leaving
Jake Cassidy – Staying

Wolves 0 Man City 2

The thick heavy raincloud that soaked us all to the skin at full time was probably the most poignant moment of all.

If only it could wash clean those murky crevices of deception around Molineux then we could at least picture some sunnier afternoons.

To dream an impossible dream.

Aguero broke the deadlock. Hearts broken months ago

To close our eyes and drift into a calming world of serenity, where stammering novices can’t be heard, where white elephants can’t be seen, and where the words of an empathetic, modest board float freely.

With our new North Bank seats breaking up before a ball had been kicked, such dreams are as far from reality as we are from Bolton Wanderers.

Rubber stamping our relegation from the Premier League was surely no great shock or sadness for anyone connected with Wolves this afternoon.

That Terry Connor genuinely looked like it was when choking back the tears was probably the scariest sight of the lot – were it not for Steve Morgan pictured laughing and joking as our grim fate was sealed.

Maybe he was chuckling at the vision of 34 rows of seats in the upper North Bank, and the irony that few will ever be sat on, if indeed they are screwed to the ground properly to begin with.

My final crumb of aspiration still battling this mortal coil hopes he’s smiling for more positive reasons.

For a post mortem that will begin on Monday morning, with no brick in his Red Row empire left unturned in a quest to avoid an April Shower like this.

For Guedioura – Forest fans’ best midfielder since Lars Bohenan – to return to Compton with the urgency of a JCB digger.

For Michael Kightly’s contract to be resolved with similar speed.

And maybe, just maybe, for a concession of remorse to make a back page lead instead of an insulting platitude about ‘perspective.’

The sight of the new North Bank seats falling apart was bad enough, as was Tevez winning a free kick for clearly obstructing David Davis in the build-up to City’s second.

But wretched as both were, they didn’t come close to the saddest spectacle of all, as I searched for the shoulder of an old comrade or two.

No spittle to land on Tel’s head in front, no Big Mark to share that look of disgust to the right and no Mike beside me for chocolate comfort.

One-hundred-and-fifty-years-worth of Wolves DNA replaced by wet empty plastic.

A chance for them to dream of brighter days than these? Therein lies the rub Mr Morgan.

Wolves Vs Man City Preview

It was nice to halt a run of 7 straight defeats with a hard-earned point against Sunderland last weekend. However, of even greater concern is our frankly pathetic home form since the turn of the year.

We haven’t taken a single point on our own patch since the 2-2 draw with Norwich way, way back in December. That’s 8 home league defeats in a row, with an FA Cup loss against Blues thrown in for good measure.

Dave Edwards bagged the winner last season

Without wanting to harp on and pile the misery high, surely this is yet another wake-up call to Jez and Steve that the rebuilding of Molineux should have continued on the pitch before work commenced off it.

Only Man City and Everton are still to pay a visit this season, meaning there’s a genuine possibility that our next home win might not come until August, 8 months after the last one. It’s almost so terrible to contemplate, it’s funny.

Hopefully though it won’t come to that, but we’ll certainly need a major upset to further derail Man City’s title aspirations. Regardless of how United fare in the early kick-off, Roberto Mancini’s team will be desperate for the win.

Their away form is far from sparkling. Aside from their 8 wins, 4 draws and 5 defeats have hampered their progress severely, but a 6-1 drubbing of Norwich last time out won’t have done their confidence any harm.

With Carlos Tevez firmly back in the groove, a player whose been a constant thorn Wolves side in recent years, there’s even more reason to fret about our prospects.

The Team

TC surprisingly (in my opinion anyway) went 442 against Sunderland, leaving out Kevin Doyle in favour of SEB and Steven Fletcher. Without doubt I’d be reverting to 451 for this game. Here’s my preferred team:

De Vries, Foley, Stearman, Berra, Ward, Henry, Davis, Milijas, Kightly, Jarvis, Doyle

When you wait so long for a cleansheet, it’s probably best not to tinker with the back four, so I’ll resist my urge to put Ronald Zubar back in against my better judgment.

Sadly, Wayne Hennessey won’t get a chance to build on that minor success as he’s been ruled out for 6 months with knee ligament damage. Get well soon Wayne. De Vries will surely now get his chance for a run of games.

I’d bring Doyle back in as the lone forward after his encouraging performance against Arsenal and drop the other striker in place of a midfielder. I’ve chosen Milijas but TC will almost certainly go for Dave Edwards.

Prediction League

Only two people said we’d draw with Sunderland last weekend and they were myself and pass and move.

Neither of us got the scoreline though, so it’s only a point each.

With just 4 games to go, the action at the top of the Prediction League is certainly hotting up. Barring a late surge from someone lower down the table, it would appear to be a 3-horse race between Kowloon Wolf, Ade in China and Exeter Wolf. I’ll dig some sort of prize out for the winner to commemorate the achievement.

Next year I will probably tweak the points system, so if you have suggestions feel free to make them as a comment or by emailing me.

This weekend I have to predict defeat. They’ll just have too much for us to handle.

4-1 City.

If you’re at Molineux, have a great time and roar the lads on as you always do.

Up The Wolves.

Alienation

Recently, many fans have claimed to be disenfranchised about the goings on at Molineux. This got me thinking, “Why do we suddenly feel alienated from our club?” and so here, after many hours of pondering, perusing and pontificating, are my own reasons.

Now you're just somebody that I used to know

Didn’t he used to play for us?

The answer, probably, is “yes”. But the answer is actually more likely to be “yes, barely”.

Mark Davies, Elliot Bennett, and Andrew Surman are just three players who will be in the Premier League without us next season. But is this a new phenomena?

You will watch Reading play (most likely) in the Premier League next season and two of their players (Adam Federici and Jason Roberts) spent time at Wolves in the late nineties and early noughties, and Mr Roberts went on to play (so far) 9 seasons in the Premier League while we (mostly) lingered in the Championship. “One man’s junk is another man’s treasure”.

Cup Game A and Cup Game B

Remember them? Some of you may not. Next year will be my 18th season ticket and when I first had my season ticket at the tender age of 7, we got the first two cup games of the season free. Not only that, we got a 10% discount, as season ticket holders, in the club shop; it wasn’t much, but it was something, a small token of appreciation from our club.

Gradually, it was just Cup Game A, then just league games. Hang on?! Where’s my 10% discount gone?!! Oh, I see…I get 10% of my purchase (a £40 shirt) credited to my “My Molineux” account…but if I don’t use in 28 days I lose the credit balance. I was brought up well…so I suppose I should say thank you.

This is all made worse when I look up the road to West Bromwich Albion, by all accounts a very similar club. Their season ticket holders get a 10% discount in the club shop…seems fair…their season ticket holders get a £10 voucher for the club shop each Christmas…that’s a nice gesture. Their season tickets are cheaper too?!! To quote Peter Griffin “that really grinds my gears”.

Improvement?

Is he any better than who we’ve already got, though?

The answer, I’m afraid, is probably “No, he’s not and I think he might be slightly worse”. To go with our chronic inability to develop promising young players, we also fail yo buy player that actually improve the squad. Is Roger Johnson better than Richard Stearman? Well, having watched him for a season, no he is not and has a terrible effect on the team. Was Greg Halford better than Foley? No, he was worse and lazy. Was Maierhofer better than ANYONE?!! No, he wasn’t, and will be remembered in the same breath as Tomasz Frankowski, Cedric Roussel and Robert Taylor.

There has been the odd signing that has improved the team in the Premiership, Doyle and Fletcher spring to mind, but generally we watch a team of Championship players who did well to get us where we are and a team of Championship standard playing who have been added since. Yet I still switched on Sky Sports every day in both transfer windows hoping to see that we had made a signing.

I would like to quote Ben here, “We are not fickle. We just want to be reunited with our club – be it at Bramall Lane or White Hart Lane”. Well, the former setting looks more likely but the sentiment remains. It is, in my opinion, not a sudden reaction of our fans to say “I feel alienated by my club” and it’s not because we’re likely to be back in the Championship next season.

It is a build up of things which have taken place over nearly two decades which have severely weakened the bond between the club and the people in the stands. I hope, and I fear it is in vain, that Steve Morgan will come and address the fans after the Wigan game; I also hope, probably equally in vain, that should this happen the fans will let him have his say and not just drown him out with boos.

I would like to finish with a fond farewell to A Load of Bull. Publications like that made websites like this possible.

* Thomas: A massive thanks to Dom (Tettenhall Wolf) for sending in this guest blog. I’ve been inundated with submissions in recent weeks, but have just been too busy to go through them all. I will respond to everyone and if at all possible, post everything up on the site. Apologies to all for the delay.