Archives for May 2012

High hopes for Henry!

Vinny Jones, Kevin Ball, Gary Holt (who?), Scottish bloke at West Bromwich too, I forget his name.

They all played virtually every game for Leeds, Sunderland, Norwich and the A****n (Derek McInnes) when their respective clubs got promoted from the hellish league we must now call home.

Check me out - in the Championship hopefully!

Then there was Jamie Pollock (Middlesbrough), Per Frantsen (Bolton). Gary Flitcroft (Blackburn), Steve Sidwell (Reading), not to mention Carlton Palmer (Sheffield Wednesday) and even Stuart McCall at Bradford in 1999.

While Aristotle inspired reasonings on the intricacies of a Christmas tree will forever elude a footballing brain like mine, I do have one specialised subject that could probably win me a place on Mastermind alone, thanks to 20 years of painful experience.

How to get out of the championship!

As many will be more than aware, I love Karl Henry from the bottom of my pencil case and need to state right now that in order for us to become only the 16th team in about 60 to bounce back up straight away, he needs to stay at Wolves and play.

As every successful team would ride roughshod into Molineux as we’d labour in the malaise of mid-table, a selfless central midfielder, usually wearing 8, would go about his business with an infuriating level of effectiveness.

I can still picture Frantsen’s flaxen hair, or Lee Clarke’s complete lack of it when Sunderland and Fulham would come to town.

And then there was Neil Redfearn’s no-nonsense style at Barnsley, not to mention Mark Kinsella’s ball retention at Charlton.

They all offered an unerring level of consistency in the centre of the pitch, and they all made me realise how damned important that position is for any team harbouring genuine hopes of promotion.

Never a 10/10, always a 7, and nothing like the Olofinjanas and Osbornes of yesteryear, who could delight one week, only to desert the next.

So more than Matt Jarvis, more than Wayne Hennessey and even more than Steven Fletcher’s presence next season, Karl Henry’s must assume the most indispensable of the lot.

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Morgan in the driving seat

It took a while to get here, but almost five years to the day that Steve Morgan offered a tenner and a handshake for Sir Jack’s labour of love, he might have finally taken ownership of it.

Whichever calamitous straw it was that broke the camel’s back matters little right now, nor the 1800 odd days it took to break it.

The most significant point from last season’s car crash of a campaign is that the repair work has begun and the owner has finally started owning.

Stick 'em up punk!

No more rubbernecking at the carnage, no more blaming the conditions and no more half-arsed repair jobs with the apprentice technician.

On March 28 Wolves Blog offered five solutions to help us get back on the road to recovery, barely believing that Mr Morgan would be streetwise enough to think along the same lines.

Maybe we underestimated him, because apart from the free-travel we were advocating for our hard suffering away fans, he has already acted on four of them.

  1. Terry Connor was effectively gone before the Wigan game had started, with a new pair of Nordic eyes already in place, seemingly with the minimum of fuss.
  2. The club confirmed that Guedioura would have a part to play next season and would not be sold forthwith (along with other top performing loanees including Batth and Cassidy)
  3. The club said sorry like we demanded they should, on numerous occasions in fact, with some degree of sincerity
  4. They kept the early bird prices open over the summer in a goodwill gesture that speaks far more eloquently than Jez Moxey ever could.

Fair’s fair.

To coin a Big Ron phrase from yesteryear, if they (the club) haven’t done enough, then I’ll whip ‘em  (and have done so in more blogs than I care to remember)

But I ‘aint whipping them for that.

At some point, a line needs to be drawn under the farce that was last season. Moving it to the hard shoulder, towing it away and writing it off as a thoroughly bad job was imperative.

That Steve Morgan has done this, while assuming the role of police officer and emergency service worker all in one must surely be a good thing for the longer journeys that await – no matter how long it took to get there.

Report card

As we’ve done it for the last two seasons, I thought I’d keep up the tradition of posting end-of-season marks for each individual player.

Please note that ratings are based on the contribution that each specific player could reasonably be expected to make in the appearances they made.

Hennessey

Left exposed

Wayne Hennessey – Made more saves than any other keeper in the Premiership – not that he had much choice. Personally, I thought he had a strong season that was slightly tarnished by a few soft goals and gaffes. 8/10

Dorus De Vries – Didn’t get a kick in the league until the dying embers. Acquitted himself reasonably, but couldn’t halt the avalanche of goals conceded. 7/10

Carl Ikeme – Got the second half against Wigan, but nothing else. Can’t really judge. 7/10

Kevin Foley – Injuries prevented him having anywhere near the same impact as previous seasons. But even when he did play, he rarely reached the standards he’s capable of. 5/10

Ronald Zubar – Another one plagued by injury for large chunks of the season. Same old Zubar when he was out on the pitch – flitting between sublime and ridiculous.  5.5/10

Matt Doherty – Came on at Anfield and impressed. Not seen much of him since. Obviously has ability but faces stiff competition, particularly if Zubar hangs around next season. 7/10

Roger Johnson

From bad to worse Roger

Roger Johnson – Looked the business for a handful of games at the start, but soon went bankrupt. Had a mini revival around Christmas, notably away at Arsenal and Spurs before things turned really sour. Hasn’t helped himself with comments on and off the field. 4.5/10

Richard Stearman – Somehow started the season as first choice right-back, but thankfully ended up playing more games in the middle where he belongs. For the most part, he did alright. 5.5/10

Christophe Berra – Impressed me with his consistency throughout the first half of the season. Got on with his job and didn’t make any mistakes. Went downhill badly from December onwards though. 5.5/10

Jody Craddock – Injuries destroyed his season. Only got on the pitch once – at home to Sunderland – but limped off before the end. 7/10

Stephen Ward – Played every minute of the Premier League season. Immense for the first 10 games, but couldn’t maintain the standard and put in some woeful performances when we desperately needed better. Probably the pick of our defenders though, which says it all.  7/10

George Elokobi – With Wardy dominating the left-back slot, poor George didn’t really get a sniff. Looked very poor on the odd occasion he emerged from the bench. Could he do better in the middle? 4/10

Kightly Vs Villa

Welcome back Kites

Michael Kightly – A small glimmer of hope in an otherwise miserable season? Finally fit again and discovering the form we know he’s capable of. Superb goals that should have proven vital against Aston Villa and Bolton were turned to dust by his team mates inability to defend. 7/10

Stephen Hunt – I remember being very impressed with Hunt in the opening 3 games, but his form went down the toilet with the team. Injuries didn’t help, but are we wrong to expect better? 4.5/10

Adam Hammill – Sure he’s raw, but on the rare occasion he made it onto the pitch, his raw talent was plain to see. I just don’t think Mick had the patience to iron out the kinks. Maybe Ståle does? 5/10

Karl Henry – You don’t know what you’ve got until it’s gone. In the games he was injured or suspended – which were numerous – the midfield was completely lost. Coupled with Frimpong’s injury, his absence was a significant nail in our coffin. I could have strangled him for his petulance in the Villa game. 7/10

Dench today, gone tomorrow

Emmanuel Frimpong – Thought he was our saviour after impressive outings against Chelsea and Spurs, capped by a scintillating 45 minutes at home to Villa. Gone for good a week later at QPR. What might have been hey? 8/10

Nenad Milijas – Nenad must have been on the fags more than usual this season, as he barely got a kick. Why TC never gave him a go as the season quietly slipped away I’ll never know. That said, he was average at best when he did get on. 5/10

Dave Edwards – I love and hate him in almost equal measures. Not the sort of player who can win you a game single-handedly, but always puts in a shift for the team. To his credit, I would say he’s one of only a few players whose standards didn’t drop. 6.5/10

Adlene Guedioura – See ‘Adam Hammill’. 5/10

Eggert Jonnson – It’s not his fault is it? Looked a yard off the pace to me whenever he played though. 4/10

David Davis – Finally made the breakthrough and impressed in the handful of games he played. More to come hopefully. 6.5/10

Jamie O’Hara – The club have openly admitted they put huge faith in the impact he’d have over the course of a full season. He most definitely didn’t live up to the billing. Score some important goals against Wigan and Swansea, but never really got going. Injuries seemed to be a problem throughout. 5/10

Doyle

That's how we felt Doyler

Matt Jarvis – My personal choice for player of the season. Not always on top form, but the only player capable of dragging us forward and asking a question of the opposition. Starting to score goals now too. A shame he’ll probably leave. 8.5/10

Anthony Forde – Another youngster to make the breakthrough and looked capable enough. Thrown in at the deep end against Arsenal at the Emirates and came through impressively. 7/10

Johnny Gorman – Handed a cameo at Carrow Road as Wolves chased the game, but didn’t really make an impact. Looked ok though. Will he get more action next season? 7/10

Kevin Doyle – Poor. Terrible in fact, by his standard. And it pains me to say that. I don’t know what’s happened to him this season. Goals have always been an issue, but his performance levels have been well below par. Still does his best work alone up front. 3.5/10

SEB – 1 solitary league goal for a player whose all about goals is not a good return. Granted, he only made 22 appearances int total and just 7 starts, but he should have contributed more. 3/10

Steven Fletcher – 12 Premier League goals is an excellent return for Fletch, given the team he was playing in. I would have liked to have seen more from him in terms of overall play, but that’s only because he sets a certain standard. 8/10

Well, those are my marks.

What do you reckon?

Wigan Athletic 3 Wolves 2

It was Terry Connor’s children who bemoaned that life wasn’t fair when his dad missed out on the Wolves job, apparently.

Tell me about it lads.

On a day when history was made in a generation defining afternoon of football, I lived outside the bubble of hysteria that consumed a nation, listening instead to Richard Wilford’s dull, lifeless radio commentary from a morgue-like DW Stadium.

Emmerson Boyce - goal machine

Years from now my own son will ask me what it felt like watching the scenes of drama unfold on that fateful Sunday afternoon in May 2012.

I’ll have to tell him I had no idea, as I was listening to an Aylesbury born Barbadian score two goals past us in a 3-2 defeat at Wigan.

And in the most damning indictment on this most miserable season in living memory, I could actually empathise with those patronising national newspaper reporters I used to take issue with so regularly…

…That in the grand scheme of all things Premier, we are nothing more than an irritating inconvenience.

Jeff Stelling may as well screamed out loud when having to check in on the DW Stadium for a Wigan goal update. ‘Does anyone really want to listen to this’, you could hear him think.

Lee Dixon and co over on the Beeb wouldn’t have bothered to go at all, telling anyone sad enough to care to tune in for 30 seconds on Match of the Day later in the evening.

Back on Radio WM, Paul Franks was calling it a shambles and an utter disgrace.

For a brief second my pulse raced from the dull thud of a racehorse in the hope he might be stimulating some sort of discussion.

He was talking about the Villa.

The game typified our entire 2011/12 season, by the sound of Richard Wilford’s drone.

We defended pitifully and packed our team out with faded Championship players who would struggle to get near to their 2008 vintage, let alone teams of varying Premier League quality, as proven by a Lancashire outfit we used to deride as being relegation certs.

Jarvis and Fletcher scored, the only two players guaranteed to leave the club this summer, and we enter the Championship in much the same way we did when Mick McCarthy arrived back in 2006.

Low in expectation, high in desperation, and yearning for another wizard with a magic wand.

Prediction League

Thomas: Congratulations to Kowloon Wolf for winning the 2011/12 Prediction League with an impressive 32 point haul. A prize will be winging it’s way across the globe to you shortly.

Kowloon was also one of the 9 pundits to correctly predict defeat against Wigan without getting the correct score. Only 1 person said 3-2 and that, triumphantly, was me.

Thanks again to everyone for taking part this year, not only in the Prediction League, but everything to do with the blog.

Whether you’ve been logging on daily to leave a comment, or simply picking up the reports via email, you’re the reason we carry on.

Up The Wolves.

Wigan Athletic Vs Wolves Preview

Around 5.30pm on Sunday evening Wolves will reach the pinnacle of their season – the end.

Finally, thankfully, mercifully, it’s over.

Winning the reverse fixture. A false dawn.

A campaign that began with bold aspiration, high hopes and Mick McCarthy, ends with apathy, relegation and an unknown Norwegian called Ståle waiting to take the reigns.

You couldn’t make it up.

But as we look expectantly towards a new era, Wigan continue to bask in the most successful of their club’s history.

The job Roberto Martinez has done since taking over nearly 3 years ago is nothing short of remarkable.

Dead, buried and written-off more times than I care to remember, his side have once again defied the odds (and the pundits) by remaining in the Premier League.

Hats off to them I say.

They’ve never once strayed from their footballing principles and have been handsomely rewarded with 6 wins in their last 8 games.

The Team

I can’t see it being a much different eleven to the side that drew with Everton last weekend. The likes of Foley and Jarvis probably won’t be risked given that there’s sweet diddly squat on the outcome. This would be my preferred side:

De Vries, Zubar, Stearman, Elokobi, Ward, Henry, Milijas, Kightly, Hunt, Doyle, Fletcher

Even I look at that side now and think it looks tired. It’s repeating a point that’s been made countless times before, but our options would surely have been significantly stronger with Guedioura and Hammill to choose from. Hopefully Ståle will give those players the crack of the whip they deserve in a gold shirt.

Prediction League

4 people correctly predicted a draw against Everton last time out. However, none got the scoreline.

So it’s a point a piece for Super Kev Doyle, Philly Pete, Exeter Wolf and theDOOGooder.

Big congratulations to Kowloon Wolf who will definitely finish at the top of this year’s Prediction League table. Only a maximum from Exeter Wolf or Ade in China can deny him the title outright this weekend. I’ll make an official announcement in the match report.

And speaking of the match, I think we’re going to end the season appropriately with a defeat.

Wigan will be footloose and fancy free. They’re playing with great confidence at the moment and I think they’ll do enough to get the win. 3-2.

If you’re at the DW on Sunday, have a great time and get behind the lads as you always do. The away support has been top notch all season.

Up The Wolves.

Wolves go Stale!

Definitely brave, arguably contradictory and quite possibly the most bizarre managerial appointment in our 135 year history.

In many ways, Stale Solbakken’s arrival at Molineux couldn’t be more appropriate, could it?

Stale Solbakken

While you can’t please all of the people all of the time, you can at least get every single fan talking with excitement, trepidation and emotion for the foreseeable future, which is already an infinitely more uplifting prospect than this season of shame.

If West Bromwich Albion unveiled a Norwegian of this ilk, many of us would wonder why we never think outside the box.

Unfortunately for Messrs Moxey and Morgan, too many self-inflicted slings and arrows have created more scepticism than acceptance, which is why the bunting and tic-a-tape will have to wait a while longer.

Not least when Terry Connor’s services appear to have been retained, in the most perplexing, infuriating decision which dilutes the element of revolution.

If a new broom has been used to sweep away the cobwebs of a prehistoric era, then why is the winless, deluded Connor anywhere near the coaching set up after everything he’s been associated with this season?

Such negativity is as good as engrained on a cynic like me, so it would do everyone better if I airbrushed the Connor bit and unconditionally got behind the overall decision.

Why not?! With five titles, silverware galore and a fluid, free thinking approach to the game, our new manager sounds more and more desirable with each passing minute.

An onus on effortless formation change to suit the needs of any game sounds far more exciting than the Hennessey hoofball we’ve become conditioned too, and will certainly give Dave Edwards and co something to contemplate.

Here's one for the cynics among you!

While he didn’t set the world alight at Cologne, few managers ever do in that graveyard seat, so all in all, the appointment gets a thumbs-up, albeit tentatively.

Let’s face it, nobody in the North East wanted Pardew anywhere near Newcastle, and acceptance of Brian McDermott was far from universal in Reading back in September.

All we can do is strap ourselves in for the ride, get behind the big man and enjoy!

If it results in us genuinely looking forward to a 3pm kick-off on a Saturday afternoon for the first time in an age, it will do for me.