Archives for June 2012

Four four two and be damned!

Roy Hodgson’s England – rather like our recently relegated Wolves – might be incapable of reversing old habits on the pitch, but they have at least overturned one footballing myth.

Thanks to the Three Lions’ possession surrendering performance against Italy, not to mention our season-long Premiership stinker, whoever coined the phrase that footballers win games and not formations is completely and utterly wrong.

I know you don’t like it Ashley, but its 4-4-2 or nothing, okay?!

Take Terry Venables’ Euro 96 squad, still held as a sporting Concorde of evolution, which is as progressive on the eye today as it is completely obsolete.

Three different formations in one single tournament, Anderton and McManaman meandering like Spaghetti Junction and a well-oiled model of fluidity still trumpeted in the tabloids.

In Roy (and Mick / TC’s) Grave New World, should El Tel’s vintage be magically super-speeded to the present day, it would still have crashed out at the quarter final stages, never mind win against Holland 4-1.

That damn forsaken 4-4-2 formation would put pay to any notion of success as Southgate would have rigidly sat alongside Adams, while Ince and Gascoigne would have tracked back to help out an overstretched defence as two isolated wingers shrugged their shoulders.

Gazza would lie on his back behind the goal, not for a ‘Dentist’s Chair’ but an emergency act of resuscitation in the second half.

Alan Shearer’s right hand would be exclusively on his right hip and not in the air in obligatory goal celebration.

Teddy Sheringham wouldn’t have even seen the light of day, replaced instead by Brian Deane as we’re spoon fed the virtues of ‘the big man up top.’

In glorious Wembley sunshine, tired minds would give way to tired bodies as a 39 per cent possession count takes its toll.

Damn you British summer and your 25 degree temperatures.

Holland, spurred on by the youthful Clarence Seedorf, assumes total control as a nation shrinks into inferiority mode.

It is left to the ‘technically superior’ Denis Bergkamp to administer the final blow, remaining icy cool from 12 yards to seal our miserable fate.

Knowing what is more depressing is the toughest part.

The fact that the very scenario sounds remotely believable, or the fact that the video of our unlikely 4-1 triumph has been played more than a million times by a nation still clinging to a 16 year-old memory.

A memory that should really have faded by now.

Ninety one big hoofs in Euro 2012, 29 desperate blocks and an average of 39 per cent possession throughout the tournament means our Netherlands conquest burns brighter than the orange jerseys we beat.

In the red shirts of Liverpool or Manchester United, 300 passes per match would be laughed at.

For possession surrendering cowardice, Ashley Young and Wayne Rooney would have been screamed at (by Sir Alex).

Replicating players’ club form for country is one thing.

Playing the most antiquated and outdated formation when they get there is quite another.  

Let’s just hope Stale had paused one of his 38 DVDs to take note!

Nouble and Sigurdason: Sweet sensation?

If life was like a relentless bowl of stodgy porridge last season, then it’s rather more like a box of chocolates today.

From the ‘Run Forrest Run’ monotony of the Mick McCarthy reign, it now seems like we never know what we’re gonna get next!

Not if the utterly leftfield arrival of Frank Nouble is anything to go by, or the marginally less random signing of Bjorn Bergmann Sigurdarson.

So what do we make of all this?

If the pair put the quality back in our street then nobody will be complaining.

Frank Nouble is congratulated on avoiding Oxford United!

They’ve already added yet more intrigue to Stale’s tenure, whose relationship with us fans feels more like a chat and date dalliance with each passing day.

We all yearn for more contact with the big man, and we’ve all been checking him out on the internet with mingled excitement and desperation.

Like a mass of love starved, hopeless romantics, we wonder if the relationship will last, while our mates tell us that a foreign match-up like this will never work out.

Without Solbakken even unpacking his bags in the spare room yet, we pray he won’t have any irritating habits and we are all prepared to be as patient and tolerant as is humanly possible. After all, this is love we are looking for.

Frank Nouble represents the illegitimate child from a previous relationship which we’d have liked to have been told about beforehand, with Sigurdarson more the blue eyed boy who we’d unconditionally accept from the outset.

And without the card in the box to tell us which chocolate is which, we must wait for the season to start before the wrappers are taken off.

In these unchartered waters of foreign match making, we only know that our new boss has watched every game of the 2011/12 season.

We presume the miserable footage left a bitter taste in the mouth. That our team was one peanut cracknel short of a tin.

We now hope that the pacy 6ft 3in Nouble and the YouTube friendly Sigurdarson will add an unpredictable new flavour to sweeten our palate.

The proof of the pudding will be in the eating.

New Wolves home shirt

New Wolves Home Shirt

What do you think?

As with most kits, opinion will no doubt be divided.

Personally, I quite like it. I hated the previous collared shirt we had the season before last. I thought it looked cheap and poorly manufactured.

This looks better. I particularly like the fact that the collar is also gold.

It might just be the shadow, but the colour also seems much closer to what it should be. Last season’s top was once again on the tangy side.

Until you’ve got your hands on one of them, it’s hard to form a definitive opinion but I’ll give a tentative thumbs up on early evidence.

I still don’t think we should have a new home top every season though.

Background research

It’s funny to think that virtually no-one on this blog had even heard of Ståle Solbakken, never mind were able to pronounce or spell his name.

Now, just weeks on from his appointment, I just can’t imagine having anyone else.

Agreed, he’s only had success in Scandanavia and has never managed in England. True, his only experience in a major European league ended in relegation in his first season. However, his position at Cologne was widely recognised as untenable. Look beyond that and his management history as a whole makes for impressive reading.

Shrewd tactician

In his first 2 years in management he won the second division title with Ham Kam in Norway and then took them to fifth place in their premiership, the Tippeligaen(apparently with one of the lowest budgets in the league).This was their highest finish in 33 years.

In 2005 he was appointed head coach at FC Copenhagen and won the title by six points, largely as a result it is said of the team’s ‘oak-hearted defence’. Now wouldn’t that be nice?

His team impressively defeated Ajax to qualify for the group stages of the Champion’s league( the first time in FCC’s history), a group also comprising Celtic, Benfica and Man Utd. Although they lost all 3 away games, 2 draws and a victory over United left them unbeaten at home and bottom only on goal difference.

That year they also retained their league title, this time by a huge 13 points and with even fewer goals conceded. Now wouldn’t that be nice?

Ståle went on to win 2 more titles and one cup before again progressing to the group stage of the Champion’s league. This time their opponents were Rubin Kazan of Russia, Greece’s Panathinaikos and some club called Barcelona. All 3 were their current league champions.

A 2-0 away win in Athens(not many do that) was added to by 2 home wins and a 1-1 draw against a full strength Barcelona side and FCC became the first Danish side to reach the knock out stage of the Champion’s League.

Pep Guardiola described Ståle’s team as ‘the best organised opposition in his time at Barcelona’.Blimey!

I got this information from an article by Charlie Andersen, the editor of the Nordic football blog Stone by Stone. He goes on to say:

‘In terms of his tactical ability: well, a year or so ago I mentioned him in the same breath as André Villas-Boas and Jürgen Klopp, and I stand by that. I think Solbakken is one of the best young tacticians around, and I don’t mind standing or falling by that statement. The way he organised and prepared his Copenhagen side for big games was impressive, but even more remarkable was the tactical flexibility he instilled in that team.

To take a side so dominant in their domestic league (in 2010-11 they won the Superliga by 26 points) and get them to put the shackles on Xavi Hernández and Andrés Iniesta shows genuine coaching quality. His transfer policy at FCK was sound, too: he tended to sell his most marketable players and replace them prudently and intelligently.’

OK, it’s just one man’s opinion, and all managerial appointments are gambles to some extent, but I am still very excited by this one. And don’t forget, if he hadn’t failed at Cologne, we wouldn’t have had a sniff.

Brendan Rogers at Liverpool, Paul Lambert at Villa, Woy at England, whoever the bleeding A****n end up with. Naah, not for me. You can keep the lot. I wouldn’t swap ‘the bald head who came back from the dead’ for any of them.