Archives for September 2013

Wolves 2 Sheffield United 0

First rule of Bakary Sako is: you do not doubt Bakary Sako.

Bakary Sako Wolves

The second rule of Bakary Sako is: you DO NOT doubt Bakary Sako.

Five goals, three assists and less than than a quarter of the season played, yet an utterly perplexing number still refuse to obey these simple guidelines.

You all have to admit it though: spectacularly good or eye-wateringly bad, Sako is the star of the show. The headline act. The man you came to see.

An hour of comedy yesterday, followed by a thrilling 30-minute conclusion made this most recent episode worthy of the ticket price alone.

In a game which saw him trip over his own laces, scuff a corner straight out of play and surrender possession more times than Sam Ricketts climbs shoulders, he was still quaffing the Man of the Match champers come 5 o’clock.

And that’s because the two telling contributions were his. A 50 yard gallop and inch perfect cross for Leigh Griffiths and an injury time missile that appropriately added his name to the credits.

I’ve said it before that moments are what make being a football fan worthwhile.

And it’s because of players like Sako who manufacture these moments that you remember what were otherwise drab and entirely forgettable fixtures.

Make no mistake about it, this was League One dross of the very highest order up until the opening goal.

The only thing that made it worth watching was wondering what our number 10 would do the next time he had the ball.

And whether it’s a sky high cross to nobody in particular or a wayward shot from the halfway line, I will always forgive him for trying.

Because if you don’t have players like him, what are you left with?

I’ll tell you: dull, predictable football. A goalkeeper and 10 robots all playing the percentages.

Thanks but no thanks.

I paid for a show.

Highlights

Wolves Vs Sheffield United Preview

You can’t mention Sheffield United to a Wolves fan without entering into a conversation about Cardiff.

Sheffield United

But that unforgettable, wondrous, magical day was the exception to the rule that are no easy games against the Blades.

In fact, over the years they’ve been a barometer against which I’ve judged many a Wolves side.

For instance, it was only after we went to Brammall Lane and won 3-1 in 2008 that I truly believed we could go on and win the league.

Spearheaded by James Beattie, they outplayed us in the return fixture with Wolves lucky to emerge with a 1-1 draw. And thanks to various promotions and relegations since, that was the last time the teams locked horns.

Sheffield Utd

Strange times for the Blades right now. On the one hand, results have been dire and they’re languishing third from bottom of League One.

They’ve lost their last 5 matches and have only managed 5 league goals all season.

Yet new foreign owners and the promise of significant investment suggests happier days are just around the corner.

They’ve already drafted in the likes of Marlon King, Leeds winger Ryan Hall and Stoke midfielder Florent Cuvelier in the hope of steadying the ship.

David Weir will be feeling the heat but no doubt looking at this fixture as an opportunity to start afresh.

Wolves

I think we’ve already scored one significant victory over United this season by poaching Kevin McDonald. He’s easily the most complete central midfielder we have and I think we’re still to see the very best of him. Who he plays alongside tomorrow will be interesting with David Davis suspended. I think the team will be:

Wolves team vs Sheffield Utd

I think Dave Edwards might get the nod in midfield with Kenny Jackett hoping experience can plug the gaping holes. His injury record has been obscene, which is a shame because I think he could be a useful player at this level.

I find it impossible to second guess the manager on who he’ll pick up front. It could be any combination of our first choice three. Jake Cassidy bagged a hat-trick in a behind closed doors friendly against Sheffield United earlier in the week, so maybe even he could force his way in?

Hopefully we’ll play with two wingers and have a really good go at a team that’s struggling to find it’s feet.

The odds

No surprise given the league table that Wolves are favourites for the win at 10/11. A Sheffield United win is available at 7/2. The draw is 13/5.

Marlon King is a fairly generous 13/2 to get the first goal or you can get 4/1 on Leigh Griffiths to make a return to the scoresheet.

Matt Doherty is always a decent first goalscorer bet given that he gets forward for set pieces and isn’t afraid to attack the opposition’s box. At 25/1, it could be worth a flutter.

All odds are available here.

Predictions

61 of you thought we’d beat Shrewsbury last weekend, but only 7 got the 1-0 scoreline correct.

Well done to goldcoastkiddywolf, Yorkshire Wolf, AmberWolf, Wight Wolf, Bullyisagod, dave h and Adrian for doubling up. It’s a single for everyone else.

I wonder if United are as bad as their results suggest? Can they really be that poor?

I’m expecting a close game, but I’ll back us for the win.

2-1.

Up The Wolves.

A splash of Manders Paint required

While much of the footballing world is musing over Manchester United’s apparent fall from Fergie, us Wolves fans have been consumed with a far more onerous question…

Davis Wolves midfield

…How do you solve a problem like our midfield?

To answer the conundrum, which has directly contributed towards Crawley, Swindon, Walsall and – to a lesser extent – Shrewsbury domination, I refer you to Sir Alex himself, and a team-talk given to his embryonic title winning side back in 1993.

As he demanded that full backs Irwin and Parker both bombed on as frequently as their little legs would carry them, centre half Steve Bruce politely enquired about the ensuing implications.

‘It would leave us 2 v 4 at the back boss,’ whispered Bruce, to which Ferguson promptly replied: ‘Deal with it then!’

Okay, so the anecdote might have been paraphrased a little, but you get the general gist, which led me to a flashback to the opening games of the season, when our gold shirts were glistening brightest.

Both full backs – Matt Doherty in particular – were marauding past our widemen to get in behind opposition defences more times than we’d seen in the past 3 years put together.

Doherty’s ability to pretty much dictate the entire flow of one Gillingham game was testament to his own athleticism, if not the away side’s various inadequacies.

These days, I barely see Doherty passing the halfway line in my biggest disappointment of recent weeks.

That our midfield four look increasingly isolated and one dimensional as a result is an inevitable consequence, rendering the argument over Davis, McDonald, Evans, Price, Foley or Edwards as largely irrelevant.

In the eyes of sage footballing critics more knowledgeable than I, players make successful teams rather than the systems they operate in.

From seeing a number of perfectly adequate if unspectacular central midfielders this season, I think the opposite actually applies to this Wolves team.

Some fans have been taking a step down memory lane of late, to the days when we were last in division three and battering virtually every team to come to Molineux in 1988/89 (bar Bristol Rovers and that damned Nigel Martyn!)

Nostalgic visions of Bull and Mutch light up their senses as they recollect d’Artagnan’s answer to football, with a dose of Nigel Benn-like belligerence lumped in for good measure.

As a nipper, I still remember Mark Venus and Andy Thompson as dots on the horizon, bombing up and down the pitch like a game of Commodore Pong. I can still remember Thommo belting in a long ranger at the South Bank against Mansfield Town (6-2 win), courtesy of a Mark Kendall-created divot that groundsman Billy Pilbeam once wagged his finger at!

In those dewy-eyed days of unbridled happiness, we would respect our opponents first and batter them so heavily thereafter to consign the very notion of defeat as irrelevant.

The most exciting aspect of this season’s beginning is the very real prospect that those days can easily return – irrespective of midfield personnel – if we add a splash of Manders Paint spirit to our upwardly mobile side.

Shrewsbury Town 0 Wolves 1

Football matches are so often decided by the finest of margins.

Wolves Shrewsbury

And with the exception of Tuesday night’s defeat, Wolves have developed the rather useful knack of gaining the edge.

Shrewsbury must wonder quite how Curtis Main failed to convert from underneath the crossbar as the home side seemed destined to break the deadlock.

Had the on loan Middlesbrough striker been less charitable, Wolves would almost certainly be nursing morale-sapping, back-to-back defeats.

But where Main failed from a yard, Sako succeeded from 12 to ensure his side continued to hang on the coattails of the early pacesetters.

Was it a penalty?

Without the benefit of Sky technology, only Jon Taylor probably knows. He remains defiant (via Twitter):

Jon Taylor Tweet

Correct or not though, it’s pleasing that Wolves were able to force the decision by continuing to push forward late on.

Matt Doherty deserves the plaudits for his powerful, goal-bound header that forced Taylor into action. He’s deceptively strong in the air and always shows an appetite to get on the end of things.

Bjorn Sigurdarson is another aerial threat and he was unlucky to see a smart header come back off the post from an inch perfect Scott Golbourne cross.

Sako too was unlucky, forcing a smart save with an instinctive shot from the edge of the area to once again demonstrate the importance of getting him into the right areas.

The confident manner in which he dispatched the spot-kick shouldn’t be ignored either. Unlike many, I find it impossible to be critical of a player that always tries to make something happen, even when it goes spectacularly wrong.

Carl Ikeme was again central to the action with a succession of smart saves and neat handling to earn his third cleansheet of the season.

Given Shrewsbury’s dominance in periods, some would call this ‘smash and grab’ while others might suggest it was the perfect away performance.

Me? I’m just happy with the result, regardless of the margin.

Video highlights

Shrewsbury Town Vs Wolves Preview

Tuesday wasn’t a pleasant experience.

Shrewsbury

And the most disappointing aspect was that Walsall didn’t have to play particularly well for the win.

A home defeat had been coming but to lose without creating a single chance from open play was very poor.

But we move on and it will be fascinating to see how both Kenny Jackett and his young team respond to the first major setback of the season.

When you’re chasing promotion the key is to not let one bad result become the start of a run. We know from last season how quickly things can turn sour.

Shrewsbury

Graham Turner will be satisfied with his team’s start to the season, sitting comfortably in midtable on eight points.

The Shrews finished 16th last season, but comfortably avoided the drop. I wonder if their ambitions stretch further this season?

They’re yet to lose at the New Meadow in the league with a win and two draws from their three homes matches.

I’ll hold my hand up and admit complete ignorance on their playing squad. Looking down their teamsheets I don’t spot any immediately familiar names.

But young forward Tom Bradshaw has three goals to his name so far and will definitely be one to watch out for.

I do know that they’re a very young, inexperienced side, so it’s important Wolves get on top of them early and ask questions.

Wolves

I’d like to see a return to 442 for this one. I think KJ has over complicated matters of late, trying to find a solution to our gaping midfield. But with two strikers and two proper wide men we’ve already seen we can put teams on the back foot. This would be my XI:

Wolves team for Shrewsbury

That team solves a major problem we encountered on Tuesday, namely: a chronic lack of width.

I’d like to see Sako playing properly in front of Golbourne, not tucked inside. The full back seemed reluctant to try and make a yard for a cross so we can’t rely on him to put decent balls into the box. I also don’t want to see Sako playing all his football on the halfway line. We want him in the final third.

Ismail must play. Yes, he’s lightweight and gets caught in possession, but every other option has so far failed. I also believe that with an investment of games, Zeli will rapidly improve.

Two strikers please Kenny. Any two will do from Doyle/Griffiths/Siggy but play them both properly up front.

The odds

I guess Wolves will be favourites in most games this season and theme continues in this time. They’re at evens to get a win.

Shrewsbury are 3/1 and the draw is available at 13/5.

Kevin McDonald is decent odds for the first goal at 14/1. He’s a lovely footballer to watch and I’d love to see him getting forward more. I could not believe he was taken off against Walsall. Lunacy.

All odds are available from here.

Predictions

Walsall winning on Tuesday made my life a lot easier, as only 5 people scored points in the PL.

Tettenhall Wolf, BobbaWolf, TwixFix, AmberWolf and Rich all thought Wolves would come a cropper, but none got the scoreline correct, so it’s singles all round.

I’ll sit on the fence and plump for a draw this time. I’d like to see us bounce back with a convincing win, but I just wonder how much confidence has been shaken of late.

2-2.

Up The Wolves.

Wolves Blog Postcard Stop #4 – Santiago, Chile

Just when I’d given up hope, the Wolves Blog Postcard has resurfaced. Colm in Santiago, Chile sent me the following:

colm santiago

Apologies, apologies, apologies! I have the post card. I received the card shortly before we left Chile as we are now back in the UK and the move has meant it slipped off MY personal radar.

Wolves Blog Chile 2

The two pictures on the rugby field are taken in the grounds of The Grange School, which is the poshest school in Santiago where I was the Principal of the Prep School and my two boys Fintan and Cormac attended. The blondest boy is one of their friends, Jose Miguel.

Wolves Blog postcard Chile

Although cloudy you can just make out the Andes mountains in the background. The other photo which has the card silhouetted is Cormac from the top floor of a hotel. You get a better view of the mountains in this one.

Chile postcardI am from the Dougan, Richards, Wagstaffe, Hibbitt & Munro era. My first game was in in 1973 – a home defeat to Ipswich Town.

Richards scored our goal and whilst we were pretty poor that day it wasn’t nearly as bad as the dismal 0-2 defeat by Ipswich last season which was my last live game and possibly one of the worst performances I’ve ever seen.

I live in Yorkshire at the moment but will hope to get to some games this season. In the middle of 2014 we are moving to South Korea and perhaps if I promise not to hide the card for several months like this time, you might let me take some photos from the Far East!

You can track the progress of the Wolves Blog Postcard and register your interest in receiving it on the dedicated section here.