Archives for April 2014

Fantasy football: a team of Wolves champions

Two teams, 192 points between them and enough happy, golden memories to brighten the darkest of days.

fantasy football wolves

But which players from our 1988/89 Barclays Division 3 exploits would edge out today’s promotion heroes in a third tier fantasy eleven?

When I said I was nostalgic for all-things Manders Paint and Ink, I wasn’t messing about, which is why I have deliberated over a combined Wolves XI from the happiest two seasons I can remember (bar Mick McCarthy’s 2008/09 vintage)!

So here goes…

IkemeGoalkeeper: Carl Ikeme

Sorry to my boyhood hero Mark Kendall, but Ikeme has to play. In 1988/9 we had a Welsh jester between the sticks who freely admitted to a Dracula-like aversion to crosses. In Ikeme, we have a near-impenetrable presence who would neither laugh or cry if you tweaked his big manly nipples with a brillo pad.

Season highlight: Bradford (a) hat-trick of tremendous late saves to deny Nakhi Wells in a defining away victory. Leyton Orient TV masterclass a close second.

Andy ThompsonLeft back: Andy Thompson

Although Mark Venus was a regular left back in 1988/89, Thommo played all 46 games in a number of positions (six league goals), including an occasional midfield berth. Scott Golbourne runs him close and can count himself unlucky for a season of reassuring competence. Call it sentimental but for infectious enthusiasm, boundless energy levels and an unerring record from the penalty spot, Thommo has to play.

Season highlight: 30 yard shot which bounced on a strategically placed Billy Pilbeam divot (our wonderful old groundsman) and bounced over Mansfield keepers’ head in a 6-2 rout!

BaathCentre back: Danny Batth

When you’ve got Floyd Streete, Ally Robertson and Gary Bellamy as competition, this choice is relatively easy (no offence). Factor in an endless number of clean sheets and a local-lad presence of symbolic proportions and it’s even easier. ‘Bruno’ would have pushed Batth closest, but the man from Brierley Hill makes it.

Season highlight: When you’ve kept 23 clean sheets, it sounds absurd to refer to one of his goals, but that opener against Peterborough at the South Bank end was a belter.

StearmanCentre back: Richard Stearman

What I am about to say isn’t for effect and forgive me if you don’t agree, but Richard Stearman is my player of the 2013/14 season. Not only is he the only genuinely mobile centre half we have, but he has cut out those errors that were always so bloody disastrous. It wasn’t that he ever made many; just that they always ended up in the back of our net! Danny without Dickie is like salt without vinegar. And let’s not forget a quite phenomenal beard growth on a par with a converted teacher at a Birmingham primary school.

Season highlight: A signature pirouette away at Walsall while 3-0 up on halfway line, taking two strikers out the game in one sultry shimmy. A giddy away following lapped it up!

RickettsRight back: Sam Ricketts (c)

One of the first names on this team-sheet. If we want a man to encompass the very ethos and fibre of both squads, this is he. In Ricketts, Jackett had an on-field lieutenant to subtly affirm his ethos. Something of an unsung hero, but a steadying influence that we missed when he wasn’t there. Plus, he was an absolute gentleman to my little boy when he was mascot in a pre-season friendly at Chesterfield.

Season highlight: Being an absolute gentleman to my little boy when he was mascot at Chesterfield! Seriously though, ‘that’ goal in ‘that’ game against Rotherham was his defining moment of the season.

McDonaldCentre midfield: Kevin McDonald

Who else?! Barring ½ yard of pace, Kevin McDonald has all the attributes to be a fantastic Premier League footballer. He’s a colossus. Calm on the ball, careful in possession and the overall conductor of our tuneful orchestra. The toughest player of the lot to replace.

Season highlight: For me, it was the first time I saw him play 90mins, away at Port Vale in a 3-1 win. He looked like an under-16 player in an under-12 game and completely ran the show. He seems to have grown ever since.

DowningCentre midfield: Keith Downing

Sorry to Jack Price, but Psycho is my holding midfielder alongside Big Mac. So fearless, combative and downright scary that the legend of Keith Downing lived until about 2002 when we finally bought a ball-winning midfielder on a par with him.

For all the inferior strikers we’ve had down the years that were ‘not fit to lace Bully’s boots,’ we’ve also had all manner of midfield men who were ‘no Keith Downing.’ Psycho was no-nonsense and would put the fear of God into opponents before they’d left the tunnel.

Season highlight: A poster in a matchday programme funnily enough, which captured Psycho in full flow – flying through the air like a mingled Bananaman and Chuckie. ‘Keith Downing is a Punk Rocker’ music cassette soon followed in ALOB.

DennisonLeft midfield: Robbie Dennison

For those who never saw Robbie Dennison in his pomp, then think of a white John Barnes, with less pace. Ok, so I’m stretching it a bit, but whenever we gave the ball to Robbie, something happened.

He was so languid, chilled-out and comfortable on the ball that he should have worn a pair of slippers. James Henry misses out which is tough luck on today’s 10 goal version of the Northern Irishman, but for free-kicks alone, Robbie gets in.

Season highlight: Curling an absolute belter in the top-bin against Bolton at Burnden Park, which left a ‘Ding-Dong-Do’ home commentator literally speechless (as per Mark Kendall’s ‘View from the Back’ season review)

JacobsRight midfield: Michael Jacobs

I love this guy. I believe he is most effective in a ‘no 10’ role behind Dicko, but in this 4-4-2 formation he plays on the right. He is deceptively quick and has mounted countless attacks at the blink of an eye through his pace and vision. Without him, the remnants of last season’s stodgy, one-paced side might well have remained.

Phil Robinson, Mick Gooding and Nigel Vaughan run Jacobs the closest, but in the ‘X-Factor’ stakes, he offers more.

Season review: His two goals at Brentford in that season-defining win offers the most succinct summary of Michael Jacobs. His first, a rapid late run to break in behind a static defence; His second a 25 yard pearler in the top corner.

BullyForward: Steve Bull

I first fell in love with Steve Bull in 1988/89 and I’ve never stopped loving him since. Fifty goals, and barely one of them a tap-in. Bully carried that team of Turner’s to the title and as an eight year-old, what struck me about him was his pace. He was SO sharp and even more ruthless. He never seemed to miss the target in those heady days of old.

Season highlight: So, so many to choose from, but a 30 yard left-foot screamer at home to Bolton Wanderers on March 4 is probably the best Bully goal I’ve ever seen (North Bank end).

MutchForward: Andy Mutch

Twenty-one goals, all manner of assists and a telepathic understanding with Bully. Was never the quickest, but certainly one of the most intelligent players I’ve seen and had a knack of affecting the big games when it mattered most.

Season highlight: A run and cross to Bully to break deadlock in the promotion decider against Sheffield United was typical Mutchy, but I’ll plump for a double in a 2-1 win at home to Blackpool in the middle of an eight-game winning streak.

So there you have it folks. This my 89/14 Champions XI:

Wolves Champions Team

Six of the best players from the current squad and five from my nostalgic childhood memories. What’s your team?

Competition: Win an exclusive Art of Football t-shirt

Art of Football produce beautifully designed limited edition t-shirts that commemorate iconic moments like no other piece of generic football merchandise can.

10k2mk

Luke from AofF sent me an email last month asking if I had any suggestions that would encapsulate Wolves’ season.

WE Conquered picSadly, we hadn’t had that rip-roaring 6-4 victory over Rotherham at that point, so the only other realistic suggestion was the 10k2mk.

As you can see from the above artwork, the design that’s been produced is beautifully imagined.

And to say thanks to Wolves Blog, Art of Football are offering you the chance to win one of these fantastic t-shirts.

To enter, simply leave a comment below suggesting what you’d have printed on a t-shirt to sum up this fantastic season.

As always, most ‘Likes’ will win and I’m opening the contest up to all expat readers.

Likes will be counted at midday on Thursday (May 1st) with the winner contacted by email.

If you’d like to forgo the competition and buy one of the t-shirts yourselves, they’re available at Art of Football here, priced at £20.

You can follow Art of Football on Twitter, or Facebook.

Coventry City 1 Wolves 1

It might have been a nervous push to square leg, instead of a trademark flash through the covers, but the century is up for Wolves.

Wolves Coventry Dave Edwards

Only 9 other clubs have managed a three digit total in the history of the Football League. And a win against Carlisle next weekend will take Kenny Jackett’s history boys to number three in that list of great champions.

Still, I’m sure there was more than a tinge of disappointment in the away dressing room yesterday, as Wolves should have taken the spoils courtesy of Dave Edwards’ late goal.

The introduction of Bakary Sako added some long overdue forward thrust and his powerful delivery was smartly turned home by Edwards for a ninth league goal of the season.

A new contract beckons for the midfielder, as I’m sure is the case for his fellow class of 2008 graduate Richard Stearman. They would now be considered significant losses.

That said, the defensive mean machine has been more generous of late and Danny Batth’s own goal was a gift Coventry were grateful to receive.

Not entirely his fault of course. The ball shouldn’t have been allowed to travel as far as it did and the big centre back was then under pressure to deal with an awkward position. Perhaps the organisational presence of Sam Ricketts was missed in that particular instance.

It also meant that Coventry are in line to be the only team Wolves haven’t beaten in two league meetings. Carlisle can still join that exclusive club next weekend.

Liam McAlinden was a surprise inclusion and the youngster could have added another goal to his Wolves tally with a header his manager thought he should have done better with.

It will be intriguing to see how the forward is used next season when summer reinforcements arrive to complement already strong competition for places.

That and many, many other similar decisions will need resolving soon after next weekend’s homecoming celebrations.

For now though, we can bask in the comfortable surroundings of the 100 Club.

Highlights

Coventry City Vs Wolves Preview

With promotion and the title in the bag, Wolves are playing for additional credit.

Cov Wolves

The record points total for League One is the 101 set by Charlton in 2011/12. Three points tomorrow would be enough to wrap that baby up.

But a more fascinating milestone, is that if Wolves win the next two games, it means they’ve beaten every single side in the division at least once this season. That very rarely happens, if ever.

Whether they achieve either or both of the above is largely irrelevant of course, but would certainly add a thick layer of gloss to an already shimmering season.

Coventry

Cov logoI was interested to read Steven Pressley’s comments earlier in the week when he said he felt it would be a remarkable achievement to keep Coventry in League One after their 10 point deduction and the various stresses and strains they’ve had to endure.

For the most part, I agree, but when you consider they were hovering in and around the play-offs earlier in the season, I suspect there’s a tinge of disappointment they couldn’t have done better.

Clarke and Wilson were firing them up the table back then and with the former sold and the latter out injured for a chunk of the season, that checked their progress.

Northampton hasn’t been a particularly happy home for the Sky Blues and the 38 goals they’ve conceded on their own patch is the highest in the league.

They haven’t won any of their last five meaning they come into this match still with an outside chance of going down. As Kenny Jackett said the other day though, they’ve probably done just enough already.

Wolves

Would it be a bold move to throw Leon Clarke into action tomorrow? Maybe the vitriol of the home crowd will spur him on to finally get the ball rolling on take two of his Wolves career.

Wolves team for Coventry

If it’s the same team as Monday I won’t have any complaints, but I’m sure Clarke, James Henry and possibly Lee Evans won’t be too far from the manager’s thoughts.

Defensively the team wobbled and creaked a bit over the Bank Holiday, so I’m sure the back four will be keen to tighten up and claim at least one cleansheet from the remaining matches.

The odds

Wolves are favourites for the win at 10/11. The draw is 11/4 and a home victory is on offer at 16/5.

Dave Edwards has a strong goals to games ratio this season and if he plays tomorrow, odds of 9/1 as first scorer seem quite generous.

Michael Jacobs has gone a few games without finding the net. He’s 15/2. Callum Wilson is their main main and he’s 11/2.

All odds here courtesy of SoccerBase.

The gaffer

Predictions

I’m yet to update the table after Leyton Orient, but I believe I’m correct in thinking Dave H has sewn up the PL title for 2013/14. Well done to you mate. It’s safe to say you’ve lead from the front for most of the season.

There’s no reason Wolves shouldn’t win again tomorrow. I don’t think Coventry are as strong as they were at Molineux earlier in the season and we are effectively playing for fun.

I’ll go for the trusty old 3-1.

Up The Wolves.

Wolves Blog Postcard Stop #7 – Melksham, Wiltshire

First of all, I would just like to say how chuffed I am to have received the Wolves Blog Postcard!

doog

It came as a bit of a shock to me, when I was thinking about what to write for this blog, that it is coming up to the 45th Anniversary of when I first fell under the spell of Wolverhampton Wanderers FC.

April 15th 1969. Wolves at home to Coventry City.

Doog headshotI’ve told the story in a previous blog. It was the day that I had the bizarre photograph taken that appears next to my attempts at wit and wisdom on the blog. The game finished 1-1, it wasn’t a particularly good match. Peter Knowles stood out as a potential George Best impersonator but, that apart, there was not much to report…

Except that a seed had been sown inside the heart of the callow youth that I was then which over the years has grown into a full blown love affair.

Up until then I had watched Birmingham City play a couple of times (Francis, Latchford et al) without really being grabbed by the vitals. And, because I was born and bred there, Oxford United when ‘Big Ron’ was their captain. I think everyone is allowed ‘another team’ and Oxford United is certainly that for me. I admit that I went to Wembley a few years back when they got back into the Football League through the play offs and shouted myself hoarse with the best of them.

But when it all boils down to it, Oxford is like a member of the family. A brother that I was brought up with.

It was there, I was there.

But when you become REALLY involved with a football team, it’s like getting hooked on drugs.

Or falling in love with your mistress – or toyboy.

It’s a decision that you choose to make and, whatever the consequences of that decision, you are stuck with it.

For life!

Doog postcard 2

You’ll have great highs – Stuffing Arsenal 5-1 in the snow, beating Leeds 2-1 when they were odds on to win the double, watching The Doog or Waggy or Johnny Richards or Bully in their pomp.

And you’ll have gut-wrenching lows – we all know what they have been like. I’m not prepared to start listing them here.

But even when your lover – your drug of choice – is treating you like shit…. you still go crawling back.

And, over all these years, that’s the way it’s been for me.

Being a Wolves fan is a difficult business. But some poor sucker has to do it and it might just as well be me.

…And you lot aren’t going to get away with it either!

Doog postcard 3

But even us Wolves fans have a right to be optimistic and right now I certainly am.

I am beginning to think that this time it could be the start of something really good.

As such, I raise a metaphorical glass of alcoholical (?!) Yellow Tail to the man who has been largely responsible for the upturn in our fortunes.

Kenny Jackett!

And another glass – let’s make it real this time – to the members of his ‘Worldwide Barmy Army’.

US!!!!!!

Cheers all!

Doog postcard 1

The pictures show what a beautiful part of the World I live in, steeped in history and with strange, ancient links to The Wolves.

Silbury Hill is one of the enigmas of the ancient World. A vast monolith. Nobody really knows why it’s there or what use it was – a bit like a certain Chief Executive we all know and love.

The stones at Avebury have stood, unmoving, for centuries. Just like The Wolves defence of the last couple of seasons (Not now though).

The White Horse at Alton Barnes overlooks the crop circle centre of (and the best pub in) the Universe and is the highest point in Wiltshire… Top!

Leyton Orient 1 Wolves 3

As I write this report we still await Brentford’s result at MK Dons.

Wolves Leyton Orient

But in every respect, save for one mathematical anomaly, Wolves are champions of League One.

With the least goals conceded, most goals scored and a points tally that could yet write one more notable record, deservedly so you would say.

From the 99 points already accumulated, today’s three weren’t the easiest gained, a fact underlined by Carl Ikeme again taking home the champagne.

Our goalkeeper repeatedly bailed his team mates out as Orient poured forward either side of half time.

They’ll also count themselves unlucky following a strong penalty shout for handball and a goal chalked off for a marginal offside decision.

By that point, Wolves had already inflicted requisite damage thanks to a smart Stearman header and a well directed Sako volley.

And with the storm weathered after the break, the final third of the game was seen out with relative ease.

James Henry’s exclamation point finish added gloss to the scoreline and gave the midfielder a double digit goal tally for the season.

He’s been unlucky to find himself out of the side after playing an instrumental role for the majority of this sparkling campaign. But that in itself pays tribute to the strength of Kenny Jackett’s squad.

Wolves fans at Leyton Orient

His thoughts, for all his denials, must now be turning towards what might need adding to this record breaking group to ensure a comfortable Championship transition.

Evolution not revolution is the order of the day. To rip this team apart on the assumption they won’t be able to compete would be a bold and risky approach.

How they operate as a unit and not just as individuals has perhaps been the most impressive aspect of all.

That cohesion must be preserved at all costs.

It’s the hallmark of champions.