Archives for February 2016

Wolves 2 Derby County 1

Just when I thought I was out, they pull me back in.

Saville

How do you do it Wolverhampton Wanderers?

With any victory down the final stretch seeming fanciful, Molineux anticipated another chastening afternoon.

But with a roll your sleeves up attitude and a fantastic team ethic, hope returned and Derby were swept to one side.

George Saville is an unlikely hero based on so many anonymous outings to date, but the former Chelsea man was inspired.

Hard in the tackle (albeit in conceding the free kick for their equaliser), neat in his passing and clinical in the final third, this was finally potential realised.

Alongside the steady and reassuring presence of Kevin McDonald and the possessed Conor Coady, Saville’s role in the side suddenly makes complete sense.

A word too for Coady, who pushed his midfield colleague close for Man of the Match and was a constant driving force. This was the performance he was bought to consistently deliver.

We’ve seen glimpses against Blues and QPR, but this was Coady’s finest outing in a Wolves shirt to date.

It was also proof positive that these players are prepared to give everything for their under fire head coach.

Quite what possessed people into chants of ‘you don’t know what you’re doing’ is beyond me, given that Kenny Jackett had both his tactics and team selection spot on from the outset.

I might not have hooked Nathan Byrne either, but given that everyone (including myself) thought Derby would swat us away, he’d earned sufficient credit to do as he saw fit.

Anyone disagree?

Jackett will have been pleased by the natural balance Jeremy Helan brought to the left side of midfield.

The on loan Sheffield Wednesday winger was an effervescent presence and his combination play with Matt Doherty a feature of the team performance.

Doherty himself was brilliant, frequently getting in behind Derby’s back four and finding the inch perfect cross for Saville’s match winning moment.

Most pleasingly for everyone though, after so many dull, attritional Molineux contests, this was an afternoon to savour, fizzing along towards an exhilarating finale.

A most welcome interlude in otherwise trying times.

Nice one lads.

Wolves Vs Derby County Preview

Firstly guys, apologies for the outage.

Derby

I know conspiracy fans were salivating at the idea we’d been shut down by the club after Ben’s excellent post, but it was actually a much more basic and boring reason.

It did look at one stage that we’d be offline for considerably longer, which wasn’t entirely unappealing when facing up to writing this preview.

But as we’re back, I don’t want to disappoint you Prediction League fanatics (the table for which I will update over the weekend).

Derby

derby logoWhile we’re being informal, Derby can do one, with all their money and ambition. Makes me sick.

They even sacked their manager because the football wasn’t up to scratch, even though they were in the top six.

A couple of wins have recently got them back on track after it looked like they might completely fall away, much like last season.

But we know first hand they’re a good team with some excellent individuals.

I just wonder whether the big money arrivals have taken away from the overall team ethic that has impressed for a couple of years now without getting them promoted?

They tonked us again at Pride Park earlier in the season, so it would be nice to get some measure of revenge tomorrow.

Wolves

I think the arrival of Jeremy Helan has to be considered a positive. Pace in the attacking third is something we’re lacking and if nothing else, he brings that to the table.

Team for Brentford

As I’m writing this on a train, I don’t have the access to create a new team graphic, hence why I’ve used the above. But I actually wouldn’t play this team.

We need to stifle Derby and stop them playing football. If we try and go toe to toe, we’ll get beaten easily. I’d pack the midfield and just play one up top.

As for the new boy, yeah, I’d throw him straight in. Why not? He can’t do any worse than our other wide players have done in recent times and may inject some confidence and energy into a beleaguered team.

The gaffer

Predictions

It’s impossible to predict anything other than defeat.

I think Derby look better on paper than the collective sum of their parts these days, but they should have far too much for us.

As mentioned above, our best chance is to restrict their play and attempt to break quickly when the opportunity presents itself.

I don’t think we’ve got the discipline or the quality to do it effectively though, so…

3-1 Derby.

Up The Wolves!

Ben’s Fans’ Parliament Minutes

Personally, I couldn’t feel any worse about the state of our great club, the general lack of direction in which it is heading and no apparent sense of urgency to arrest the slump we’re in.

Wolves fans at Leyton Orient

But when I read back my notes from the Fans’ Parliament from a fortnight ago (apologies for the time it has taken in typing them), chief executive Jez Moxey didn’t sound unduly concerned, unless his confident exterior belied similar concern.

At times during the Fans’ Parliament meeting, I felt like I was living in a parallel universe as our chief executive proudly exclaimed that our emphasis on youth “is working” with rival clubs telling him so, despite current evidence suggesting otherwise.

And if fans don’t like it and place ‘X, Y or Z’ demands on the club before committing to an early bird season ticket, then he is not sure they are the right fans for Wolves.

There was no contrition, no apologies and no introspection from the chief executive, who actually trumpeted a number of success stories, along with a withering attack on Benik Afobe in tandem with Kevin Thelwell. (which has now been well documented. They really didn’t hold back).

After reading the official minutes on the official Wolves website, I felt I had to get my notes across, as some of the more contentious quotes appear to be missing.

The following comments from Jez Moxey caused me the most consternation:

· “If you say you will not renew (your season ticket) unless X, Y or Z, then that is not a relationship I would want with supporters.”

· “We believe in much more than the results on a Saturday afternoon. We believe in these young players. It is working. Clubs look at us and say that you have got this right. Why? Because we have been working at this for years and years. Why do the FA nick our people? Because your football club develops people.

Moxey

· “It’s not all about money” before arguably contradicting himself by saying: “We hope the knight in shining armour arrives over the horizon to help us and fund our aspirations!”

· Bournemouth only obtained promotion to the Premier League by ‘cheating’, such have been their disregard for financial fair play rules, which they will have to face up to ‘when’ they are relegated.

I didn’t ask any questions during the meeting aside one to the financial controller Rita Purewal at the very beginning, mostly because I was frantically scribbling down the many words that were being said.

It’s worth stating here that I am an NVQ Level 4 journalist with a 100 word-per-minute shorthand qualification and gained my qualifications through the Midlands News Association which owns the Express & Star. I used my shorthand when taking the following notes.

I always report on the fans’ parliament meetings as I see them and always comment honestly, whether it be good (the tour of the academy was a wonderful insight) or bad.

I felt that while Jez Moxey acknowledged and answered all of the questions posed (falling attendances being one) at the fans’ parliament, he didn’t sound unduly concerned by our predicament, with the following quote encapsulating what I felt was his general sentiment.

“If you do the right things then you create good fortune. The success will follow.”

The meeting started with ex-Stockport County CEO Ryan McKnight presenting some research into fans and their relationship with football clubs, specifically Wolverhampton Wanderers.

Personally, I didn’t take to Ryan – who was commissioned by Jez Moxey to carry out the independent research – or his overarching premise.

His presentation, condensed into a few paragraphs, was that Wolves fans should not expect success, when only 14% of 72 Football League clubs can ever achieve it in any given season. It is an unreasonable aspiration.

He advocated taking down the ‘This is our club. It knows no division’ banner inside the ground, as an example of his belief. I.E. It shouldn’t need stating and support shouldn’t be conditional on success / the subsequent division we are in.

If we love the club like our families have loved it for generations, then carrying on this tradition is more important than, say, abandoning the club next season and going 10 pin bowling.

Clubs should, according to Ryan, abandon a success based approach as their core purpose. Decision making should be devolved to supporters.

In short, Wolves should be more like Athletic Bilbao, who stand up for the Basque region and see their role in the community as being greater than any success gained on the pitch.

I took Ryan’s points on board, but felt the entire 30 minute presentation was too idealistic and dare I say romantic, based on the one glaring omission:

What is a football fan without hope?

I will write a separate blog on this thought but Ryan – a lifelong Wolves fan himself – failed to acknowledge that the increasing number of Wolves fans are considering walking away because all hope has been ripped from their souls. E.g. (Stearman, Afobe, Sako, Dicko, Graham departures / injuries, no quality replacements and an owner who isn’t in it for the long haul like Ryan tells us to be, despite having a ‘heart and body transplant’ to Wolves).

So while mentioning our fathers and grandads in a point of lineage, it is a spurious comparison to make when they could walk down Waterloo Road with varying degrees of hope, without apathy threatening their very DNA.

Ryan would probably counter this by saying we should keep on attending (under a ‘total membership model’ of support rather than season ticket principle) and get as close to the club as possible which will, in turn, stand up for our rights. The club should also become our mouthpiece and that of the city’s socio-economic needs.

So when fans demand certain criteria be met before renewing their early birds (investment in new players for example), then they are missing the point.

Jez Moxey’s most controversial of comments about not wanting a relationship with such fans was made in this context.

I will let you make your own minds up.

I was left dazed, if not a little confused.

Brentford 3 Wolves 0

Christmas is long gone.

Wolves players at Brentford

But enduring this torrid campaign is akin to opening a sick advent calendar.

Each passing disappointment brings us closer to the fabled day of 7th May 2016 when, barring a remarkable end to the season from one of the division’s bottom three teams, we will conclude the campaign in the middle or lower echelons of the table.

Having keenly followed coverage of the game on Twitter, I feel confident in concluding that tonight was one of our most abhorrent performances of the season.

Brentford sliced through our midfield at will and exposed the season long frailties of our back four.

Carl Ikeme has been far from faultless this term but it’s hard not to have sympathy for our beleaguered goalkeeper. Irrespective of what defensive combination has been put in front of him, he’s been left woefully unprotected.

But let’s face it, our problems don’t end with the back four.

Our midfield, though admittedly deprived of key players, is desperately short on character and thus incapable of being combative against skilled opposition.

We’ve been clamouring for the reintroduction of Kevin McDonald since his surprise demotion against Preston but he made little impact in tonight’s game.

Whether that’s due to the quality of the players around him (or lack thereof) or a decline in his influence on the team is a moot point for debate but, irrespective of what side of the fence you sit on, our deficiencies are clear for all to see.

As for our strikers, it’s unfair to criticise their current output considering the fact that none of them, Joe Mason aside, were intended to be regulars at the beginning of the season.

Let it not be forgotten that Bjorn Sigurdarson, for all the endeavour he has been shown, had spent the two years prior to January 2016 out on loan at clubs situated well away from Wolverhampton.

The fact that we are expected to believe spells at Molde and Copenhagen that yielded a cumulative total of four goals have made him any better a player than the one who couldn’t get a sniff at League One level is indicative of the presumed stupidity we have been treated with all season.

If no serious rethink of strategy is  forthcoming in the summer I fear we’ll be spending next season battling a return to the division from where our embattled manager found us.

Ben bites

Ben returns with an editorial on the destruction of a once great team.

‘Some of them don’t look as like they want to play.’

Batth Brentford

There spoke former Wolves hero Steve Daley, who could never be accused as such, nor his heroic teammates from a glorious old gold era, which will soon be a lifetime ago.

Whatever happened to all the heroes?

All the Shakespearoes? We’re watching Rome burn.

Two years and a day ago we won 3-0 at Griffin Park to end their 19 game unbeaten run in League One.

Michael Jacobs dazzled, Sako and Dicko mesmerised and our back four consisted of Golbourne, Batth, Stearman and Ricketts.

Today’s bastardised team is a pathetic, pale imitation, which will go on a 19 game run of their own at this rate – without winning a single game.

The parts of this team are inferior, the sum of them is collectively clueless and all the while, our once splendid manager looks on with his hands in his pockets.

And now, a much loved player from yesteryear who once commanded an English record £1.4m transfer fee is genuinely unsure if they give a toss.

Jackett at least picked a team more in line with what many have been crying out for in recent times, with Nathan Byrne making a rare start on the opposite side to van La Parra, who can console himself in the knowledge that he will be getting paid.

But whatever the permutations on paper, the end result is horribly familiar.

In the good old days we’d keep the ball irrespective of personnel. Whoever Jackett shuffles from one week to the next, the team surrender possession quicker than Dean Saunders lost his marbles.

So regressive is this brand of football and so completely alien is it to Jackett’s original principles that you wonder if they’re doing it deliberately.

However much Jez Moxey tells us to count our blessings (he did effectively say this at the Fans’ Parliament – the notes of which to follow), this feels so depressing that I can barely summon the words anymore.

No more inclination. No more heroes.

Brentford Vs Wolves Preview

Something good to say, something good to say, hmm…

Brentford Burnely

Well, none of the bottom four won on Saturday, so the gap between Wolves and the relegation zone remains 14 points with another game ticked off the list.

I think that has to be considered a positive.

We were relegated with 51 points in 2013 and although that was a ridiculously high total to drop with, I’ll still feel better when we’ve surpassed a half century this term.

Looking at what’s left, this could be one of the better fixtures for us.

Brentford

Brentford logoThe Bees are a club in transition and like Wolves, that’s partly of their own volition. After what was another highly successful season last time out, they cleared the decks and started again.

The manager went, their biggest names departed and the chairman’s experimental ideas continued unabated.

I’m watching with interest to see how Dean Smith gets on. He seemed to be picking up where Lee Carsley left off in his short and sweet tenure in charge, which saw Brentford climb the table.

But things have gone tits up lately, with three heavy defeats on the bounce and just two wins in ten, which has curtailed any play-off hopes.

They’ll see this as an opportunity to steady the ship, and I’m sure the former Walsall boss would love to get one over a former local adversary.

Wolves

It’s team selection roulette again for Kenny Jackett after another eleven were on the wrong side of the scoreline at Huddersfield. This would be my starting lineup:

Team for Brentford

We’ve tried all out defence, so why not have a crack at all out attack? Play two out and out wingers, play two forwards and play your most technically gifted midfield duo.

Although I was steadfast in defending the head coach at the weekend, the one thing I can’t argue with is the disappointment that he appears to have abandoned the passing principles that have made his Wolves teams successful.

Given our current plight the performance should enter the equation. Results are going to be patchy so lets at least see some decent football.

The gaffer

Predictions

We’ll most likely lose, but I’ll back us to get a point as I don’t fancy coming into the Derby game on Saturday on the back of three straight defeats.

In the above video, Kenny seemed impressed with what his team did off the ball at Huddersfield, which I suppose is a part of the game most supporters neglect to assess.

He’ll likely keep faith with a narrower midfield to accommodate his two forwards and I hope for his sake it delivers a result, because he could do with one.

1-1

Up The Wolves!

Huddersfield Town 1 Wolves 0

I like Kenny Jackett.

Jackett Huddersfield

As a coach and a person.

But it’s becoming harder to defend a series of bewildering team selections, the latest being the biggest head scratcher yet.

I suppose it is possible that because the squad have been hamstrung by the loss of key attacking personnel, he’s just decided to shut up shop for the winter.

Stink out the place and scrape enough points to finish with a modicum of respectability.

Or maybe he’s just experimenting given that we’re effectively contesting dead rubbers until May?

Most harrowing though is the idea that he actually believes Rowe, Coady or Saville are all better choices than McDonald.

Shudder.

If that’s the case (which I don’t think it is), he should reconsider his choice of career let alone his Molineux tenure.

Instinctively, I think McDonald and Price sat it out because Jackett believes they leave our midfield over exposed, particularly when we don’t possess the talent further forward to dominate the ball.

There’s some logic to that, but after losing another turgid contest and the team winless in six, leaving out your best players is always going to leave you wide open to criticism.

It’s not time to push the eject button though.

You’ve got examine all the evidence. The bigger picture.

We know this coach can get a team playing attractive, expansive football when afforded the resources to do so.

We also know you can’t lose Sako, Afobe, Stearman, Dicko, Graham, Edwards and Henry (not mentioning Jacobs and Golbourne) in the space of six months and expect the good times to keep rolling.

Equally, the players that have come in simply haven’t been on the same planet as those going out.

Ojo, Le Fondre, Wallace haven’t been anywhere close to good enough. I also doubt Mason or Byrne are promotion material either, albeit on limited evidence.

But is Jackett to blame for this? I don’t think he is.

Firstly, the club don’t pay decent salaries. Several reliable sources have told me there’s a stringent cap that makes us among the lowest payers in the Championship.

This immediately limits the pool of players we can realistically attract in an ever more competitive market.

Secondly, does Jackett even sanction who comes and goes? We’ve never had definitive clarification over who has final say.

Yes, you can probe and pick at team selection but the reality is, whoever the head coach puts out at present would only make a slightly under average Championship team slightly better.

Dropping the axe now in the misguided belief someone can salvage this write-off season would be a mistake.

And with no seriously compelling alternative suggested, nobody will convince me otherwise.