Looking Forward

Written by World Wide Wolfie on June 11th, 2013

Before ‘The Drop’ there were few Wolves fans who would have cheered the appointment of Kenny Jackett, but he seems a solid appointment at this level. He’s not set the world alight at either Swansea or Milwall, but oversaw steady progress for both clubs.  Jackett promises a ‘high-tempo and attacking’ passing game at Wolves. If he delivers we can look forward to an exciting campaign in League One.

Assuming Jackett can drag the club out of League One (unsurprisingly we’re the odds on tip for promotion from the bookies – see Unibet - but this is still a big assumption given recent history) big changes will still be needed at the club to fulfil any ambition of competing at a higher level.  Wolverhampton Wanderers need to see this fall from grace as an opportunity to learn from past mistakes (and there are plenty of those) and to wipe the slate clean.

Hopefully League One will offer some of the talented youngsters – who have signally failed to come through from the much vaunted Category One academy - a chance to shine. Baath and Forde have already shown some promise in real competition, and it will be good to see the highly-rated McAlinden and probably Ismail getting first team chances.  I’m in two minds about the return of Leigh Griffiths. Clearly he’s had attitude problems but he’s got talent, as his scorching last season at Hibs shows, and he is at least making the right noises about working hard in recent interviews. I doubt he’s got a long term future at the club given his complicated family ties in Scotland (and in fact Moxey already seems to have one eye on a possible transfer bonanza), but if he’s prepared to work for the moment, that will suffice.

I don’t expect to see many mouth-watering new signings as there is unlikely to be any change to the club’s policy of doing the minimum to (hopefully) get by. It will, however, be exciting to see if Sigurdarson can develop as a player and any of the overpaid wastrels who may remain at the club next year will still have my full support provided they put in the work required.

We will be a big fish in a small pond – a position all to familiar to Wolves, albeit to a lesser extent, through the many years in the second tier, where we’ve already proved how difficult a position that can be. Nevertheless, anything less than promotion would constitute failure.

Come on you Wolves!

 

Looking Back

Written by World Wide Wolfie on June 10th, 2013

It’s time to draw a line. We were in the Premier League and now we are in League One. We are going to Crawley next year. The club is financially ‘well run’ (entirely risk-averse) but gross incompetence in the management of personnel, and specifically the hiring and firing of the Manager, are the direct cause of our back-to-back relegations.

Ever since McCarthy’s sacking (ok, before that) Wolves have blundered from one disaster to the next; from one poor decision to another.  It was clear when Morgan met with supporters at a recent Fans Parliament that he both has the best interests of the club at heart, and absolutely no idea how it’s all gone so wrong.  I’ll give him a helping hand…

McCarthy stayed through a difficult spell in the Premier League at Christmas only to be replaced by his well meaning but completely ineffective assistant when it would have been too late for any new manager – however – good to make a difference.  After the inevitable relegation, ineffective assistant is sacked and a grand vision is announced. Stale Solbakken comes in; the players don’t really like it, play insultingly badly and the vision is discarded. At least this time it’s before the transfer window. Time to bring in a strong Manager and invest and restart that play off push…No, time for Dean Saunders and to try and strengthen the team through loan signings only.  Hello relegation number two.

With the decision to rebuild the North Bank and announce a grand vision for Molineux and then to put that on hold and focus on the academy and building houses, Molineux is currently an discordant shambles perfectly reflecting back the confusion and incoherence which has beleagued the club in recent times.  Even in the midst of all this mismanagement, the players on the pitch should have been good enough to stay in the Championship. In fact, they were, but most of them couldn’t really be bothered.  The real shame of the past season is that so much went wrong off the pitch that they were allowed to get away with it.

However, we have a new manager and it’s time to draw a line under the past. It’s time to forgive those players who have to or are willing to stay. It’s time to forgive Morgan. It’s even time to forgive Moxey. It’s time to forget, just a bit.  I shall allude no more to past inadequacies. The question is can the future be any different? I’ll be looking at that in my next post.

 

Derby vs Wolves Preview aka the curse of the twitchy finger

Written by World Wide Wolfie on February 16th, 2013

It’s been a long time since I last wrote, and a lot has changed. Wolves now lie just outside the relegation places on goal differences. Derby may only be causing small ripples in tenth place in the Championship but Wolves are this season’s big turkeys.

Mr Morgan’s twitchy finger has struck again. Form under Solbakken was going from bad to worse. Replacing him with an inexperienced aspirant has done nothing to improve things. Sound like McCarthy-Connor? A year ago today I was complaining of similar idiocy in decision making at the club (Why McCarthy should have stayed). It is far from good to see that nothing was learned.

It was evident to everyone that Wolves disastrous rot was caused by some very well paid, very experienced players couldn’t really be bothered any more. So, new manager in time for the transfer window had some logic to it, even if that new manager did not set the pulses racing. But then to bring in no new players in the transfer window beggars belief. While I applaud the aim of running the club sustainably in the long term, time and again Wolves have tried to do just enough to scrape by, but too often that has been too little. Let’s hope this time they’re lucky and we manage to steer clear of relegation. The argument to balance the books to avoid ‘doing a Leeds’ may be a sound one, but let’s not achieve the dreaded double relegation through executive rather than financial incompetence.

If anyone’s feeling glum though, just remember, it could be worse…in the closest fixture to this one year ago we lost 1-5 to some stripy people from down the road. Cheered you up any? No? There no pleasing some people. Still, let’s hope we all enjoy this afternoon more than most recently.

But to the matter in hand. With no wins in nine this is hardly surprising that Wolves are far from favourites for this one (https://sports.bwin.com/en/sports/4/betting/football), and recent form is all against us. However, Batth’s impressive introduction to the team has provided a glimmer of hope in recent weeks, and Sako remains a big (arguably the only) positive to come out of the Solbakken era. I can’t see the unthrilling introduction of loanee Kaspars Gorkiss having a major impact, but this team has enough skill and energy in it to provide a good match for anyone in the League, so here’s hoping Saunders can be the unlikely hero and find the switch to get them working together again. I’m really not sure he’s the man for the job but I’m an eternal optimist so I hope to be proven wrong before it’s too late (though it would be typical Wolves to go on a grand unbeaten run just too late).

I’m backing a win at last away from the gloom at home. In fact – I’m going to say it – we’re too good to go down…

 

Leeds vs Wolves Preview

Written by World Wide Wolfie on August 18th, 2012

A new season; a new start, for me and Wolves.  It’s been a long time but I’m going to try and keep you up to date with all some of the action this season.  It’s been a funny old preseason, a few comings and goings but of course all the talk has been about the will they-won’t they romancing of Fletcher and Jarvis by Sunderland and West Ham respectively.  In the wake of this storm Michael Kightly has disappointingly allowed been to slip quietly out the door to Stoke, and our defence is still – remarkably – hardly touched.

We’ve already been told that Fletcher won’t play (no surprise there – apparently he’s still recovering from an ankle injury), but that Jarvis will travel.  That is as it should be.  Few will blame either Jarvis or Fletcher for wanting to stay in the bright lights (and shiny payslips) of the Premier League but if they were happy to sign the contracts they did then they should honour them if required – even the sulky Scottish git (quote of the week from Solbakken, who may yet rival Mick if this is anything to go by: “referring to Fletcher’s head, it’s been put back on a little bit because he’s been able to train again”), though realistically the team might benefit from his goals, but unlikely his attitude so surely he’ll be out the door before the transfer window slams shut.

Pre-season hasn’t given us much to go on…or perhaps that’s me being hopeful. Aside from comfortable wins against the mighty Walsall and Bray Wanderers, a loss to Southampton and draws with Aldershot and Shrewsbury hardly suggest Solbakken has really made his mark yet.  The bookies have Leeds as slight favourites to win this one (get a free bet) and who can blame them, but I’m going for 1-0 to Wolves with a last minute goal from Ebanks-Blake to recall Bothroyd’s screamer last time at Elland Road and bring all those Chumpionship memories flooding back.

One player who has quietly gone about his business in contrast to certain of his team mates (and here I’m also looking at you Christophe Berra) is that consumate professional and thoroughly nice chap Kevin Doyle.  Here’s to him showing the class we know he has under the new management and giving Wolves a helping hand back into the Premier League.

 

What goes down…Norwich vs. Wolves Preview

Written by World Wide Wolfie on March 22nd, 2012

Carrow Road – scene of many classic (by which I mean winning) encounters against the guys in yellow.  How likely is that to be repeated on Saturday?  Despite Norwich being the Johnny-come-lately Premiership new boys, they’re odds on favourites to take the win (Football Betting Tips).  How did this happen?

Circumstances have meant that my last game at Molineux was way back in January against Aston Villa.  Remember that?  Despite having only picked up five points in nine games, and despite Berra giving away a stupid penalty, Wolves went in at the break 2-1 up, having played probably their best half of football of the season: Johnson seemed to have remembered how to defend, Kightly was finally showing the skill and drive to remind us why we all used to love him; the loan signing of Frimpong was a masterstroke, and we looked like a team at last.  45 minutes, a Henry sending off and two Keane wonderstrikes later, the turn-around-that-might-have-been was over.  We haven’t looked back since.  In the seven games since, we’ve picked up one win and one draw and conceded 23 goals.  Mick is gone and the club has been the subject of open ridicule in the press over the appointment of his successor (in the Mail to cite just one example) and the cracks have been showing further with RJ all over the press for all the wrong reasons.

Is there time for one last go at The Big Turn Around before Wolves sink into oblivion (or the Championship at least)?  Clearly replacing McCarthy with his head coach was never going to effect this, but is there enough left in the team who were top of the table after three games to drag the club back from the brink of relegation?  Frimpong is gone from that January line-up, Johnson’s future is even more uncertain under the Connor regime, Ward seems to be faltering and O’Hara’s visibly been playing through an injury for a while and is now finally ruled out officially.  Fundamentally, the team is certainly not better than the one that survived last season, neither is it worse however.  Despite some frankly bizarre decisions such as loaning out Guedioura and Hammill, both of whom have been successful impact subs, I’d argue the squad is no worse than Norwich’s.  The team spirit patently is worse – an issue apparent before Mick’s sacking, but only exacerbated under Connor. The team may be only good enough to scrape Premier League survival, but believing and playing together and at their best, as Mick has had them doing in previous seasons, they could be that.

This season’s dire form is not the fans’ fault, but their reaction to Sunday’s five-nil defeat, holds the key to any chance of survival.  I believe this marks the turning point where enough Wolves supporters have given up hope, mentally adjusted to the likelihood of being a Championship team next year, and can relax and support the team unconditionally.  Conversely, this is likely to offer our only chance of starting to pick up results. Even depleted as it is by injury, suspension and management decisions, believing in themselves and playing at their best, they could take a win from this game.  Let’s not underestimate Norwich of course: They’ve shown exactly what a team in their first season in the big league can achieve if well-managed, but they are coming into the game on the back of no wins in four (beats us, I know, but still…) and realistically the teams were pretty evenly matched at Molineux earlier in the season – or rather each had a good half of a game.

I’m going to assume TC will continue his trajectory of picking the same sort of team that we’ve seen all season (which probably means Stearman back on the right in Zubar’s absense) but I’m a bit bored of it so instead want to share the team I’d like to see:

Hennessey
Foley – Johnson – Bassong – Ward
Kightly – Henry – Milijas – Jarvis
Doyle
Fletcher

I’m not going to rule out a win, and a win would certainly help to rebuild the team’s fragile confidence, but do I believe?  Do I really believe?  Actually, no.  But I do believe we should support the team whatever happens and keep our fingers crossed, because that’s all there is left to do.

 

Why McCarthy should have stayed

Written by World Wide Wolfie on February 13th, 2012

So, it’s goodbye Mick McCarthy.  I have staunchly (ok, a bit staunchly) defended him for some time, but wasn’t the only supporter who saw the writing on the wall after yesterday’s shambles.  Not only a terrible capitulation by the players on the pitch, but to the bitterest of local rivals.  It will be some time before this particular wound heals (or will be allowed to).  In time we’ll look back at the fantastic achievements of McCarthy’s time with Wolves – and he is, without a doubt our most successful manager of the past two decades – but not now.

He had to go – the fans righteous anger after yesterday’s result made his position untenable – but unfortunately, we are now at a juncture in the season that this sacking will achieve nothing.  Morgan made the decision to back McCarthy when things looked bleak at the back end of last year.  He could easily have gone then, other options were available, and a new manager would have had the opportunity to shape the team in their image.  I supported the decision to stick with Mick (as I did at the same time last season), but that carried with it the logic of sticking with him to the end of the season.  At this stage, there is no one more qualified than McCarthy available to take his place and, if there were, there will be no opportunity for them to augment the threadbare squad.

With the only rays of hope from a dismal January transfer window now dampened, with loanees Bassong out for a few games and Frimpong the rest of the season, the new manager is left with little to play with.  Mick’s main strength is to get the best out of hardworking players.  Yes, we have flair and talent in the likes of Jarvis and Fletcher and sometimes O’Hara, but the backbone of the team are superlative grafters. Perhaps some confidence can be restored, but a new manager is not going to turn us into Brazil (or even Stoke).

We were likely candidates for relegation yesterday; surely we are now dead certs.

 

Wishing Robbie Keane had stayed Stateside: Wolves 2-3 Villa

Written by World Wide Wolfie on January 22nd, 2012

Aston Villa were one of the worst teams – or rather put in one of the worst performances – I have seen at Molineux this season (our own lacklustre fumblings included).  Wolves, on the other hand, produced by far their first half performance.  This game should have been won but for three things; Berra’s clumsiness, Henry’s stupidity, and Robbie Keane’s brilliance; and the greatest of these was, inevitably, Robbie Keane.

Plenty of people might have suspected it was written in the stars that Keane would get a goal today, but I suspect few foresaw what a pivotal part he was to play.  I’ve not been bothered for years about seeing him back at Molineux, but this was certainly the worst-case scenario for any Wolves fan his second coming.

The first significant action of the game happened when Berra dithered over a Jarvis backpass into the penalty box, allowed Bent to dispossess him, and then clumsily felled the attacker on the road to nowhere in the back corner of the penalty box.  A completely indisputable penalty and a completely unnecessary one.

Bent slotted away a poor penalty and Villa were ahead.  As seems to be the way with this Wolves team, going behind stirred them to show that they could attack, and as they proved on this occasion, in spectacular fashion too.  First on 21 minutes, Frimpong skillfully set up Kightly who produced a perfect shot from the edge of the penalty area to beat several players and the keeper and to level the game.  Kightly and Frimpong in particular continued to delight, with Jarvis also proving a headache for his opponents as we have so regularly seen.

It was unfortunate that the ever-energetic Edwards didn’t show the same composure and we had seen moments before, hitting a great opportunity unmarked from the centre of the penalty box tamely straight at Given.  Moments later he was able to atone by flicking Johnson’s header past the keeper from a few yards out.  Wolves continued to dominate, with the bad guys surviving another goalmouth scramble to go in at half time only one goal behind.

It was inevitable in the second half that Villa would improve: They’re not a bad team I hear, but actually they didn’t look up to much at Molineux.  Neither, unfortunately did Wolves after such a promising first half.  It could be argued that bringing on Warnock after the break stifled Kightly, but realistically he already looked tired, but was mainly isolated by Wolves’s insistence that attacking via Jarvis on the left was suddenly the only way forward.  While he was still often able to beat the pair of Villa players who were able to concentrate their energies on him, the tactic was predictable, and the quality of crosses in the circumstances inevitably variable.

Four things conspired to break this dull deadlock.  First Keane produced a brilliant quickfire strike from outside the penalty area.  Hennessey may well think he could have done better, and it was worrying to see the otherwise excellent Welshman beaten again from long-range, but there’s no disputing the quality of the strike.  Then Henry, slightly backheeled Albrighton who had been hanging onto his other leg resolutely for a few seconds while the referee watched on.  A completely indisputable sending off and a completely unnecessary one, although never a dangerous move, just a silly, frustrated one.   Granted it was frustrating that a foul should already have been called, and granted Albrighton made an embarrassing meal of the incident, but it was the worst way for Henry to end an otherwise excellent game for him.  Albrighton is the only Villa player I would have taken into our team based on their showing yesterday, but were he a Wolves player I hope I would still have had the sense to be ashamed of his behavior.

Then Frimpong, such a key driving force until then, was carried off with an eye injury after an unfortunate collision with Petrov’s boot.  I wish him a very swift recovery – apart from anything else, it looks like we’re really going to need him.

Then from long range again Robbie Keane produced surely the best strike we’ll see from him in the remainder of his career, and the rest is history. With 10 man Wolves had a frantic last eight minutes, but it was too little, too late.

So there we have it, in 90 minutes, Villa mustered an undisputed, but completely Wolves self-inflicted penalty and two brilliant goals.  This would not have happened on another day and we would have won the game.  This loss was not down to ill-luck, as McCarthy implied in his otherwise spot on post-match interview, but to both genius (of the type I’m prepared to bet we won’t see from Keane again) and of stupidity from Henry and, particularly Berra (of the type I’m prepared to hope we will not see again) and therefore, while trying not to read too much into a good 35 minutes of play, can be considered a freak result.

Devastating as the second half was to witness, the selection was right, Kightly and Frimpong both showed themselves to be game-changing additions to the starting line up, and I’m sticking with the whole team, management and all, to turn around this sinking ship.  Just.

 

Merry Christmas

Written by World Wide Wolfie on December 24th, 2011

Merry Christmas from the Wolfies and Wendys

 

Man City vs Wolves (The Revenge): Preview

Written by World Wide Wolfie on October 27th, 2011

Having been asked to answer a few questions by the folk at the lovely bluemoon-mcfc.co.uk, I sensed a fine opportunity to 1) actually have the energy to write a game preview and 2) recycle some content – very eco.

Out of politeness, of course, I took the opportunity to ask some searching questions of them in return, which went something along the lines of: “So, I assume you’re reasonably happy with how things are going…What’s your predicted line up and score?”

Hart

Richards
Kompany
Lescott
Clichy

Barry
Yaya Toure

Silva
Aguero
Milner

Balotelli

and I think it’ll finish 3-0 to us.

My own humble contribution is as follows, but I really struggled to forsee what team the usually eminently predictable Mick might pick.  Am I kidding myself that yesterday might have changed anything?

1. Who are Wolves’ key players?

Stephen Ward, who in most people’s mind has always been a makeshift left back, has been a revelation this season.  He’s not had much in the way of a competition from the rest of the team, but has been the one consistent player this season.  Unspectacular but excellent.

Jamie O’Hara has got a lot of stick recently – often justifiably as he’s been very careless – but he’s got enthusiasm to burn and, if he gets a chance to play further forward than he has often this season, will be instrumental.

New arrival Roger Johnson will, I suspect, be key one way or the other. Judging by recent form it will be by bungling to let in a goal or two, but we’ll need him to be up to his best to keep the defence tight.

We’ve got a few patchy geniuses in the squad.  Milijas, Guedioura and Hammill all have it in them to change games, but Milijas puts in nearly as many anonymous as commanding performances, and the other two are still pretty hit and miss – always wanting the ball, but either great or completely
overreaching themselves.

2. Were you happy with the business conducted during the transfer window?

I wouldn’t say happy, but I think it’s sensible.  Lacking either the recklessness of other teams or the flowing oil money of others (mentioning no names; brushing chip off shoulder) the amount we spend is always going to be relatively modest.  With that in mind, I would still have liked to see at least another quality centre back, but thought we got did well to get Roger Johnson and Jamie O’Hara.  I am getting less happy as the weeks pass though. Johnson and O’Hara both looked excellent buys but neither has played to their potential so far this season.

3. What are your expectations for this season?

Finishing 16th, with a lot of pain and bickering on the way.

4. Are you happy with the manager?

Yes.  We’re on a very poor run, and going 2-nil down at home against Swansea was a touch trying at the time but he’s the most successful manager the club has had for more than 30 years.  I like him and think he cares as much about winning as anyone, although I do wish he’d shut up moaning about the fans booing him.  Not that he’s wrong, just that it’ll only make things worse. It’ll stop soon enough if we win a few games.

5. Are there any rising stars in the squad that we might not have heard of?

Wolves used to excel at bringing young talent through the academy, but haven’t had done well of late, with Mark Davies at Bolton and Joleon Lescott being the most notable ‘recent’ products  We do have a better recent record of improving ‘bargain basement’ players, with the core of the squad – for
better or worse – still composed of the team that won the Championship a few years back.  Matt Doherty is the only youngster to make it into the first team of late, and judging by his two appearances this season, could go far. At junior level and now in the reserves, Zele Ismail has been making gentle waves for some time, but he’s a secret and if I told you I’d have to kill
you.

6. If you could have any City player in your team who would you choose?

There’s quite a choice and we probably wouldn’t be turning any of them down, provided they’re willing to take a little pay cut for the glory of playing for Wolverhampton.  I should say David Silva on recent reports but, for sentimental reasons – and because I think our comedy defending of late is
the main reason for the ongoing lack of confidence amoung the team – I have to say Lescott.

7. What is your perception of City as a club?

Obviously a quality bunch of players, and finally looking like gelling as a team, but overriding perception would have to be summarised as “upstart oiks ruining the league (further) for the rest of us with lots of money and being very good” ;)

8. Likely Wolves starting XI for Saturday, and score prediction?

Predicting the score is a scary prospect at the moment.  Wednesday was one of the best Wolves performances of the year so however much I want to say we’ll surprise everyone, I think I’d be going out on a limb.

Predicting the Wolves line up is usually very easy: Fans – me among them – will bay for some combination of Milijas, Hammil or Guedioura to start and for a change in defence, but Mick will stick with the same team as last week.  This time I think a few players made a good case for a place in the starting line up and we might even see a little bit of a reshuffle. I’ll go (with no confidence this is what we’ll actually see, although surely we won’t play two up front):

Hennessey

Stearman – Johnson – Berra – Ward

Henry – Milijas

Hunt – O’Hara – Jarvis

Doyle

and wouldn’t be surprised to see Guedioura and Hammil make an appearance.

Hell, I’ll say it anyway – we’ll surprise everyone…

and only lose 2-1.  But I always hope for better.

Come on Wolves!

 

DLLLLL: Could be worse

Written by World Wide Wolfie on October 18th, 2011

Protected by a flying start to the season, Wolves have amassed an unenviable record of late, culminating on Sunday with a defeat to West B**m to complete an unmatched run of 5 straight losses – their worst run since 1984.

Many fans are baying for McCarthy’s head and performances have been worse than most last season, with the notable exception of some decent spells against Liverpool, Spurs and Newcastle, against whom we deserved at least a point, and would have got it were it not for the sterling work of Mike Halsey and his boss-eyed assistants.

Perhaps it’s my own streak of that McCarthy stubbornness that makes me say this, but Mick deserves longer to prove people wrong.

That his record at this club – in the Championship and the top flight is better than any Wolves manager of the last 30 years speaks for itself.  We are in our third Premier League season, and not the only team to find it doesn’t get any easier. McCarthy has built a sound Premier League team with relatively modest resources (still primarily from the best of a Championship winning team, but I’ve no problem with that).  Of late there seems to be some frustration in the ranks, but there’s still no doubting McCarthy’s ability to get the best from good hard-working players (I’ll save the debate about whether he can get the same from less hard-working but more creative players, as that’s not what we have).  His players are underperforming in whatever tactical formation they play.  This will change.  Johnson has clearly yet to settle, and there’s no reason to believe that the rest of the team are suddenly worse players than they have been in recent years.  I wanted Hammil to play on Sunday – he did and he was as average as the rest of the team, Ward excepted again – but that’s no reason to think he or the rest of the team are no longer good enough.  Seven points from eight games sees us in 16th position.  Had those points been spread more evenly over the eight games, I’d be feeling dissatisfied but not panicked.

With good early results against poor opposition we did flatter to deceive; results since against average-going-on-good opposition have been poor.  Of course this has to end – and soon.  The below results, give or take a couple of points, are both achieveable and important, and would see us in solid mid-table form.  Nothing more can be expected, slightly less is more realistic.  Early results might have raised expectations that signing two decent players over the summer might have somehow turned us into something more, but the club continues its course of steady and safe investment, which will prove to be the best course as more teams implode in a futile attempt to stay near the biggest spenders.

My wishlist:

Swansea 3pts
Man City 0pts
Wigan 3pts
Everton 1pt
Chelsea 0pt
Sunderland 1pt

Fail to achieve that – fail to address last season’s pattern of being very nearly good enough – and I might just change my mind, but right now, there is no reason to do that.