Filed: Thursday, 13th August 2009
By: Preview Percy
And so to the opening of another season which, sadly has arrived a week too late to distract us from the depressing capitulation of the England cricket side at Headingley
The fixture computer has paired us with last season’s Championship winners Wolves, who are making their first appearance in the top flight since their one-year-only visit of the 2003/04 season. Last season saw them play in fits and starts. An opening spell of 7 wins and a draw from their first 8 games got them off to a flyer whilst an indifferent start to 2009 caused a few jitters. However, their closest rivals seemed to mirror their form and 4 wins and a draw out of 5 matches in March steadied the ship somewhat before they finished 7 points clear of runners-up Birmingham City.
They’ve been active in the transfer market in the summer, recognising the need to bolster the squad if a sharpish return to the second tier is to be avoided. Marcus Hahnemann has come in from Reading on a free to provide competition for Welsh stopper Wayne Hennessy between the sticks.
Greg Halford came in from Sunderland. Halford has an, er, interesting, history over the past few years. He left Colchester United for Reading in January 2007 where he made only 3 appearances before the summer window opened. Amidst comments that he had not “fitted in” at the Wiggydome, he left for Sunderland in June 2007 where he managed to “fit in” for all of another six months before the Mackems announced they would “listen to offers” for the player, who ended up spending the end of 07/08 on loan at Charlton. Unable to find a permanent buyer for the defender/midfielder, Sunderland shipped him out for a season-long loan to Sheffield Hypocrisy, where his goal against Preston in the semi-final helped the two-faced liars qualify for the final. He also appeared in the final but we were too busy laughing at the result to notice his contribution. The hypocrites were unwilling or unable to meet Sunderland’s asking price for a permanent deal and Wolves stepped in during the close-season to become the long-throw specialist’s 6th club in two and a half years.
Another defensive new signing Ronald Zubar is unlikely to feature this weekend following an out-of-sorts pre-season in which he was described by Mick McCarthy as having “communication difficulties”. McCarthy recognised the problem from his own sojourn as a player to Lyon who, naively, presumed that they’d be getting someone with an Irish accent when signing a Republic of Ireland international. During pre-season Bobo Balde featured in pre-season on loan and Chelsea’s Michael Mancienne has come in on a season-long loan following a shorter loan spell last season.
In midfield former Grays Athletic midfielder Michael Kightley’s metatarsal injury is likely to prevent more than a bit-part on Saturday. Chris Iwelumo picked up an identical knock on pre-season in Australia and is a definite non-starter. New arrivals in the midfield include Nened Milijas, a Serbian international in from Red Star Belgrade and Andrew Surman who escaped the Titanic that is Southampton the day the window opened.
Reading were raided for another new arrival up front in the form of Wexford-born striker Kevin Doyle, an Irish international who actually sounds like one. Doyle was close to recovery from a hernia op but was forced off early in midweek during the Republic of Ireland’s 3-0 defeat to Australia and may be a doubt for the weekend. With a reported fee of a club record £6.5m on his head they’ll be looking for him to form a decent partnership with last season’s top scorer Sylvan Ebanks-Blake. Blake, who I keep wanting to refer to as “Sexton”, has won the Championship Golden Boot for the last two seasons and his 25 goals in 39 league matches last term were a major contribution to Wolves’ success last time out. This season will be the first time out in the Premiership for the Cambridge-born striker who started his career with Man Utd where his first-team opportunities were limited, partly by injury, to a few League Cup outings. If Wolves are to survive the traditional “curse of the newly-promoted” one gets the impression that much will rest on Ebanks-Blake being able to recreate his form of the last couple of seasons at the highest level.
As for us, well we’ve been a lot quieter on the transfer front and we can be very thankful that the midweek internationals left the resources unscathed. Traditionally we seem to suffer more than most during international breaks and I for one was half expecting at least a case of swine flu to hit Green, Upson or Cole.
“Jim” Jiminez has come in on the “one year with an option” deal which we are told will be the norm around these parts for a while. The permanent signing of Kovac will excite some of the ladies I suppose but, speaking as a 100% heterosexual male whose sole interest in these matters is football-related, I find the signing difficult to get too worked-up about. We are crying out for another striker – someone with a bit of pace to compliment Carlton Cole. Dare I say it a Bellamy or Defoe-type of player. At the time of writing we are told that talks are continuing with one or two targets. Whilst I appreciate that these things take time to organise, the problems we had last season, especially when missing Cole through injury & suspension should have started alarm bells ringing long ago. With Ashton’s fitness no more certain than the day he first broke his ankle and the (admittedly merciful) close-season departures of Tristan and DiMichele it’s looking like Cole will be the sole striker at the weekend. As well as he played for England in midweek it was notable that he did so as one of a forward pair, something we are unlikely to be seeing him do in claret & blue at the weekend. Given the apparent reluctance by anyone to actually shoot last weekend against Napoli, the lack of firepower up front is a worry. At the time of writing there’s no news on the transfer front and even if someone were to come in between now and kick-off it would take any newbies a while to settle in.
In the departure lounge we have Lucas Neill. Neill is in the queue for the metal detector and is dithering about whether to walk through at the moment. Reports on Aussie radio suggest that his absence from the Socceroos match in midweek had something to do with him flying off to sign for his new club, whoever that may be. In the event that Neill does not re-sign, Zola seems happy to have Faubert and Spector covering right back. I have my doubts.
Matthew Upson is the other player at the metaphorical airport at the moment, though we don't know if he's there to travel or simply to see Neill off. Whilst we’ve been assured that there is no financial need to sell the current skipper, it’s hard to deny that the money that he’d fetch would come in useful. Since centre back is possibly the position for which we have most cover at the moment, there must be a temptation to cash in, especially if a new striker is required.
Opening matches away against newly-promoted sides are difficult. The crowd are up for it and players new to the top flight will have a lot to prove. If this match were to come up later on in the season I’d feel a bit more optimistic about things but with goals looking in short supply in pre-season (notorious as such matches are as a reliable guide) I’m hard pressed to see us getting more than a draw out of this. I’ll therefore plump for a 1-1 with the hope we can pick up a few points early on before the cavalry arrives on or before the 31 August deadline.
Enjoy the game!
Last season: N/A
Danger Man: Ebanks-Blake – "Sexton" won’t have had the confidence knocked out of him yet and will be itching to prove that he can replicate his Championship form at a higher level.
Look out for: Some dodgy musical moments – “HI-Ho Wolverhampton” is bad enough but my spies tell me that since we were last there “The Impossible Dream” has become a favourite.
Referee: Chris Foy – presided over the 1-1 draw at Blackburn and the 2-0 home defeat to Sp*rs. Failed to award blatant penalties to us in both matches.
Please note that the opinions expressed in this article are those of the author and do not necessarily represent the views of, nor should be attributed to, KUMB.com.
08:24PM 17th Aug 2009
''I was right on point! ''
07:18AM 15th Aug 2009
''The Wolves will certainly perish on Saturday. I see a 2-0 smashing.
That said, The Hammers need another quality striker. Cole cannot do it alone. Zola and co need to anti up and bring in either a young gun, or an established star. ''
by Preview Percy
08:46PM 14th Aug 2009
''According to Sky Sports News Neill was absent and Australian radio (ABC) reported him absent visiting his new club. You pays yer money.......''
07:40PM 14th Aug 2009
''I saw Neill on the bench for the Socceroos on Sky Sports coverage.''
by worwolf 59 (WWFC)
09:13PM 13th Aug 2009
''Lookin forward to seeing you at the Golden Palace again. Try and enjoy it Saturday but it will be so loud you wont be able to hear yourselves think.''
03:25PM 13th Aug 2009
''A very accurate and knowledgeable description of events at the Wolves; you certainly know your stuff. I fancy a 2-2 draw for Saturday myself.
Oh and when your song is 'I'm forever blowing bubbles', well I mean...''
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