Taming the Black Cats

Brendan King on Wolves’ win at the weekend.

My drive from wheelchair, adapted, car was in for its MOT and service this weekend. The rear brakes are discs, but have drums additionally, for the electric parking brake – these had seized and worn down. A wrong new set arrived before the weekend and had to be sent back. This delayed the repair and gave me a great excuse not to go to the rain-exposed concrete bunker that the unimaginative new Molineux North Stand designers have created for us wheelchair users (I dislike the new set-up intensely but more about that on another occasion!).

So I watched on Sky. I thought it was a great old-fashioned game, with defensive strategies abandoned by both sides, both managers targeting a win whatever the risks, for differing reasons. Black, the one-match-only boss of Sunderland, had nothing to lose, whilst Mad Mick, by his own admission, had everything to lose (ie likely to follow Bruce if his team lost). So both teams played open attacking football, with passing from both sides as likely to reach an opponent as a team-mate throughout.

The first half was a chaotic roller-coaster from both sides but the second half improved and was a good watch, albeit from the warmth of my living room with its super-sized flat TV screen. I’m not making it up, but I always had the feeling that Wolves could come back from the quality Richardson first-half strike (remember how he was the Baggies saviour when on loan from Man Ure and they did their great survival act – as did Wolves last season?). I was remembering, however, how Wolves came back from two down and won in the last minute at Molineux against Bruce’s Sunderland last season. And Sunderland had a proper striker in Darren Bent then.

I think that many rain-sodden Wolves fans felt the same, so there was no repeat of the counter-productive half-time booing and vilification of the manager as happened at the Swansea game. And I reckon the dropping of the so far disappointing Roger Johnson was a good signal to the rest of the team – that if the captain can be dropped anyone can. Berra could equally have been sacrificed, but dropping the captain was a significant strategic move, and he was on the bench anyway, ready to replace the barely fit Jody, as he did.

Without (thank the Lord) the deservedly suspended Henry and after too-few-goals, run-around pointlessly, Doyle was replaced by the more solid and sturdy Sylvan Ebanks-Blake and the one-trick-pony, one-paced, Hunt was taken off for a proper speedy winger and effective crosser of the ball (Hammill) plus Matty Jarvis put from the right onto the left flank, from where he’s always proved more effective, we looked a lot more like a team with scoring potential.

Anyone who’s seen Fletcher in action (whenever he’s fit) knows he’ll always score given half a chance – great in the air with his head, plus a good shot with both feet – and enough technical skill with his feet and positioning to make the most of half-chances, so that gave me confidence of Wolves overcoming being a goal down and dumping on Sunderland once again.

But, even my magical soothsaying couldn’t predict that our recovery would be so dramatic, with the story-book drama of ‘Wayno’ (as Mick insists on calling goalkeeper Hennessey) saving a falsely awarded penalty, Fletch scoring a great couple of goals immediately afterwards. The Sky Sports commentator said “You couldn’t make it up” then named the telling crosser for the first goal as ‘Ryan’ Jarvis – so he’s capable of making anything up.

Zubar was back to his exuberant best, reminding us of when his exciting form was so good that he kept the previously irreplaceable Foley on the bench. Ward was a class act at left back as usual, and, as stand-in captain, he played a huge part in this vital win. He’s become so improved that he’s now the most likely Wolves Irish player to be picked for his country whereas, previously, he couldn’t even get into the squad. He’s proved the Mol Moaners wrong, much to Mick’s satisfaction, no doubt!

So I became an admirer, once again, of Mad Mick! I know that makes me one of the fickle ‘numpties’, as he describes his erstwhile critics. But he inspires a love-hate response from fans as he either gets it remarkably right or immensely wrong. There’s no in-between’s with this manager, but he remains the best we’ve had since Graham Turner so we have to stick with him through thick or wafer-thin! For the rest of this season at least.

But, if Mick wants to keep the faithful continuing in supportive mood he should keep faith with the 11 that were on the field when the two second-half Wolves goals were scored. Two up front at home is a must, with Ebanks-Blake and Fletch acting as proper strikers. And if the willing Doyle is also to start, use him out wide instead of the easily contained Hunt, alternating competitively with Hamill who’s proved that he deserves to start.

Als, of good news, is that both senior loaned-outers, Vokes (at Burnley) and Kites (at Watford) are performing excellently, so they should be brought back into the squad in January.

And Murky Moxey (Chief Executive) has said there’s a few million that was kept back at the season’s start, for strengthening in the forthcoming January window. This has changed my opinion, of only last week and with those below us being so poor, that we can survive. So I’ll keep the faith, for another week at least and, I hope, beyond, whatever the result of the (for a change) not ‘must win’ next match, which is with Man Ure. Any positive kind of display against them will be a bonus.

Yule-seasons greetings.