PLAYER RATINGS: WOLVES 0-0 SUNDERLAND

Can’t deal with the cold, clearly…

John Ruddy: At around 4.15 yesterday afternoon we witnessed the rare sight of John Ruddy actually having to make a save. Granted, he didn’t really have to move and it was a fairly weak Lewis Grabban effort from close to 30 yards out, but a save nonetheless. It’s the only effort he’s had to field in the last 180 minutes of football. Sunderland proved to be more negative than the Amazon reviews for Nick Knowles’ album as that was their only shot in the entire match, on or off target. His role in the last two games has been more akin to a cricketer posted to field at third man than a goalkeeper.

Ryan Bennett: Essentially we got what we have come to expect from Bennett; anything he was asked to do defensively – and there wasn’t much in this game – was performed perfectly comfortably. His passing was safe and risk-free and he continues his excellent personal record of goals conceded when he’s been on the pitch (it currently stands at three from 12 appearances in all competitions). However…this was a situation where we were frequently asking the back three to step into midfield with the visitors sitting so relentlessly deep, and safe and risk-free wasn’t necessarily the best option for us. It’s possible that the superior ball-playing ability of Roderick Miranda would have helped us here, but then again can you really drop a defender who’s playing well and doing his core job more than acceptably? It’s not an easy decision for Nuno to make. Ultimately if we’d scored early here and won to nil, we wouldn’t even be talking about this.

Conor Coady: Normal service for the skipper who used the ball well, covered when needed at the back and did his best to push the team on in the second half. You could perhaps argue that he’s been slightly fortuitous that three at the back has come back into vogue of late – the requirements for where he plays are different to those of a centre half playing in a pair – but he really is excelling this season. Good to see.

Willy Boly: If there was mild surprise that Ruddy was forced into some form of action in the second half, it was downright astonishing that someone (in the form of the lively Lynden Gooch) managed to skip past Boly, one of the first times that anyone has got the better of him since his return from injury at the end of October. Otherwise he was as commanding and serene as ever, though Sunderland did much better than previous opponents at dealing with his threat from set pieces.

Matt Doherty: When you’re up against a team that are playing a genuine back five and a midfield with virtually no attacking intent in front of them, our formation requires the wingbacks to play a key role in stretching the play and providing good service from out wide. There was plenty of endeavour from Doherty who continues to demonstrate far superior work rate than in previous seasons (even allowing for this being an incredibly low bar) and he never hid. The problem is his quality on the ball; that crossing is still well below par as he tends to either wildly overhit the ball or supply a slow, floated delivery that is very easy to defend. Given that especially in home games, he’s largely exclusively tasked with attacking duties, it’s an area he desperately needs to work on.

Barry Douglas: Baz will wake up this morning pleased that by the laws of the gospel according to Steve Cotterill, he had a couple of good efforts on target yesterday. Of course back in the real world, neither shot actually troubled Robbin Ruiter and instead was blocked some distance from goal – in the first case by Romain Saiss and had that goalbound effort found the bottom corner in the opening five minutes…then we have a different game. But it didn’t, and that’s that. Corners were perhaps a little below his normal standard and he was subdued after his yellow card for bringing down Gooch, subsequently being replaced.

Romain Saiss: A small blot on Saiss’ copybook here as this was possibly his poorest display of what has been an overall extremely impressive season. While he was fine defensively, his use of the ball was very poor yesterday with a couple of Olofinjana-style, 30-40 yards away from anyone, “presumably that ball was too intelligent for everyone else on the pitch” passes being particularly notable. Can’t really have too many complaints about being substituted, although perhaps switching him into the back three may have been an alternative option.

Ruben Neves: Back in the team and clearly keen to make up for missing out on the game at St Andrews through suspension. From the outset he was as eager as ever to get on the ball, we saw the usual sumptuous touches and bits of class, but his shooting boots were absent yesterday; a number of long range efforts missed the target by a distance. Nitpicking, but a man of his talent should have more than one goal by now.

Ivan Cavaleiro: Has been in devastating form recently; like so many this was a drop-off from that standard. No shortage of effort and he was always willing to take defenders on, but the end product just wasn’t there yesterday. Crosses were frequently too heavy and he was unable to consistently break into central areas as he has done over the past month and more. Finished the game playing at left wingback, which is not a role I expect he’s ever had to perform previously.

Diogo Jota: That’s now four successive games in which an opposing player has been sent off in an incident involving Jota – Sunderland didn’t go for the outright assault option favoured by Birmingham but he continues to attract fouls as defences at this level cannot deal with him. Savagely hauled down by Marc Wilson in the second half before Lee “waistband up to his nipples” Cattermole was stupid enough to hack him down after his own Sunday League touch in the middle of the park. A couple of uncharacteristic ballooned efforts summed up the day for us in front of goal.

Leo Bonatini: Squandered our best chance late on in the first half as his effort from Cavaleiro’s pull back was horribly skewed nearer the corner flag than the goal. An otherwise fairly quiet outing and some of his normally excellent link up play just didn’t fall our way in this game, with layoffs dropping inches out of reach of team mates on a number of occasions.

Alfred N’Diaye: One raking pass out to the left aside, didn’t have much impact after replacing Saiss. Oddly we didn’t seem to give him the ball much given it would have been useful to have him driving forward as we know he can do.

Helder Costa: Subdued in his 15 minute or so outing. Seemed reticent to take Adam Matthews or Brendan Galloway on or to deliver the ball from out wide. It’s a conundrum for Nuno; Helder isn’t going to get back to his best when he’s never spending more than half an hour on the pitch, but equally he isn’t currently worthy of getting a start.

Oscillating Wildly is a “pay-as-you-feel” website. The content will never disappear behind a paywall. However, if you enjoy my work and would like to help me continue to write – as this is essentially my main focus now – please consider making a small donation via the button near the top of the page. If you want to and can, that’s great. If not, then no worries.

PLAYER RATINGS: WOLVES 5-1 BOLTON WANDERERS

It’s not quite payback for 1995. But it’ll do for a start…

John Ruddy: There’s a lot that’s easy to take for granted with Ruddy having now seen him at close quarters for nearly half a season. His command of the box, his calming presence, his ability to pull out a quality save despite spending long periods of the game being relatively unoccupied. All of that was on show yesterday, but what we aren’t used to seeing from our keeper is him producing a 70 yard through ball that ends up directly assisting a goal. Quick thinking and unerring accuracy, rightly recognised by his teammates who rushed to celebrate with him. Got to be a good shout for being our best free transfer signing in the last 30 years.

Willy Boly: That’s now two teams inside a month who’ve decided that the best man to leave unmarked, six yards out while waiting for an inswinging ball from the right is a 6’3” centre half. Good work lads. As so often, this was a cruise for the big man. Just strolls through games and always looks like he has another couple of gears to go through if he really needed to. We did just fine without him while he was injured; we’re a much better team with him.

Conor Coady: The St Helens Sammer had another excellent outing and even though he started the season well in his new role, he’s still improving month on month. That range of passing – that he never even hinted at showing while playing in midfield – allows us to switch from defence to attack in a heartbeat and he’s continually on hand to sweep up any danger on the rare occasions that teams do threaten to get in behind us. I’m not sure I’ve ever seen such a dramatic conversion from deadweight to indispensable in a Wolves player.

Ryan Bennett: It seems a bit churlish to go picking at players when we’ve just won 5-1. Or when we’ve won two home games this week by an aggregate of 9-2. Or to look at a defender when we’ve conceded two goals in five games. I’m going to do it anyway. In terms of basic defending, Bennett hasn’t done a great deal wrong. You could even see why he was in yesterday ahead of Roderick Miranda given the brute physicality of Gary Madine. But we are a footballing team, we simply don’t thump the ball away. We play our way out of danger every time, or at least try to. Unfortunately Bennett isn’t really equipped for this. Any pass over 10 yards is pretty much beyond him and Bolton’s goal was down to his clunky nature on the ball. Indecisive and then ultimately unable to pass the ball into midfield properly. He’s also lucky not to have it registered as an own goal against him as I’m fairly sure he toe-ended it past Ruddy (although I’m not going to blame him for that). If we ask him just to be a fairly rustic Championship level defender then he won’t let us down very often – he won’t get tested all that often for one thing – but we’re already beyond that now, let alone in the future. It’ll be interesting to see what Nuno does after this error as Danny Batth and Miranda were both unceremoniously ditched after their parts in the goals QPR notched against us at Loftus Road.

Matt Doherty: Another decent enough display. You’re only ever going to get so far with improving his defending – not that he’s asked to do a great deal – but there has been noticeable work done on getting him to cover at the back post which previously was a huge weakness. There’s more of a willingness to chase back properly and he does cover a fair amount of ground (amazing what can happen when you choose to be an acceptable weight for a professional footballer). The feeling will persist that we can do better; you simply don’t get a reliable end product from him in the final third. For now though he’s doing fine. I don’t have to shudder when I see his name on the teamsheet at 2pm. I know he’ll actually try. This is progress.

Barry Douglas: Any team that bothers with any kind of analytical work will soon have to conclude that you simply can’t give away free kicks and corners on our right hand side, because Baz’s delivery from there is just lethal. It’s a very high bar, but I’d say that he is at least the equal of Bakary Sako in those positions. His engine is fantastic and he offers us so much going forward. The bonus for us is that he knows he has to continually play at this standard because of the presence of Ruben Vinagre just waiting for an opportunity. I’m still getting used to us having someone competent down that side, let alone a top performer.

Ruben Neves: Much like Boly, this league is just far too easy for him at times. This is, after all, a current full Portuguese international. His consistency is what sets him apart from other players of a similar age; you turn up and you just know what you’re going to get. It’s futile for the opposition to man-mark him because that doesn’t matter to him, he wants the ball regardless, all the time. Passing was, as ever, spot on. Minor blot on the copybook with a needless yellow card which rules him out of the Birmingham game a week on Monday.

Romain Saiss: The dark horse for Player of the Season and another much transformed from last season. With every game that passes, the more perverse it seems that both Walter Zenga and Paul Lambert parked him in front of the back four with a brief to essentially never cross the halfway line. There’s so much more to his game than that. Won the penalty, broke up play, used the ball well…once again, this is what we’ve come to expect from him. Six months ago it was unclear if he had a future in English football at all. It now looks, like so many, that he’s actually playing a level below his ability.

Ivan Cavaleiro: Unquestionably in the form of his Wolves career and must be in with a shout of being nominated for the divisional Player of the Month award (though Leon Clarke will probably pip him to it, the bastard, It’s a fan-voted prize so you all know what to do…). Constantly leaving defenders befuddled at the moment and linking up delightfully with his colleagues. When we were linked with Rafa Silva and Joao Carvalho earlier in the month and debate turned to how we’d fit either in the team, I stated that of the front three Cav was probably under the most pressure as at that point, for all his otherwise good work he wasn’t quite producing the goal return you’d expect from someone so talented. So of course he’s now rattled in four in three. Definitely our best penalty taker too and should be given those duties permanently.

Diogo Jota: I’ve seen him described as the Championship’s Eden Hazard and that’s a more than fair comparison. He gets an absolute battering from defenders, week in week out. It doesn’t stop him though. I would appreciate it if he got a little more protection from referees and they’d do well to properly punish challenges such as the one from David Wheater that merely earned him a yellow card; if you’re going to go in studs up, mid-calf height, from behind with no even attempt to win the ball, then by rights you’re lucky to stay on the pitch. But despite all that, we keep giving Diogo the ball, he keeps giving defenders the runaround. And of course, when he’s clean through on goal, it’s not even a question in my mind. He’s going to score. What a player.

Leo Bonatini: Given that he’ll cost a reported £5m to make his move from Al-Hilal permanent, I would expect that deal to go through within days of the transfer window opening. An incredible bargain for that price. Once more worked tirelessly, followed in well for his goal (yes, it’s an open goal from a couple of yards out, but if you’re not in the right position then nothing will happen) and continues well on his way towards that hallowed 20 goal target. We do need backup for him as having just one senior out-and-out striker isn’t particularly healthy, but it’s hard to see how we can improve on him at this level.

Helder Costa: Another excellent cameo which served to further underline that he’s well and truly on his way back. The difficulty now is getting him into the team as Cavaleiro is undroppable at present. Pounced on a woeful Ben Alnwick clearance to set up our fourth with a raking pass and had time to nutmeg Karl Henry which was unsurprisingly popular. Think about it; we’re seriously in a position where an in-form Helder Costa is struggling to get a start. It’s perverse. It’s not fair really.

Alfred N’Diaye/Ruben Vinagre: No real time for either to make an impact though Big Alf will be favourite to take Neves’ spot at St Andrews.

Oscillating Wildly is a “pay-as-you-feel” website. The content will never disappear behind a paywall. However, if you enjoy my work and would like to help me continue to write – as this is essentially my main focus now – please consider making a small donation via the button near the top of the page. If you want to and can, that’s great. If not, then no worries.

PAST ENCOUNTERS: READING

New series looking at previous matches down the years

Before we start, just a couple of quick notes; in recognition that content on my site is a little thin from time to time (doing full match previews ends up getting repetitive and time consuming, reacting to away games I haven’t seen seems an exercise in futility and there’s little value in putting up a match verdict for home games when they’ve been televised, so I’m to an extent only feeding back what everyone already knows), I’ve decided to introduce this series which, if this instalment works out, should be in place ahead of most of the remaining away games this season. So hopefully it meets favourably with you…

Secondly, at present I only have team data going back to 1996. This is something I’m working on improving as we speak, but for now I can’t provide that information for any games before the start of the 1996/7 season. But it’s there for the rest of them, so you can marvel out how rubbish our midfield looked year on year.

So without further ado, here we go with a look back at how we’ve performed against Saturday’s opponents Reading:

13 August 1994: Wolves 1-0 Reading

Newly-promoted Reading came to Molineux on the opening day of the season and the expectation, as so often in the 1990s, was that we would brush them aside with our raft of expensively acquired signings. As so often proved to be the case in the 1990s, this was not the reality. After an opening five minutes where Neil Emblen managed to fall over the ball on his debut, we picked up and fellow debutant Steve Froggatt tapped in after 11 minutes after a Darren Ferguson shot was parried away by Shaka Hislop. Steve Bull was injured in the build-up to the goal and replaced by 90s curtains afficionado Lee Mills and our play declined from there. In the end Reading dominated the game and we were indebted to Mike Stowell for a series of saves, including one in the dying moments from future Wolf Simon Osborn.

Goalscorer: Froggatt

More cumbersome than Cedric Roussel.

18 December 1994: Reading 4-2 Wolves

Quite a few notable things from this one, most of which you can see on the video below:

  • Mark McGhee leaving Reading for Leicester in the week preceding this game leading to quite a febrile atmosphere at Elm Park

  • Another future Wolf (there’s a theme here) in Scott Taylor producing a shocking tackle on Steve Froggatt which ruled him out for the rest of the season. As this video is from Reading’s official YouTube channel, they’ve omitted to include it in the highlights. But rest assured, it was terrible

  • Simon Osborn scoring a header. Yes, really. Simon Osborn. A header.

  • Don Goodman having the sheer nerve to claim a goal when he got nowhere near touching it

  • John de Wolf’s lack of mobility being exposed for the first time in a Wolves shirt as Uwe Hartenberger raced away from him

  • Michael Gilkes – guess who he went on to play for – bringing back the days of the playground as he not only robbed Stuart Lovell of a goal, but thundered it in from two inches out

  • Some idiosyncratic co-commentary from Theo Foley

This was our fifth defeat in seven games as our push for the title faltered badly (and we went on to get absolutely thumped in our next game at Boundary Park on Boxing Day).

Goalscorers: Bull, Quinn (OG)

9 March 1996: Wolves 1-1 Reading

McGhee was our manager by this point, giving Reading further incentive to get one over on us. Our results had taken a mild upturn following the arrival of the Scot without seriously threatening to properly bother the top six and this turned out to be a rather drab mid-table draw of little consequence. Ex-Wolf and co-player/manager Mick Gooding gave the visitors the lead after 17 minutes and Premier League winner (yes, it’s still hard to believe) Mark Atkins equalised just before half-time. Worth noting that the attendance for this one in a season that was going nowhere was just under 26,000. Folk were evidently much more easily pleased in the mid 90s.

Goalscorer: Atkins

30 April 1996: Reading 3-0 Wolves

This game was originally due to be played just before Christmas, but was postponed due to a waterlogged pitch at Elm Park. As our season capsized towards the end – we won none of our final eight games and weren’t assured of safety until our penultimate home fixture – this lame capitulation emphasised the need for an overhaul of our squad and thinking. Martin Williams opened the scoring and the result was sealed by a Jimmy Quinn brace. You can get away with being player/manager and picking yourself if you’re still the best player.

5 October 1996: Wolves 0-1 Reading

Having shifted to a 3-5-2 system for the 1996/7 season, the motif for the first half of our campaign was “good away, rubbish at home”. We had only won two of our opening five home games before this fixture with the slight mitigation that we had played heavily fancied QPR, Sheffield United and Bolton at Molineux in that sequence; surely this was a chance to put that home record right? As it turned out, no. This was another disjointed performance and with 20 minutes to go, a shocking error from Dean Richards let in Jamie Lambert who tucked away the only goal of the game. This led to Richards being jeered by sections of the crowd which only goes to serve to prove that Bright Enobakhare shouldn’t get too downhearted, we’ve had a small element of dicks hanging around for well over 20 years.

Team: Stowell; Smith (Romano 59), Atkins, Venus, Richards, Froggatt; Thompson, Ferguson, Corica (Emblen 45); Bull, Roberts (Crowe 45)

Time to change tactics? No, let’s carry on with a bottom six home record.

12 April 1997: Reading 2-1 Wolves

Things were getting tense as we approached the climax of the season with us locked in a battle with Barnsley to take second place behind runaway leaders Bolton. Three away defeats in eight days in mid-March had damaged our prospects but not terminally and we travelled to Berkshire in need of a victory. A prosaic game came to life in the final 15 minutes, Atkins scoring at the near post from a corner and it seemed that a scrappy but vital win would be ours. However, as so often was the case with Wolves in this era, if they could kick you in the teeth, they would. 1-0 up after 89 minutes. Lost 2-1 to two Lovell goals. Sake. 

Team: Stowell; Smith, Law, Curle, Froggatt (Thompson 78); Thomas, Ferguson, Atkins; Goodman, Roberts, Gilkes (Venus 87)

Goalscorer: Atkins

Grim.

14 October 1997: Reading 4-2 Wolves (League Cup)

A seriously indifferent start to 1997/8 (three wins in 11 league games) saw disquiet growing towards McGhee whose natural air of arrogance was beginning to grate with seemingly little to back it up. There was little respite in this League Cup game as despite a Bully brace, we were handsomely beaten and to add insult to injury, new signing Adrian Williams put through his own net on his first return to Reading since joining us in 1996. Of course lame early exits from the League Cup would become a familiar theme over the next couple of decades, but at this stage we weren’t so inured to them.

Team: Stowell; Smith, Williams, Curle, Naylor; Robinson, Ferguson (Keane 54), Atkins, Sanjuan (Foley 64); Bull, Paatelainen

Goalscorer: Bull (2)

20 December 1997: Reading 0-0 Wolves

Results had improved as we approached Christmas and off the back of an impressive win against eventual league champions Nottingham Forest, we were looking to push into the top six. This was a grim stalemate notable only for a red card apiece to Paul Bodin and Paul Simpson and for McGhee continuing his record of failing to beat Reading since he departed the club. Not much to see here.

Team: Stowell; Atkins, Curle, Sedgley, Froggatt; Keane, Robinson, Osborn, Simpson; Goodman, Freedman (Ferguson 48)

18 April 1998: Wolves 3-1 Reading

At last, a win for McGhee over his former employers. Alas, it was meaningless by this stage. Reading were already all but relegated and our season was effectively over after the FA Cup semi-final defeat to Arsenal and no more than a notional mathematical chance of making the playoffs. Items of interest from a virtual dead rubber; Reading’s goalscorer Paul Brayson notched his first goal for the club following what was becoming a trademark error from Hans Segers. It also proved to be his last goal for them, finishing with a record of one goal in 42 appearances (he’d have fitted in well with our 2016/17 crop of forwards). These were Don Goodman’s final goals at Molineux before he departed for Japan at the end of his contract and this was the first sub-20,000 league attendance at home for us since December 1993.

Team: Segers; Muscat, Curle, Sedgley, Naylor; Slater (Bull 57), Robinson (Atkins 57), Osborn, Simpson; Claridge (Keane 64), Goodman

Goalscorers: Muscat, Goodman (2)

21 September 2002: Wolves 0-1 Reading

There were plenty of parallels here with the corresponding fixture in October 1996. A stuttering start to the season after a playoff failure in the previous campaign. A manager whose natural personality defects were starting to become an issue. And as it turned out, the same scoreline. Andy Hughes’ dipping long range effort was the only goal of the game as the Royals walked away with a deserved victory. We also once more saw boos for one of our own players, though Paul Butler had long since contributed to his own downfall in the favour of fans with a series of poor, seemingly uncommitted displays and being visibly overweight – as it turned out, he would shortly lose his place to Northern Irish youngster Mark Clyde before winning it back in the New Year.

Team: Murray; Irwin, Butler (Cooper 64), Lescott, Naylor; Ingimarsson; Newton, Ince, Rae; Ndah (Blake 74), Sturridge

Still, at least he’s sorted out his look now.

12 March 2003: Reading 0-1 Wolves

Form had improved by the time we reached spring and we made our first trip to the Madejski Stadium on a run of just one defeat in 10 league games, albeit we had just been knocked out of the FA Cup at Southampton three days prior to this match. With the home side also chasing a playoff spot, we picked up a vital and well-merited win thanks to the supremely in-form Kenny Miller – this being his 14th goal since the start of 2003.

Team: Murray; Irwin, Butler, Lescott, Naylor; Newton, Rae, Cameron (Clyde 89), Kennedy; Blake (Proudlock 79), Miller (Sturridge 87)

Goalscorer: Miller

10 May 2003: Wolves 2-1 Reading (Playoff Semi-final First Leg)

Having never been successful in the playoffs going back to their introduction in 1986/7, there was significant apprehension that our post-Christmas run of form (two defeats in 21 games) that had propelled us into the top six – lest we forget, the absolute minimum we would have been expected to achieve at the start of the season – would come to nothing. This game had a real Sliding Doors moment – in the opening hour of the game, Reading played us totally off the park with goalscorer Nicky Forster being easily the best player on the pitch. But on the hour mark, Forster went off injured. Had he remained on the field for the entire match, the likelihood was that Reading would have gone on to win. However, shorn of their focal point, the visitors allowed us to come back into the game and a Graeme Murty own goal (from a Shaun Newton shot which was going wide) brought the scores level before the oft-maligned Lee Naylor crashed home a winner six minutes from time. Make no mistake, we profited from good fortune here. Credit to us for keeping going after a very poor first two thirds of the game, but it was more than a bit of a smash and grab.

Team: Murray; Irwin, Butler, Lescott, Naylor (Pollet 89); Ndah (Newton 66), Cameron, Ince, Kennedy; Blake, Miller (Sturridge 86)

Goalscorers: Murty (OG), Naylor

14 May 2003: Reading 0-1 Wolves (Playoff semi-final Second Leg)

The tension around this game was simply incredible. Every Reading attack seemed destined to end in a goal (although in reality, Matt Murray wasn’t unduly troubled throughout the match). We seemed to be hanging on for dear life right from the outset. Dave Jones seemed to have set us up with the explicit aim of picking up a 0-0 draw which was never this team’s forté and the approach seemed fraught with danger. And then, nine minutes from time, there it was. A neat piece of play from Colin Cameron on the edge of the box, into the feet of Alex Rae. A trademark little spin away from his marker to work a yard of space. A drilled finish across Marcus Hahnemann. 1-0 and job done. Word is that a minor hurricane was reported across the Wolverhampton area at around 9:20 that evening as tens of thousands of people exhaled deeply at the exact same time. I suspect that a massive proportion of Wolves fans have at one time or another had Rae’s celebration following that goal as their desktop background.

Team: Murray; Irwin, Butler, Lescott, Naylor; Newton (Cooper 89), Cameron, Ince, Kennedy; Blake (Sturridge 85), Miller (Rae 75)

Goalscorer: Rae

4 December 2004: Wolves 4-1 Reading

Quite the contrast here from the euphoria of our previous encounter with Reading. Our sojourn in the Premier League had lasted just a single season. Dave Jones was gone, sacked after a miserable start to life back in the second tier. We were at this point managerless, with Stuart Gray in temporary charge yet with little prospect of taking the reigns permanently. This turned out to be his penultimate game as caretaker as in a surprising (and as it turned out, awful) move, Glenn Hoddle was appointed in the following week. Gray picked up his third win in five games here which given the weaknesses, imbalances and divisions in the squad, wasn’t bad at all. It was, however, a massively flattering scoreline as Michael Oakes was forced into a string of saves before substitute Leon Clarke cashed in with two late goals. This being the brief period where Leon actually tried in a Wolves shirt. Yes, he did, honest.

Team: Oakes; Lowe, Craddock, Lescott, Kennedy; Cooper, Cameron, Andrews, Olofinjana (Naylor 69); Cort, Sturridge (Clarke 60)

Goalscorers: Cameron, Olofinjana, Clarke (2)

30 April 2005: Reading 1-2 Wolves

Our insane amount of draws under Hoddle put paid to any thoughts of a late push for the top six, although we were unbeaten in 16 games going into our final away game of the season. Reading were still in contention to make the playoffs and took an early lead here through that man Forster. However, from that point we dominated the game. Playing a diamond formation which seemed well-suited to the hotchpotch of central midfielders that we’d somehow acquired, we had the lion’s share of possession and deservedly equalised through Clarke early on in the second half. And then, a moment I can say I was privileged to personally witness. Rohan Ricketts scored. It happened, I saw it with my own eyes. Actually took it quite well too. Never did he score again for us in a subsequent 50 appearances. In fact he never scored again in professional football in England. Quite the record for an attacking midfielder, or playmaker as he styled himself. To add insult to that considerable injury for Reading, this defeat essentially ended their playoff hopes. Ruined by Rohan Ricketts, the sheer indignity of it all.

Team: Oakes; Edwards, Craddock, Lescott, Naylor; Olofinjana, Cameron, Ricketts, Seol; Miller, Clarke (Bischoff 89)

Goalscorers: Clarke, Ricketts

I’m sure it’s not Rohan’s fault that he’s a knobhead. But he is a knobhead.

26 December 2005: Wolves 0-2 Reading

Progress under Hoddle in the following season was limited at best. We still drew far too many games. We’d abandoned the diamond midfield which actually worked and had moved to a front three which invariably involved at least one career striker playing out wide. As he is Glenn Hoddle and was behaving and speaking like Glenn Hoddle, it’s fair to say that opinion of him was mixed at best. Despite all this, we were at least in and around the top six and faced up against the league leaders in a big Boxing Day showdown off the back of a run of seven games unbeaten. This was a chance for us to show that just as in 2002/3, we could turn things around in the second half of the season and really challenge. It’s not a test that we passed. I mentioned that our 4-1 win a year previous to this had been somewhat flattering; this result flattered us too. Reading were far better than a 2-0 scoreline suggests. They totally played us off the park from the first minute and we were never in with any kind of shout of getting anything from the game. It was a game which fundamentally underlined that Hoddle was a man floundering, a footballing pseud who had nothing meaningful to offer, totally outclassed and unable to respond when faced with a challenge. People will still have you believe that he’s some kind of great loss to the game. The only shame in his failure to manage anyone in over a decade is that we’re forced to endure his punditry.

Team: Postma; Edwards, Gyepes (Craddock 73), Lescott, Naylor; Anderton (Ndah 69), Ricketts (Cameron 61), Kennedy; Miller, Ganea, Seol

I haven’t finished with him yet. He’ll get the full treatment next month. Watch this space.

18 March 2006: Reading 1-1 Wolves

Despite the general torpor of Hoddle’s reign, we did occasionally do just enough to suggest that there might be something to work with. Again, we went into this game unbeaten in seven. We were still very much in the hunt for a playoff spot, even if the standard of our football didn’t suggest that we were anything like that good. And this was a creditable result; the soon-to-depart Kenny Miller cancelling out Bobby Convey’s first half opener and a draw being about the right result. Not bad at all against a team who still hold the record for points gained in a season in this division. We subsequently went on to win none of the following five games and having the season (and indeed, Hoddle’s days here) end with a whimper, because of course we did.

Team: Postma; Edwards (Ross 45), Gyepes, Lescott, Naylor; Davies, Ince, Ricketts; Miller (Cort 84), Frankowski, Aliadière

Goalscorer: Miller

30 September 2008: Wolves 0-3 Reading

It’s not often as a Wolves fan that you’re convinced that we’re on to a good thing. However, seven straight league wins speak for themselves and we entered this clash with newly-relegated Reading keen to assert ourselves and put down a bit of a marker that we were the real top dogs in the division. It’s fair to say that fell rather flat. Missing the suspended Chris Iwelumo, we started in the worst possible fashion with a fairly calamitous Wayne Hennessey own goal, looked second best throughout and André Bikey and Kalifa Cissé’s goals in the final 20 minutes were probably a fair reflection of the match. A desperately disappointing evening although as we were to start a further run of seven straight wins in October, it didn’t materially damage us too much.

Team: Hennessey; Foley, Stearman, Collins, Ward (Shackell 77); Kightly (Vokes 40), Henry, Jones, Jarvis (Edwards 77); Ebanks-Blake, Keogh

27 January 2009: Reading 1-0 Wolves

Both teams (along with Birmingham City) had set a frantic pace at the top of the Championship before Christmas but were just starting to falter a touch now; Reading had only won one of their previous four games before this fixture, we had failed to win any of our last four. This proved to be a nightmare evening for Neill Collins; in a fairly drab affair, he scored an own goal after two minutes and was sent off in the final seconds for what I believe the FA formally call “throwing a round of fucks at the linesman”. As it turned out, he never played a league match for us again, which I suppose tells you to beware the wrath of Mick McCarthy. Fortunately for us, Reading’s victory did little for their impetus; they won just four of their remaining 17 games and ended up 13 points adrift of us in 4th place, eventually losing out in the playoffs to Burnley. This game was the first instalment of Nigel Quashie’s legendary “three games, three losses” spell at Wolves which doesn’t really bear thinking about at any length.

Team: Hennessey; Foley, Stearman, Collins, Ward; Kightly, Quashie (Edwards 86), Henry, Jarvis (Vokes 86); Keogh (Iwelumo 63), Ebanks-Blake

One of the great loan signings.

28 September 2014: Reading 3-3 Wolves

After a year in self-inflicted purgatory in League One, our return to the Championship had started well with five wins from our opening eight games and just a solitary defeat. This televised fixture started poorly as we trailed at half time to a Michael Hector goal having barely threatened the Reading goal. A small tactical tweak at half-time by Kenny Jackett in pushing Lee Evans further forward drew rewards as first ex-Royal James Henry and then Evans himself scored in the opening ten minutes of the second half, only for Jake Taylor to immediately peg us back. A Nick Blackman own goal six minutes from time seemed to have given us all three points yet we were undone at the last by a deflected Glenn Murray strike. A familiar trope at the time was that our decision to take a short corner and attempt to retain the ball near the corner flag having gone 3-2 up was our undoing; while it was no means a smart play, Reading didn’t exactly go straight up the other end and score, we had time to make a substitution after that passage and there was a good two and a half minutes between us losing the ball and conceding. As it turned out, this game marked the start of our decline into defensive disarray; having only conceded three goals in our opening eight games, the following four alone (including this one) saw us let in 11 and we kept just two further clean sheets until mid-December.

Team: Ikeme; Doherty, Batth, Stearman, Golbourne; McDonald, Saville (Edwards 77), Evans; Henry (van La Parra 79), Clarke (McAlinden 87), Sako

Goalscorers: Henry, Evans, Blackman (OG)

7 February 2015: Wolves 1-2 Reading

Our woes of November and early December (five straight defeats, 16 goals shipped along the way) had been largely rectified by the time Reading arrived at Molineux in early February and we were on a run of eight games unbeaten as we sought to regain our place in the promotion-chasing pack. Unfortunately on a wet afternoon we were strangely off our game against a moderate Reading outfit; Tomasz Kuszczak’s league debut started horribly as he conceded in the first minute to Pavel Pogrebnyak and though Benik Afobe equalised midway through the first half with his second goal for the club following his January move from Arsenal, a quality strike from Danny Williams with 20 minutes to go saw us end up empty-handed. As we eventually missed out on the playoffs by the narrowest of margins, this turned out to be one of a few games where we would have cause to regret turning in a shoddy performance.

Team: Kuszczak; Doherty, Batth, Stearman, Hause; McDonald; Evans (Dicko 62); van La Parra (Henry 71), Edwards (Price 71), Sako; Afobe

Goalscorer: Afobe

26 December 2015: Wolves 1-0 Reading

These were tough times for Kenny Jackett. We’d won just two of our previous 12 games and had conceded seven goals in back-to-back defeats to Leeds and Sheffield Wednesday leading up to this game. His solution was to stop any pretension at playing football whatsoever. Hammer the ball away if it’s anywhere near you. Don’t bother attacking with any more than three players at any given time. Respect the point that a 0-0 gets you. And hope we hang on. Somehow here, we did. I actually have no idea how we won this game. We were horrendous. Reading weren’t a whole lot better and you do have to wonder why Sky chose it as their flagship Championship Boxing Day fixture, but how we ended up with three points will forever remain a mystery. To make matters even more puzzling, James Henry scored with a header. Some things will just be forever unexplained. Such as why we brought on Grant Holt with a minute to go when we sent him back to Wigan about four days later. Or indeed why we signed Grant Holt.

Team: Ikeme; Iorfa, Batth, Ebanks-Landell, Doherty; Coady, McDonald, Edwards; Henry (Byrne 75), Afobe (Holt 89), Graham

Goalscorer: Henry

Nope, I still don’t know.

6 February 2016: Reading 0-0 Wolves

Neither side had much to play for even with three months of the season to go and as if to prove that yes, it was possible for a game to be worse than the corresponding fixture on Boxing Day, what was served up here cannot be classed as entertainment. Practically nothing of any note happened at either end. Despite us creating nothing and not even threatening to score, Ken left recent signing Joe Mason on the bench for the entire game and made just one substitution. This was our fourth 0-0 draw of the season and we would rack up a further four (all at home) before the campaign ended. These aren’t days I look back on especially fondly.

Team: Ikeme; Iorfa, Batth, Ebanks-Landell, Doherty; Coady, McDonald, Saville; Henry, Sigurdarson, van La Parra (Byrne 79)

13 August 2016: Wolves 2-0 Reading

If ever a game was the epitome of a false dawn, then this was it. Walter Zenga’s first home game saw us totally dominate proceedings, with Joao Teixeira sparkling throughout and Jon Dadi Bodvarsson looking like a genuine threat up front. Matt Doherty had a good game at left back and scored a cracking goal. Joe Mason doubled the lead to give the illusion that he might be a useful option. Reading on the other hand seemed wedded to a style totally at odds with the quality of their squad, frequently losing the ball in their own third and looking for all the world like they were in for a season of struggle, with Jaap Stam’s prospects already looking decidedly dicey. Of course we now know that Zenga only lasted just over a couple of months longer in the job, Teixeira didn’t feature for us after November and his loan was terminated halfway through the season, Bodvarsson scored a whole two more goals for us after this game, Doherty is even by his own admission a rubbish full back and Mason is totally hopeless, while Reading went on to come within a penalty shootout of promotion. It’s odd how things work out. Except for Doherty, we knew he was rubbish anyway.

Team: Ikeme; Coady, Batth, Iorfa, Doherty; Evans, Edwards, Saville (Henry 89); Mason (Price 84), Bodvarsson, Teixeira (Wallace 71)

Goalscorers: Doherty, Mason

Just joshing Doc. You’ve been alright this season. To a point. When not playing as a full back.

4 March 2017: Reading 2-1 Wolves

One thing I will never understand about Paul Lambert is that he choked off his own progress at Wolves. We played genuinely well at points in December and January and it seemed that he was getting somewhere. Then he decided to change things around, restore Dave Edwards to the number 10 role and everything fell apart. We went into this game with Reading flying high and us coming off the back of four straight defeats, three of them being utterly dismal performances. We did actually play a little better here as Ben Marshall quickly equalised Yann Kermorgant’s opener with his first Wolves goal and while it was far from champagne football, we did at least seem to be holding our own. However a Paul McShane header from a poorly defended set piece saw us leave empty-handed, Mike Williamson was sent off for a second bookable offence late on and we slipped further into the relegation mire. This wasn’t part of the brochure when we got big time foreign investment. We did of course turn it round to a point after this game, but all the indications are that it was this run of form which did for Lambert as faith towards him from the board evaporated. He’ll forever have no-one but himself to blame for that.

Team: Ikeme; Iorfa, Williamson, Hause, Saville (Bodvarsson 84); Coady, Saiss (Doherty 89); Marshall, Edwards, Costa; Dicko (Weimann 72)

Goalscorer: Marshall

Oscillating Wildly is a “pay-as-you-feel” website. The content will never disappear behind a paywall. However, if you enjoy my work and would like to help me continue to write – as this is essentially my main focus now – please consider making a small donation via the button near the top of the page. If you want to and can, that’s great. If not, then no worries.

REACTION: MANCHESTER CITY 0-0 WOLVES (LOST ON PENS)

So close to the perfect performance…

Never mind the scoreline

You’d think after sitting through two scoreless hours, watching us lose on penalties and ending up getting home at 2.15am, I’d be less than best pleased. While the terrible logistics of exiting Manchester city centre by road and the laughable state of the M6 don’t get off the hook (Richard Branson has never had a better advert for his train company), this was a tremendous game to watch. Tons of action at either end, a tactical battle between an up-and-coming European coach and one of the world’s best, the Championship’s best taking on the best team in the country, a referee who allowed the game to flow and a Wolves team putting absolutely everything on the line. It may have finished 0-0, but you couldn’t take your eyes off it for a second. All of which makes a further mockery of Sky’s decision to show Swansea vs Manchester United – a fixture which they’ve already shown once this season, and which for the second time resulted in a stroll of an away win. Our game would surely have held more interest for the neutral and given the make up of the two teams, was more likely to provide better entertainment.

Sitting on this bloody road is about as entertaining as watching Kenny Jackett’s Wolves circa April 2016.

Wholesale changes worked out well

There appeared to be some consternation towards us making nine changes from Saturday’s victory over Preston with only Danny Batth and Conor Coady retaining their places – and were Willy Boly fully fit, it’s likely one of those would also have dropped out. With City fielding a very strong team including both Sergio Agüero and Gabriel Jesus, our prospects at kick-off did not look good. However, every single one of those players – many of whom have had very limited action this season – did themselves proud. Of course, City had chances. They are, after all, one of the highest scoring teams in Europe. They had spells in possession where we struggled to get the ball back and some of their one touch stuff around the box is mesmerising. But we never looked overawed. It would be a surprise if any of Ryan Bennett, Jack Price or Ben Marshall started many league games this season barring a monumental injury crisis, all of them have their own natural limitations which can’t ever really be overcome, but all stuck to their task and had good games. There was an encouraging cameo from Connor Ronan who is unfortunate not to be getting much gametime given his natural ability. Kortney Hause hadn’t played a senior game since May but slotted back in to the defence and produced a number of critical, impressive interventions. We’re now in the position where we have a squad that can be relied upon – by definition, your back up players aren’t going to be as good as the first choices, yet whoever needs to slot in to this team knows their role and doesn’t look likely to let us down.

Sergio celebrates finally escaping from Danny Batth’s pocket.

Will Norris and Ruben Vinagre

Four months ago, Will Norris was playing for Cambridge United in League Two and Ruben Vinagre had never played a senior game of any description for any club. Last night, I couldn’t split them in a call for Man of the Match away at Manchester City. Norris made two mistakes, both kicking errors, both rectified by himself immediately with a smart save. Beyond that, his distribution was generally good, his command of the box is excellent and decisive and he has showcased the ability to make saves that he has no real right to pull off. Four games for Wolves (plus an extra hour thanks to two lots of extra time), two of them away at Premier League clubs, and he’s yet to concede a goal. Vinagre was up against Danilo, Raheem Sterling and Kyle Walker over the two hours last night. Just the £125m or so’s worth of players there. Not for a second did he look out of his depth. His engine is such that in the 115th minute he was still charging the length of the field to set up an attack for us, his skill is such that he made Walker look a chump as he outwitted him near the corner flag. These two players aren’t in our first choice XI at present; they should both be a big part of our future. Two outstanding talents (in Vinagre’s case, any option to sign him permanently should be taken up as soon as possible).

Time to break out the “sign him up” chant

So near, yet so far for Bright

There hasn’t been much for me to complain about this season; one small grumble has been the tendency of our fans to start groaning at Bright Enobakhare every time he holds on to the ball for a nanosecond too long. His raw talent is apparent, he is just 19 years of age and this was just his 19th start in senior football. Treating a young player like that isn’t called for and isn’t going to help him in his development. So it should be encouraging that he had his best game in a Wolves shirt by some distance. Playing as the central striker in place of the rested Leo Bonatini, his use of the ball was sharper and more intelligent, he dropped into midfield to show a level of responsibility not often sighted from him before, he showed impressive strength and resilience to occupy the two City centre halves and his workrate was top notch. As I say, it should be encouraging. This should have been a watershed night for him. Unfortunately, it will be remembered for him failing to put the final touch on his display as he managed to miss three one-on-one opportunities. He crafted the first two of those two chances himself, and it must be said that the first in particular was no gimme with the angle relatively tight and only a small area of Claudio Bravo’s goal to aim at. Helder Costa’s second half chance was a better opening than that. But the over-elabaration allowing Tosin Adarabioyo to get back and block and hitting the ball straight at Bravo following a run in on goal right down the centre of the pitch…they genuinely were gilt-edged. All the more so with the final chance coming right on 90 minutes. That really was the game, right there. We have to hope that he can build on this display and not dwell too much on the misses; he is clearly a confidence player and the support staff will have to make sure that he concentrates on the multiple positives from last night.

Nuno gets it right…again

The pedigree of Nuno wasn’t in question before he arrived at Molineux. You don’t manage Valencia and Porto in your early 40s if you’re an absolute chancer. However, there are many cases of highly-fancied foreign coaches not being able to implement their ideas in English football and while some of the criticism of his appointment in the summer was ill-informed and even at times xenophobic, some caution was understandable. If anyone still held any doubts whatsoever about him, they should have comprehensively been extinguished last night. This was Manchester City’s form from the beginning of September going into the game: 5-0, 4-0, 6-0, 2-1, 5-0, 2-0, 1-0, 7-2, 2-1, 3-0. It’s fairly ominous, to say the least. Most managers – let alone managers in charge of a Championship team – would have simply parked the bus, setting up a wall of players across the pitch and hoping to keep the scoreline down to a respectable level. This was not how we played. While we did sit deep at times – Ryan Bennett in particular played as more of a conventional right back rather than the normal wing back role that is occupied by Matt Doherty – there was always an attempt to play our own football and an increasing threat on the break. To reiterate – we carved out four clear one-on-one chances. Away from home. At the team who will probably win the Premier League and even have a chance of winning the Champions League. The way we reverted into our shape whenever we lost the ball was incredibly impressive for this is how City often kill teams; by making a turnover of possession become a goal inside seconds. There was little opportunity for them to do that here as no sooner had they got the ball back, all the space had been filled back up by a gold shirt. Our manager completely matched Pep Guardiola last night. That should be an unthinkable thing to say. We had Pep worried to the point where he had to bring on around £200m worth of players in Kevin de Bruyne, Kyle Walker, John Stones and Leroy Sané. For all the many, many, many merits of Ruben Neves and Diogo Jota, Nuno was our best acquisition of the summer and by some distance too. Thankfully he appears to be fully immersed in our project and so the prospects of him leaving for a vacant Premier League job seem, at present, to be remote. We’re very lucky indeed to have him.

Oscillating Wildly is a “pay-as-you-feel” website. The content will never disappear behind a paywall. However, if you enjoy my work and would like to help me continue to write – as this is essentially my main focus now – please consider making a small donation via the button near the top of the page. If you want to and can, that’s great. If not, then no worries.

PLAYER RATINGS: WOLVES 3-2 PRESTON NORTH END

Got the job done…just about

John Ruddy: Powerless to prevent either Preston goal, he wasn’t directly tested too much despite us being below par in the first half and firmly on the back foot for the final 20 minutes; one save low to his left from Daniel Johnson was the sum total of efforts on goal that he had to field. Did his usual job of taking pressure off with some good claims near the end.

Danny Batth: Initially did well in dealing with the physical threat of Jordan Hugill but came off second best in that battle after half time, losing the big lump for Preston’s first goal and being beaten in the air more often than he would like. Needs to maintain the high standards he set in September with Willy Boly close to a comeback.

Conor Coady: Probably couldn’t do much to get out of the way for his own goal, though as it turned out there were no Preston players behind him so potentially could have let it go altogether. One good clearing header from near the line and a couple of last ditch blocks as things became frantic in the closing stages.

Roderick Miranda: After last week’s imperious showing against Aston Villa – comfortably his best game for the club – this was a step backwards. There were a couple of excellent tackles and headers but generally was slack in possession – losing the ball twice in the space of a couple of first half minutes not far outside our own box – and this was a rather error-strewn display from him in general. Again, with competition for places strong in this area, can’t afford too many of these performances.

Matt Doherty: Involved in the first two goals although there was an element of luck in how his attempted pass to Ivan Cavaleiro broke to Diogo Jota for the first, and then a questionable penalty award for the second (though credit should be due to him for forcing himself ahead of Josh Harrop following the Preston man’s lapse in control). Not overly tested defensively as much of North End’s threat came on the opposite side.

Barry Douglas: A difficult day. Didn’t look comfortable against the tricky Tom Barkhuizen and was caught out by a quick free kick for Preston’s second goal. Did at least provide the assist for Cavaleiro’s goal with a well placed low cross. Would not be overly surprising if Ruben Vinagre were to take the left wing back spot for the game at Loftus Road next week.

Ruben Neves: Conditions were not the best for playmaking yesterday with high winds affecting the flight of the ball, but Neves still showcased his range of passing at times and dealt well with Preston’s tactics which were clearly designed to niggle away at him and try to put him off his stride. Will feel that he was entitled to more protection from the referee but then we know how Steve Martin operates. Like a bad supply teacher. Move over Mike Jones, there’s a new man in place as the ref I dread taking charge of our games.

Romain Saiss: The game descended into a bit of a scrap as Preston began their fightback and in this respect Saiss wasn’t found wanting. Lost his cool a couple of times but showed that he was up for the battle. What will disappoint him and the manager is that at 3-0, you would expect us to control the game and see it out without much fuss…but we gave the ball away far too often and it’s to Saiss that we often look to retain possession in these circumstances.

Ivan Cavaleiro: A scruffy finish for his goal but they all count. Not at his electrifying best as we struggled to work opportunities to have him isolated against defenders. However, he’s worked himself into a position where he’s currently very much first choice in that right sided role.

Diogo Jota: One of his quietest games for us and yet still had a big hand in two of our goals. This serves to show what a tremendous talent he is – even when he’s not at his best, he still comes up with the goods and terrifies defences. As has become customary, came in for some rough treatment but didn’t let it affect him.

Leo Bonatini: Perhaps with seven goals in 13 appearances, those calls for the mythical “20 goal a season striker” will end. Leo is that man. These weren’t the two most emphatic finishes he’ll ever produce; stuttering run ups for penalties like that always look iffy, and the third goal definitely hit him rather than anything else, but then he had to be in the right place to get that bit of luck. His general play was excellent and we lacked any kind of a focal point when he was surprisingly replaced. If the reported price of £5m to make his move from Al-Hilal is accurate, that will be an absolute steal. Still has the top combined goals/assists record in the division.

Helder Costa: Still working his way back to sharpness and still has a way to go. There was one jinking run which brought back memories of last season, though it was followed with a weak finish straight at the keeper. Worrying scenes when he went down with what looked like an ankle injury, but as Jota was replaced a couple of minutes later with our final substitution we have to assume that there’s no damage. 90 minutes at Manchester City on Tuesday will do him the world of good.

Bright Enobakhare: Deployed centrally and at present this isn’t really the role for him as he rarely looks to hold the ball up. Produced one piece of tenacious play to beat his man, hold him off, wait for a man to run either side of him…and then took a touch too many and wasted the opportunity. Which still happens too often.

Alfred N’Diaye: Played in an advanced role and while he isn’t a natural there, provided a bit of physicality and impetus when we were in danger of throwing the game away. A forceful run brought the red card for Alan Browne, a simple decision which the clueless Martin still managed to make a hash of, fumbling around in his pocket like a man trying to grab a hot dog from a vat of oil and ending up having to call him back onto the pitch to show the red card. Did I mention he was terrible? He was terrible.

Oscillating Wildly is a “pay-as-you-feel” website. The content will never disappear behind a paywall. However, if you enjoy my work and would like to help me continue to write – as this is essentially my main focus now – please consider making a small donation via the button near the top of the page. If you want to and can, that’s great. If not, then no worries.

NO REGRETS: THEY TELL ME I’M DOING FINE

One of my infrequent progress reports

It’s Saturday evening. We’re in the Bohemian (very swish, by Wolverhampton standards). We’re basking in the glory of a Wolves victory, albeit it’s only Barnsley, and albeit that we only grabbed it right it at the death. Conversation has somehow turned to my site. Don’t ask me how. I rarely if ever bring it up, I don’t like talking about it at any length. After a while, a good friend of mine says:

What you’ve got to know about Dan is…he doesn’t take praise well”

He’s absolutely right as well. I don’t. It doesn’t matter how many people tell me that my writing is good or whatever platitude they send my way, I can’t take it seriously. It’s not me being ungrateful or anything; quite the opposite. I can’t quite believe that people have actually donated money towards this venture (if I haven’t already thanked you individually, I really am grateful and I will get round to sending you something personal very soon), I don’t quite get that so many people actually want to read it. Unfortunately for all the various improvements I’ve made over the last four and a bit years, my self-esteem hasn’t really followed. It’s still something I badly need to work on and I know that. I don’t have the answer as to how that’s going to happen, but it does need to happen. I can’t go through the rest of my life feeling like I’m useless at everything, can I.

The point is that sadly, despite my best efforts, this hasn’t been a great couple of months since I last updated this section. It might be helpful at this point just to correct a few common misconceptions about what I mean when I say that:

  1. Being depressed or having a bad time doesn’t mean that I walk around 24/7 like Matt Doherty when he’s been asked to chase a ball 30 yards in front of him (sorry Matt. But it’s been a while since I dug you out. And you deserve it after the weekend. Console yourself with your new four year contract). I don’t have a permanent sulk on, I’m not bursting into tears all the time. Even if I were minded to do that, I’d hide it away. Many’s the time when I’ve been having an internal shocker but I’ve bluffed it out publicly. So you can’t really tell from just looking at me how I’m feeling.

  2. There isn’t necessarily any reason why I’m feeling like that. There doesn’t have to be a trigger. Sometimes there is; obviously the more bad things happen, the more likely it is that I’ll get upset, and in turn it’ll trigger my condition. But in general that isn’t how it works. There isn’t any reason – at least not that I can identify – why I can go from operating at 70-80% one day and then it’s 20-30% the next. It’s not an illness that discriminates based on circumstance. Look at the number of top-end athletes who have suffered from depression. They have, on the face of it, everything you could want; riches, doing something they invariably love, stardom, being at the absolute top of their respective game…and yet if it’s not right, it’s not right.

  3. Sometimes there isn’t anything you, I or anyone can do about it. Sure, you can be supportive and I really do appreciate that. But just because you make me laugh, or give me a hug, or remind me of a great time we’ve shared, that isn’t going to make it all go away. Believe me, if I could just snap my fingers and make it end, I would. I don’t wallow in this for effect. It’s fucking horrible. And sometimes we just have to wait for it to pass.

  4. I’m depressed, not suicidal. Not lately anyway. I don’t want to die or disappear. I just want to get better.

  5. Which leads me to this final point; I don’t think there is an immediate end to this, I’m afraid. It’s not something that’s necessarily totally curable. I’ve got a load better since 2013 and I continue down that path. But I don’t currently see it being something that I’ll ever be totally free from. It’s a condition to manage rather than eradicate. This is tough, you know. I don’t want to forever be that guy who’s depressed and a bit flaky. There’s no fun in that. For now though, I just have to accept it.

The upshot of all this – and I’d say it’s probably been about 50:50 in terms of good/bad days since say, July – is that of late I haven’t really felt like writing very much. I’ve tried, but I’m well aware it’s not been my best work and nor have I managed to put out sufficient volumes of it. I’ve definitely put too much pressure on myself to try to match the reach and impact of my piece on Financial Fair Play when realistically, that just isn’t viable when you’re writing reaction pieces to one specific match, for instance. I’ve sat there thinking that I can’t write at all and this has all been a folly of a project, which I know deep down isn’t true, even allowing for the low opinion I have of my own work a lot of the time. I’m trying to put that behind me and get back to it now, as best I can anyway.

The daft thing really is that if my mind allowed me to take feedback on board properly…I should be on top of the world now. As I say, every time I begrudgingly have to talk about what I do, there’s a load of praise. Everyone tells me how far I’ve come in the last few years, from rock bottom (as detailed in my last piece in this section) to now. I’ve got an amazing network of friends and if I were that terrible, then they wouldn’t hang around, would they. I know all this. I’m by instinct quite a logical person. But there’s a part of my mind that just can’t process all of that. When that manifests itself, it doesn’t matter what has been said or what evidence is there that everything is ok, it all turns negative.

One thing I’m conscious that I need to stop doing is to get away from dwelling on past mistakes. First up, there’s nothing I can do to change them. Secondly, they were all pretty much a long time ago, so much so that is may as well be ancient history. Thirdly, anyone who matters recognises that I’ve moved on from there and I’ve done my best to get back to being a decent person (at least, I like to think I am). So there’s no point in beating myself up over bad choices I made that were years and years ago.  I really am going to try to move away from that.

I’m also going to try to have a bit more faith in my own output. It’s not easy – I have a pretty terrible combination of long-standing ultra-low self-esteem to go along with a history where I went through a stage of someone constantly criticising my every walking move – but when people say it’s good, I have to believe them. I sure as shit wouldn’t have any problem taking on board feedback that said it was all a load of rubbish…so if I’m getting kind words, I have to try to take them in the faith in which they’re given. People aren’t just saying nice things to make me feel good. I don’t think so anyway.

One positive thing I have managed to maintain is to get myself out of the house pretty much every day and keep up an exercise regime which has meant I’ve lost a fair amount of weight and no longer resemble the Bluetones in the video for Marblehead Johnson. Now I live on my own and not really especially near any of my friends it would be easy for me to get a bit isolated; I need to keep getting out and about to avoid that.

I know that in the grand scheme of things, I’m doing pretty well. Everything is heading more or less in the right direction and the difference from where I was in the early part of the decade is night and day. It’s just that setbacks hurt me and I’m at a stage now where I’ve got so far and don’t seem to be able to climb that next little bit. Maybe I never will be able to do that. It won’t be for the want of trying though.

I’ll leave it to Liam to close it out. I think he says it more succinctly than I can. Thanks for reading, as always. I’ll get back to wittering on about football later in the week.

Oscillating Wildly is a “pay-as-you-feel” website. The content will never disappear behind a paywall. However, if you enjoy my work and would like to help me continue to write – as this is essentially my main focus now – please consider making a small donation via the button near the top of the page. If you want to and can, that’s great. If not, then no worries.

PLAYER RATINGS: WOLVES 1-0 BRISTOL ROVERS (AET)

Through to the last 16…just

Will Norris

It pretty much tells its own story when your keeper is easily Man of the Match. Of the 10 shots on target that he faced, some were routine saves, a tip on to the post was superb, a late save to turn a long range effort over the top was spectacular, and he rode his luck a little when saving immediately after we took the lead with the ball ricocheting off him and onto the bar. But you make your own luck. Other than that was commanding and his distribution was both quick and accurate. He’s yet to concede a goal in competitive football for us. Essentially, if any of last season’s keepers had been playing last night, we’d have lost that game. We’re lucky to have such an accomplished backup with plenty of scope to improve even further. Whisper it in certain quarters, but this might even be one where Kevin Thelwell has to take some credit.

Danny Batth

Not an entirely comfortable night for him, one particularly odd instance in the first half where he seemed preoccupied with blocking his man rather than attacking the ball and ending up allowing a free header on goal. Improved as the game went on though the surprising amount of threat that Rovers offered meant it was never a quiet night at the office for any of the centre halves.

Conor Coady

Our best outfield player last night by some distance. In fact it was the standard Coady performance that we’ve come to expect this season; swept up danger, won plenty of tackles and produced a couple of those raking long range passes. Who does he think he is, Ruben Neves? In all seriousness, it’s been an incredible transformation from where he was a year or so ago where I wouldn’t have trusted him to pass the ball five yards with any regularity (or control it less than five yards, for that matter). It’s a credit to him and the coaching staff.

Roderick Miranda

It’s hard to put my finger on exactly what it is, but something about Miranda doesn’t entirely convince at this stage. Sometimes you feel he should look to be a bit more ambitious with his passing, especially in the absence of Willy Boly…and then he presents the ball straight to the opposition 30 yards out. He generally looks ok physically and then out of nowhere will get buffeted out of the way. Don’t get me wrong, he’s not hopeless and compared to our old friend Richard Stearman…well there is no comparison. It’s just at this point, you’d have to question whether he gets in our strongest team, especially when Kortney Hause eventually returns. Did nearly score right near the end of normal time with a flick which hit the bar.

Oskar Buur

A surprise debut and the young Dane certainly didn’t let himself down. He looks more of an orthodox right back than a wing back and so although he has the engine to get up and down the flank, his play was a little conservative in the final third (though then again, as is often the case, we don’t get numbers into the box especially quickly so crossing the ball continually is fairly pointless). Only really came unstuck defensively once and there seems to be a fair amount of promise there.

Just a note here regarding the guy I was sat next to last night (I had a change of scenery to the Billy Wright Upper owing to the top tier of the North Bank being closed); it gets incredibly irritating when you make an assessment of a 19 year old kid making his debut in English football and repeat it for over two fucking hours. “He only ever passes the ball back” was the refrain…apart from all the times he didn’t. “He’s out of his depth” he whined, in his voice that sounded like a more nasal version of Bob Willis, except Buur didn’t look out of his depth. In any case, anyone is free to hold their opinion on any player. Hey, look at the amount of stick I gave the majority of our lot last season. But that’s on here. I didn’t spend 90 minutes last season shouting that Joe Mason is a lightweight nonentity every time he touched the ball. At the game, maybe try supporting the players, eh? Especially someone in his first match. Thank God I don’t have anyone like that near me in my regular seat.

Sylvain Deslandes

I was a little surprised when we announced that we’d retained the services of Deslandes towards the end of last season because after all, he couldn’t get a game for a pretty poor Bury team in League One in his loan spell there and he’s rarely shown anything in U23 fixtures to suggest he’s a serious answer. He is at least fairly powerful these days and has a physical presence which would be adequate for Championship football. What he is emphatically not is a left wing back. He simply doesn’t possess anything like the quality required as neatly epitomised by his final contribution being to lamp a cross into the South Bank. You might, maybe, get away with him as a left sided centre half if we were really in a pinch. But then when everyone’s fit, he’d be well down the pecking order for that position. Seems a pleasant enough chap and all, but I’m not entirely sure why he’s still here.

Jack Price

A reasonable game in his first outing since the last round of this competition. Passing was generally decent and looked to find the wingbacks quite often rather than simply laying it off five yards as he’s been guilty of in the past. Indeed, it was his excellent ball to Barry Douglas which led to our goal. You wouldn’t think he’s ever going to seriously compete for a first team spot in the league now; he’s more there as extra insurance should we suffer an injury crisis. But worth having him around for now. Oddly, since looking more than decent on set pieces at the Birmingham away game last season, I don’t think I’ve seen him take a single corner or free kick.

Alfred N’Diaye

A bit of a backward step here after his encouraging start to his Wolves career. Did fairly well in the first half, one little flurry of skill in particular showing what he can do, but faded thereafter and didn’t influence the game much. I’d like to see him run with the ball a little more as he definitely has the capability to do it. Still, minutes under the belt.

Ben Marshall

Probably the biggest disappointment of the night. We know from last season that he’s a good footballer who makes up for his lack of pace with his passing and crossing abilities. However, in the first half in particular, so many moves broke down with a slack ball from Marshall in the final third, and his set pieces were woeful throughout. Not good when that’s one of your major selling points. It does appear that he takes a long time to get up to speed following an injury lay-off and with that in mind, it was good for him to at least get some further time on the pitch. He needs to pick up from this standard though, and quickly. It’s a little strange that we haven’t tried him at any stage as the right wing back as you would think that when Helder Costa returns, this is his most likely route into the team (and also where Matt Doherty – who is actually performing fairly well at the moment, hold the front page – has very little competition or cover).

Bright Enobakhare

Over two years since his last first team goal, it was vital that he got off the mark for this campaign because as we all know, his range of skills are not going to be of much use to us if there is no end product to speak of. Should have put us 1-0 up within the 90 minutes only to see a slightly casual volley well saved by the Rovers keeper. Tracked back diligently at times and was the pick of our attacking players on the night, not that it was an especially high bar.

Michal Zyro

Above all, it was just good to see Zyro back on the pitch after that awful injury resulting from the assault (I can’t say tackle, because it wasn’t) from Antony Kay 18 months or so ago. Started brightly enough with two efforts flying just over…but there wasn’t a great deal else to speak of. There’s a fair way to go before he can be considered ready to play with any kind of regularity. Even when he does get fit, it’s not apparent where he’s going to fit in; in most of his appearances here he’s been used as a central striker and while he tries hard and does have power on his side, his mobility isn’t really up to the mark and he’s no kind of focal point to play off. As for playing out wide…well he isn’t really comparable to the players we regularly use out there (or as inside forwards, as they are now). There isn’t much that he has in common with Diogo Jota, for instance.

Barry Douglas

On for the uninspiring Deslandes on the hour and having not featured for a month, the runout will have done him good. Looked understandably rusty early on but did grow into the game a little and it was he who set up the winner with a neat pull back. Good to see him back and the battle between him and Ruben Vinagre for the left wing back spot will be intriguing to watch. Great to have two quality options there.

Connor Ronan

On for Marshall and for the remainder of normal time was used in the same inside forward position where I’m reliably informed he impressed at Southampton. He was busy enough here without really getting on the ball that much. For extra time was switched to right wing back and it’s fair to say that he will not play too many further games there. Did his level best, but was an easy target as Bristol hit diagonals in his direction and he simply isn’t equipped to play there. Let’s chalk that one down as a failed experiment.

Ivan Cavaleiro

I’ve mentioned before how tiresome it’s becoming to hear audible, mass groaning whenever Bright Enobakhare delays a pass or gives the ball away. More so because those same standards don’t seem to apply to other players. Cav came on here and for the first 10 minutes or so that he was on the park he was appalling. Like, pub player level. Didn’t get anything right. Have a guess how much stick he got from the stands. It’s the same amount of Mercury Prizes that Northern Uproar have. He did improve from there in fairness and even put in some useful defensive work near the end.

Donovan Wilson

Our first ever fourth sub, fact fans. Had three opportunities to use that pace of his to trouble the visitors’ defence; the first two came to nothing but the third saw him neatly spin his man and find himself clean through, 35 yards out or so…and was pulled back. The ensuing red card was scant consolation as it would have been better all round if he could have gone on to score.

Oscillating Wildly is a “pay-as-you-feel” website. The content will never disappear behind a paywall. However, if you enjoy my work and would like to help me continue to write – as this is essentially my main focus now – please consider making a small donation via the button near the top of the page. If you want to and can, that’s great. If not, then no worries.

REACTION: MILLWALL AND BRISTOL CITY (H)

Round-up of this week’s action

Quality of football

Seven games into the season and we remain committed to playing our football on the deck, with none of the aimless hoofball that we’ve been forced to endure over the last couple of years. The upshot of this is that we spend large periods of games in full control with the opposition simply unable to disrupt us other than through repetitive fouling. We had 70% possession against Millwall and the opening half hour of last night’s game against Bristol City should have seen us further than one goal in front. This is a team which is still learning how to play in what is an alien formation to many and in the case of the new arrivals from overseas, settling into English football as a whole. With further coaching and games under their belt we should only get better from here; encouraging stuff. There’s a definite plan in place from the management and one that’s been properly thought through with players signed and utilised to match what we’re trying to do. This is not the way Wolves normally operate. I’ll have to get used to it.

See Glenn, you can keep the ball AND attack. Who knew.

Set piece defending

The vast majority of the goals we’ve conceded under Nuno – going back to pre-season – have come from set piece situations. Last night we firstly failed to clear a ball from a corner despite having a couple of opportunities to do so and then neglected to mark up properly or react to an effort off the post. We continue to employ a zonal marking system which personally I’m never going to get on board with; for one thing, it allows attackers to get a run on the ball while it’s in the air which puts you at a natural disadvantage as a defender. Also, when something goes wrong, it’s much more difficult to work out who specifically is to blame and where improvements need to be made. Whatever the rights and wrongs of that approach (and it does tend to be a personal thing whether you do or don’t side with it), it’s pretty clear that it’s a current weakness of ours. This remains a fairly low quality league but if there’s one thing that many of the teams can do, it’s to exploit frailties from dead balls. Change the system, make sure the current setup works better, whatever. We won’t get away with being vulnerable in this area.

Leo Bonatini

Three goals already (matching the entire output of each of Nouha Dicko, Joe Mason and Jon Dadi Bodvarsson from last season) having arrived in the country around 48 hours before the start of the season and having had practically no pre-season to speak of. Excellent link up play which allows the likes of Diogo Jota and Ivan Cavaleiro to thrive. A physical presence capable of dealing with multiple defenders at once. And yet…he’s still becoming a target for some criticism. The demands continue for the mythical “20 goal a season striker” as if we could have just popped down to the Big Championship Supermarket and picked one up off the shelf (I believe they’re located next to the “Paul Ince type” midfielder aisle). For the record, I don’t think Leo was the absolute best striker we could have signed and I don’t expect him to top 20 goals this season. There are aspects to his play which mark him out as slightly imperfect; in a team which has a left wing back in Ruben Vinagre who can carry the ball up the pitch with mind-boggling speed and skill, he does stand out as a little more rustic in that respect. We’ve yet to see him put away a chance which would be considered anything more than meat and drink for a decent striker (though again, with some of the chances our forwards have missed in the last year or so, I’ll take a bit of basic efficiency in this area). But he’s doing very well and he’s pivotal to what we do. It’s true that last night there were a number of balls across the six yard box that say, a peak Sylvan Ebanks-Blake would have feasted on. But we aren’t asking our central striker to basically goal hang. He plays a role which is fundamentally focused on link up play and often dropping deep to allow the inside forwards free reign to burst towards goal. He isn’t always going to be in there. That’s our system. The worry is that every time he misses a chance – and he should have had another goal last night having worked the opportunity to get a shot off – or God forbid, doesn’t score at all, the complaints will begin about how we should have signed another forward (we should have, but we got stiffed on one target and couldn’t find an adequate alternative) or how he isn’t going to score enough goals. He’s doing well and we need him to carry on doing well. Time to get off his back a bit.

Strong Twitter game as well.

Alfred N’Diaye

With all the Twitter-based kerfuffle over our failure to land another striker on deadline day, the signing of N’Diaye went somewhat under the radar. As I mentioned in my last article, reports from his previous adventures in English football at Sunderland and Hull were mixed to say the least and so I approached the transfer with some caution. It’s with pleasure that I’m happy to report that early signs are very good indeed. Strong, committed, actually using his size to his advantage (which again, should really be a given, but then I spent years watching Seyi Olofinjana) and with a surprising turn of pace and willingness to get forward. It seems that Sunderland in particular played him purely as a holding midfielder with a pure brief to sit in front of the back four and break up play, but that really isn’t his game. He’s much more of an all-rounder as shown with his part in our first goal last night. He did fade a little as the game went on – a probable consequence of a lack of recent action – and it’s fair to point out that we’ve seen strong early performances in the past from other midfielders who’ve gone on to descend into absolute nothingness (I’m talking to you here, Segundo Castillo). However thus far, this looks like another astute piece of transfer business.

An embarrassment of riches

Last night was Ivan Cavaleiro’s first league start of the season and he was outstanding – the only blot on the copybook being a failure to get himself on the scoresheet having had a couple of good chances. We gave N’Diaye his full debut and in the process left out Romain Saiss who had, before last night’s round of fixtures, completed more passes than anyone else in the division and had a 95% pass success rate against Millwall. Kortney Hause, Helder Costa and Morgan Gibbs-White are yet to play a single minute this season as they recover from injury while Michal Zyro and Connor Ronan remain largely on the fringes. Danny Batth and Ruben Vinagre have both had two successive excellent displays in these games…yet would still probably drop out for Willy Boly and Barry Douglas respectively when they return to action. Will Norris is as good a backup keeper as you’re likely to find at this level. It’s refreshing to think that when everyone is available, the question will now be who we’re going to leave out, rather than having to compromise and pick players who obviously aren’t good enough because there’s simply no alternative.

Cough cough.

Refereeing is still poor

Debate will rage around the penalty award against Vinagre from last night – personally I think he was far too close to the ball for a spot kick to be awarded, and the linesman with an unimpeded view from no more than 10 yards away signalled for a corner – but really my problem is with how many routine decisions referees at this level get wrong. For the avoidance of doubt, Bristol City were also on the receiving end of some dubious calls from Steve Martin, who continued his 100% record of never making me laugh. Blaming referees for results is a folly and the realm of the likes of Steve Bruce who doesn’t want to make excuses but will anyway…that said, the standard of officiating is really, really poor from what we’ve seen this season. It shouldn’t be too much to ask for referees to get the basics right and keep an eye on the treatment meted out to Jota in particular. I won’t hold my breath on anything changing.

Oscillating Wildly is a “pay-as-you-feel” website. The content will never disappear behind a paywall. However, if you enjoy my work and would like to help me continue to write – as this is essentially my main focus now – please consider making a small donation via the button near the top of the page. If you want to and can, that’s great. If not, then no worries.

ASSESSING AUGUST

Looking back over the first month of the season

First up, my apologies that there’s been no content of late. I just needed a bit of a break and then it made little sense to publish this piece before the transfer window closed. But anyway, I’m back now. May the world rejoice.

So, let’s break down how we’ve started the campaign:

Results

You can’t really complain about running at two points a game. It takes a fairly freakish set of circumstances for that not to be top two form over the course of a season. It’s even more impressive when you consider who it is we’ve played; most would have Middlesbrough, Derby, Hull and Brentford pegged as top 10 teams at least, and Cardiff have won every single game to date somehow (as much as I dislike Neil Warnock, he deserves great credit for what he’s done in South Wales. The knob). Faced with a tough start, we’ve come up with the goods so far. Cardiff was deeply disappointing – it’s fair to point out that the refereeing in that game was criminally poor, but that’s not what cost us the game – but every other result has been a good one. Brentford may be struggling at the moment but in time I believe that will be seen as a decent point. We’ve also beaten yet another Premier League team away from home with literally a reserve team. Even allowing for the excitement surrounding our new signings, it’s been a better start than many could have envisaged.

“Another one nailed off the ball! Get in”

The New Arrivals

What has been encouraging is that the vast majority of the new signings have fitted in straight away. Ruben Neves is a magician and has no business playing at this level; the same applies to Diogo Jota who will light up this league. Leo Bonatini looks to be a solid striker with a technical base that will allow us to play off and around him. Willy Boly is a man mountain at the back, although does have a slight penchant for the odd girly flick to put us in trouble, while John Ruddy looks like the keeper we’ve needed for the last five years and will be pushed hard by the very promising Will Norris. Barry Douglas is an actual left back and again, has strong competition from the exciting Ruben Vinagre. You might slightly quibble that Roderick Miranda has occasionally looked a little uneasy (although he’s been fairly decent overall), reports from his previous clubs on last minute arrival Alfred N’Diaye are mixed, Ryan Bennett looks…clunky to say the least, and we’re yet to see anything from Phil Ofosu-Ayeh who arrived with a slightly iffy injury record and is apparently yet to join full training. Overall though, this window represents exceptional incoming business with far from a huge outlay by current standards. By and large, they look players willing to accept what the Championship has to offer and to face that challenge head on. Admittedly we might need to wait until the temperature drops below 10 degrees to see what they’re really made of. Except Glasgow-born Douglas of course.

Two top notch signings.

Credit is also due to the club in bringing in £8.5m for a raft of unwanted and unsuitable players, a figure well above what anyone could have envisaged when the 2016/17 campaign drew to a close. If nothing else, you’d hope it would end any flapping about Financial Fair Play for now (to reiterate, we aren’t in any danger of breaching that at all).

The System

As we all know, we’ve shifted to a 3-4-2-1 system this season with Conor Coady at the heart of the back three, wingbacks pushed high up the pitch and two inside forwards playing behind a lone central striker. As we have seen, results and performances have generally been good so far. I do, however, have some concerns about the current set-up:

  1. While this may be a vision of Nuno’s that he’s had for some time, he has never played three at the back with any regularity at any of his previous clubs. Indeed his past experience of playing this formation extends to one league game and two cup games at Valencia. Furthermore, very few of our players have much, if any, prior experience of playing in such a shape. This means that everyone is learning on the job as we go, in a division where three at the back predominantly tends to be an early season experiment which gets ditched before the leaves have started falling. It’s not to say that it won’t work, and early signs aren’t bad at all. But what we don’t have here is a situation where a manager has come in and decided to play in a way that he has stuck to for years at all his previous clubs; this is an experiment on his part.

  2. Even in the past two seasons when we’ve been absolutely diabolical at Molineux, plenty of bottom half teams have come here and set up for a point. Now that we have upgraded our squad to the point where we should be expecting a top six place as a bare minimum, this is going to apply even more. With that in mind, do we really need three centre halves, two career full backs (no matter how much they are pushed on – and Matt Doherty is not a proper attacking option on the right hand side in any case) and two central midfielders who by inclination will tend to sit rather than push into the attacking third? That’s seven players who you could nominally describe as defensively minded. I certainly have no problem with clean sheets being a highly valued currency – and five inside a calendar month is encouraging – and I wouldn’t expect us to be ripping teams apart 4-0 and 5-0 with any regularity. However, when the onus is on us to attack, it does seem a little like defensive overkill in terms of balance. We may well need some flexibility in this respect and Saturday’s match at home to Millwall will be a good test of how we approach a game against opponents who won’t be looking to go at us from the off.

    Not that I believe that the seasons will follow the same path (and we certainly have a far better squad and manager than we did then) but we ended August 2005 with a league record of P6 W3 D2 L1, playing possession heavy football with a new formation and looking well set for a promotion push. Then the rest of the season happened. Now, Nuno isn’t Glenn Hoddle. He isn’t relying on the current day equivalent of Darren Anderton to be our creative force. Nor is he that likely to stick Bonatini on the left wing. But the point is that if we set up in this way, we have to be very careful that we’re not easily nullified. Allowing for the fact that we have played one heavily fancied team and one team with a 100% record so far, we have not created much at all in our two home league games to date. If that pattern were to continue, then there would be cause for concern.

  3. This leads in to the worry that the formation doesn’t allow us to get all of our attacking players on the pitch at the same time. There are three spots and when everyone is fit, all of Leo Bonatini, Helder Costa, Diogo Jota, Ivan Cavaleiro, Bright Enobakhare, Ben Marshall (if he is not employed in the right wing back role), Michal Zyro and Donovan Wilson will be vying to fill them. Of course, none of those players are going to play every game and having the likes of Cavaleiro waiting in the wings represents strong strength in depth. You do wonder, however, if there might be certain games where we’re better off ditching a superfluous defender in favour of getting an extra attacking option on the pitch. Jota in particular seems to have the skillset to flourish as a number 10 just as much as he’s an incredibly exciting option from slightly wider. We’ve already felt compelled to send Jordan Graham out on loan as he’s unlikely to get games in one of the inside forward positions; we could do without others becoming disenchanted because the preferred shape doesn’t allow them enough game time.

The End of Edwards

So finally, it’s over. Almost ten years of watching Dave Edwards has come to a close. Let’s get a few things out of the way first up; no-one at all would ever criticise Edwards’ effort, desire, ability to get the absolute maximum from his ability or affinity to the club. He’s clearly a very, very nice guy who does some fantastic work off the pitch and would never have caused a minute’s trouble for anyone even if he’d been forced into a peripheral role this season. He probably does deserve a testimonial despite falling just short of a decade’s worth of service. It’s nice to have that kind of character in football. All of that is inarguable.

Unfortunately, none of that in itself wins you any points at all over the course of a season. Not only did Edwards have no role whatsoever fit for him with the way we are set up to play under Nuno, but he didn’t even fulfil the brief given to him under much more traditional and prosaically “Championship” managers that we’ve had here. The Express & Star’s piece on his departure took a snipe at fans who “wouldn’t ignore what he couldn’t do”’; I’m not sure how we’re supposed to ignore the fact that a central midfielder can’t pass or tackle. The official site ran a saccharine-infused piece describing him as a “special player in a workmanlike McCarthy team” despite him averaging fewer than 20 starts a season under McCarthy and that team containing some of the best attacking players I’ve ever seen play for us in my 30 seasons of attendance. He didn’t have the ability to play in central midfield as his work in possession was so poor. It’s no coincidence that results slumped under Paul Lambert when he inexplicably restored Edwards to the number 10 role in February of this year. His infrequent runs of goalscoring were welcome, but there were at least an equal number of runs where he’d score at a rate of around 1 in 20 and contribute nothing else.

Had we been more brutal and ruthless in terms of squad management in the McCarthy days, his time would have been up upon promotion to the Premier League, or at very latest following our first season at that level. There have been many, many games where his deficiencies have cost us, no matter how much running he did. Most teams put their most creative and technically skilled player at number 10; we put our least creative player there, month after month under both Jackett and Lambert. This was a day which should have come long ago and the surprise is not that Nuno – unencumbered by existing staff members who might have sung Edwards’ praises – had no use for him, but that it’s Reading who have signed him despite playing perhaps the most possession heavy style of any team in the entire division. But that really is their problem, not ours.

He’s a great guy. I can easily name you 50 Wolves players I’ve disliked more and double that number who’d have had better careers here if they’d adopted Dave’s work ethic. I wish him every success, except when he’s in direct competition with us. But please, spare me the rose-tinted stuff. I didn’t enjoy watching him play and nor did thousands of others.

Captain, Leader, Pointer. I’m sure we’ll survive without him.

The Striker Shortage

Jon Dadi Bodvarsson, Paul Gladon, Andreas Weimann, Joe Mason, Nouha Dicko. All first team strikers for us at various points last season, all no longer at the club. After a season in which not one of them scored more than three goals for us, it would be fair to say that a clearout was necessary. Of course, everyone hoped that we would sign more than one dedicated central striker to replace them, but our bid to bring in PSV’s Jürgen Locadia fell through at the last minute and any secondary targets failed to arrive.

The club don’t escape criticism here. Locadia was by no means the only player in the world that we could have signed and to leave the signing of a player in such a key position so late in the window always had an element of playing with fire about it – while accepting that strikers do tend to be the most difficult players to sign. We had ample opportunity to bring someone in and failed to do so.

Some of the criticism however is wide of the mark. Of those players listed above, surely only Dicko would class as someone who fans would actually still want at the club. Dicko himself had shown this season that he was a deeply imperfect fit for the role required from the central striker now and his inability to hold the ball almost contributed to us dropping points against Middlesbrough. He has rarely looked anything like the player he was before his devastating injury two years ago and picking up £3.5m for a striker who has scored four goals since May 2015 is not to be sniffed at. It doesn’t seem that likely that he’s going to be back to his best any time soon and the manager clearly didn’t fancy him as a serious option. His judgement has to be trusted. It is also better for us to stick with what we have than just sign anyone to be seen to be doing something. Every time Jordan Hugill was mentioned as a potential target, a chill ran down my spine in a manner I’ve not experienced since I saw Steve Corica’s name on the teamsheet every week. Dwight Gayle and Jordan Rhodes are fine goalscorers at this level but are they really equipped to do what we would need them to do? I would suggest not.

This is where just signing anyone gets you.

Of course, we are now crossing our fingers that Bonatini can build on his promising start and stay fit. There is some scope for Cavaleiro being able to play centrally, but at the moment we’re guessing whether he will or won’t be able to perform effectively there. It’s a state of affairs which could end up costing us dearly and I reiterate, a situation the club should not have allowed us to get into. But time will tell. If we are indeed loitering around 9th place come Christmas, it won’t be because we sold Nouha Dicko.

On we go to two eminently winnable home fixtures against Millwall and Bristol City; check back here next week for reaction to both games.

Oscillating Wildly is a “pay-as-you-feel” website. The content will never disappear behind a paywall. However, if you enjoy my work and would like to help me continue to write – as this is essentially my main focus now – please consider making a small donation via the button near the top of the page. If you want to and can, that’s great. If not, then no worries.

PLAYER RATINGS: WOLVES 1-0 YEOVIL TOWN

Five cup wins in 12 months now. Madness…

Will Norris

As you might expect, Norris wasn’t overly tested against opponents who were coming straight off the back of an 8-2 defeat. What he did have to do was impressive; claiming crosses, sweeping up in a proactive fashion, quick distribution and plenty of communication with his defenders. If John Ruddy were to be unavailable for any reason, there should be little concern about playing Norris in a league fixture as he looks an extremely assured figure. Let’s just say he’s a significant step up from our previous biscuit handed, Toblerone-booted back up keeper.

Ryan Bennett

Signing Bennett always seemed a strange move. He’d never really managed to nail down a first team place at Norwich whichever division they were playing in and had rarely looked like a top-end option even in the Championship. His profile is certainly at odds with the majority of players we’ve brought in this season. On this showing, the best you could say is that he’s a bit of an upgrade on Richard Stearman and Ethan Ebanks-Landell. Frankly, he isn’t a particularly good footballer – he managed to control the ball straight out of play once and his range of passing is way below what we require from our defenders in this system – and while there wasn’t too much to concern him defensively in this game, he doesn’t look the quickest on the turn. He also pulled out a Stearman-style dragback which brought back some harrowing flashbacks. When Kortney Hause returns, you’d think he’d be sixth in line for three spots, which probably isn’t what he signed up for. I wouldn’t expect to see too much of him this season barring an injury crisis or some kind of Steve Bruce novel plot where all our other centre halves get kidnapped by Mossad agents for some unclear reason.

Danny Batth

A comfortable enough outing in the middle of the back three, which is surely where he has to play if he is called upon. One pass which was left a little short of Boly led to the usual moans and groans but generally he was fine in possession and dealt with the assorted hoofs forward from Yeovil in competent enough fashion. He’s simply a fairly experienced, steady enough back up option now, the kind that we’re told every squad needs.

Willy Boly

A surprise inclusion but this game won’t have taken too much out of him. Completely in cruise control from start to finish, he could still be playing now without breaking sweat. He’s a far, far better footballer than I envisaged; dealing with a 60 yard hoof forward is one thing. Cushioning it down straight to a team mate is another. Strode forward a couple of times and one crunching challenge in particular sent the message of “don’t come within five yards of me”. Should have scored in the first half – free header, 10 yards out and sent wide – which would have given the game a different complexion.

Jordan Graham

It seems that Graham has attracted criticism in some parts for his performance last night. It’s true that he didn’t often run at his full back in the fashion that we know he can, and at times he appeared to be playing within himself. Some of his set piece delivery was poor and perhaps you’d expect a little more of an impact against a League Two team from such a talented player. But on the flipside; this was his first meaningful 90 minutes for a very, very long time. He’s playing on the opposite side to where he’s accustomed to turning out, in an unfamiliar position (not that anyone who plays at wingback for us at present has to do much defending, but it’s still different from playing as part of a front three which is pretty much exclusively where he’s played for us previously). He sorted out his delivery in the end to provide yet another assist. He still has a way to go to work out his precise role in this team and to feel his way back properly into first team football, but this wasn’t anything like as bad an outing as the early reviews might indicate.

Ruben Vinagre

This was not only Vinagre’s debut for us, but his first ever game at senior level for any club. You can certainly see why we brought him in and view him as a long-term prospect. Much like Barry Douglas, his first touch is impeccable and he has the pace and engine to get up and down the left flank all game. A couple of fine deliveries sadly went unconverted and he looks well enough built to cope with first team football. The one black mark was a momentary loss of concentration which allowed Yeovil in for their one clear chance which, in fairness, really should have been converted. He’s not going to push Douglas immediately, but the more he plays, the better he’ll do. There’s certainly more than enough talent there.

Jack Price

He was Jack Price. Pretty much any of the reviews I’ve ever written of him can apply here. In truth he didn’t have much to do as Yeovil didn’t even attempt to play through midfield and he’s never going to have much of an impact going forward. He’s done well to remain in the reckoning as it seemed inevitable that he was going to leave this summer – all new Wolves managers seem to love him when they first start out – and you can see how he’ll fit into our system if we require him to play. The problem with playing him in this kind of game is that he isn’t going to make any kind of an inestimable case for inclusion. He doesn’t necessarily look any better against Yeovil than he would against Derby.

Dave Edwards

Two outings so far for Dave and on both occasions, his first contribution has been to lamp a “pass” wildly into touch. Nothing like making a good first impression, eh. Nuno showed some decent tactical awareness from the outset here by not merely expecting Dave to play like Ruben Neves – which would be a little like asking Cheryl Cole to sing like Liam Gallagher (or indeed, sing at all ) – instead pushing him further on and with a brief to run beyond the forwards. In terms of movement, he didn’t do too badly. His runs in the first half in particular were definitely dragging the Yeovil defenders out of position and creating space, although he did pointlessly run offside a number of times which really shouldn’t be the case from someone so experienced. The problem, as ever, came when he was expected to do anything with the ball. And there’s little anyone is going to be able to do about that at this point. It’s also why he surely isn’t going to play much of a part this season.

Connor Ronan

Showcased again what a talented player he is. Not everything came off for him last night; he’ll be disappointed that he didn’t make a better fist of a couple of long range shots and while his passing (both short and long) early on was excellent, he did drop off a little in this respect as the game went on. He was understandably eager to impress and perhaps tried to be a bit too ambitious on occasion, but there were enough signs to suggest that he’ll develop into someone we can slot into our midfield in time. As ever, showed strength at times that belies the fact that he looks like he belongs in Grange Hill or whatever the 2010s equivalent is.

Nouha Dicko

We saw on Saturday that he’s going to struggle to make the grade as a central striker simply because of what we require from the occupant of that position in the style which Nuno wants us to play. He was shifted further to the left of the notional front three last night…and again it didn’t really work. Struggled to get into the game and went lengthy spells without touching the ball. Moved into the centre for the final 20 minutes or so and immediately looked more at home. Put a shot narrowly over the bar and then guided home a nice header into the corner from Graham’s corner. The goal itself seemed to perk him up and there was a bit more of the familiar Dicko snap about his game. There are still plenty of question marks over his future, especially when we inevitably add to our attacking resources.

Leo Bonatini

Being so short of football going into the season and out of necessity being immediately thrown into the team, this was a fitness exercise for Leo more than anything. There weren’t many opportunities for him – a header over the bar in the first half was about it – and his contribution was largely limited to a handful of nice layoffs. It’s another 70 minutes under his belt and that’s the most important thing.

Bright Enobakhare

While we controlled the game throughout, what we were perhaps lacking was a bit of a direct threat. Bright definitely gave us that, showing off his mad skillz and it was his run which earned us the corner from which we scored the only goal. Perhaps it is as an impact sub where he might be best employed for the time being.

Diogo Jota

The drizzle was falling, the temperature hovered around 13 degrees…and wouldn’t you know it, Jota was still able to play. Showed some early signs of a good link up with Vinagre in particular and it won’t be long before he gets off the mark for us.

Romain Saiss

Brought on with 10 to go to see out the game and make sure any threat was snuffed out. Which he’s really rather good at.

Oscillating Wildly is a “pay-as-you-feel” website. The content will never disappear behind a paywall. However, if you enjoy my work and would like to help me continue to write – as this is essentially my main focus now – please consider making a small donation via the button near the top of the page. If you want to and can, that’s great. If not, then no worries.