1. Who are Wolves’ key players?
Tom: Wolves don’t really boast any massive names and the success we have tends to come from solid team efforts rather than individual brilliance.
It’s likely we’ll play 451 at the Etihad so the three central midfielders will have an important role to play in preventing City from opening up our leaky defence.
Karl Henry will provide most of the protection, whilst I’d expect Nenad Milijas and Jamie O’Hara to offer a threat going forward. Both of them use the ball intelligently too, so hopefully we’ll create a chance or two.
Wolfie: Stephen Ward, who in most people’s mind has always been a makeshift left back, has been a revelation this season. He’s not had much in the way of a competition from the rest of the team, but has been the one consistent player this season. Unspectacular but excellent.
Jamie O’Hara has got a lot of stick this season – often justifiably as he’s been very careless – but he’s got enthusiasm to burn and, if he gets a chance to play further forward than he has often this season, will be instrumental.
New arrival Roger Johnson will, I suspect be key one way or the other. Judging by recent form it will be by bungling to let in a goal or two, but we’ll need him to be up to his best to keep the defence tight.
We’ve got a few patchy geniuses in the squad. Milijas, Guedioura and Hammi all have it in them to change games, but Milijas puts in nearly as many anonymous as commanding performances, and the other two are still pretty hit and miss – always wanting the ball, but either great or completely overreaching themselves.
2. Were you happy with the business conducted during the transfer window?
Tom: Yes and no.
Yes because Johnson and O’Hara were good signings.
No because we needed more, in particular some pace up front.
Wolfie: I wouldn’t say happy, but I think it’s sensible. Lacking either the recklessness of other teams or the flowing oil money of others (mentioning no names; brushing chip off shoulder) the amount we spend is always going to be relatively modest. With that in mind, I would still have liked to see at least another quality centre back, but thought we got did well to get Roger Johnson and Jamie O’Hara. I am getting less happy as the weeks pass though. Johnson and O’Hara both looked excellent buys but neither has played to their potential so far this season.
3. What are your expectations for this season?
Tom: I was hoping for a comfortable midtable finish, but it’s already looking like another scrap to death for survival.
Staying up is the minimum but I’d like to see some signs of genuine progress in our third season back in the top flight.
Wolfie: Finishing 16th, with a lot of pain and bickering on the way.
4. Are you happy with the manager?
Tom: Now that’s the million dollar question and again it’s a case of yes and no.
Yes because he’s got us into the position we’re now in after languishing in the second-tier for so long and compiled the best Wolves squad we’ve had for 30 odd years.
No because his tactics are often baffling, he’s as stubborn as the day is long and he often conducts himself off the field in a less than endearing manner.
I’m split completely down the middle with the bloke. Love him one day, hate him the next. Most sit on one side of that argument.
Wolfie: Yes. We’re on a very poor run, and going 2-nil down at home against Swansea was a touch trying at the time but he’s the most successful manager the club has had for more than 30 years. I like him and think he cares as much about winning as anyone, although I do wish he’d shut up moaning about the fans booing him. Not that he’s wrong, just that it’ll only make things worse. It’ll stop soon enough if we win a few games.
5. Are there any rising starts in the squad that we might not have heard of?
Tom: Not really, although we’ve got a young lad playing in the reserves called Zeli Ismael who was once mooted as potentially the first £100 million player. No pressure then. He’s a pacey winger/forward with bags of skill so hoping he’ll get on the pitch at some point this season.
Wolfie: Wolves used to excel at bringing young talent through the academy, but haven’t had done well of late, with Mark Davies at Bolton and Joleon Lescott being the most notable ‘recent’ products We do have a better recent record of improving ‘bargain basement’ players, with the core of the squad – for better or worse – still composed of the team that won the Championship a few years back. Matt Doherty is the only youngster to make it into the first team of late, and judging by his two appearances this season, could go far. At junior level and now in the reserves, Zele Ismail has been making gentle waves for some time, but he’s a secret and if I told you I’d have to kill you.
6. If you could have any City player in your team who would you choose?
Tom: Hang on, let me just wipe the saliva from my face.
As tempting as it is to pick an Aguero or Silva type player, I’ll be controversial and go for Vincent Kompany.
We’re often desperately poor at the back, so a solid Premier League defender with a bit of pace and presence would do us the world of good and Kompany is someone I’ve always thought highly of.
Wolfie: There’s quite a choice and we probably wouldn’t be turning any of them down, provided they’re willing to take a little pay cut for the glory of playing for Wolverhampton. I should say David Silva on recent reports but, for sentimental reasons – and because I think our comedy defending of late is the main reason for the ongoing lack of confidence amoung the team – I have to say Lescott.
7. What is your perception of City as a club?
Tom: Money baby!!
In all seriousness, it’s impossible to think about City without envisaging pound signs or an ATM spitting out £50 notes.
Whilst that’s obviously very exciting for you, I do think it’s a bit of a shame because it does make you forget the true identity of the club.
Maine Road, Franny Lee…the Gallagher brothers. You know what I mean (no pun intended)?
In the 90s I always thought City were quite a cool team to support, but money and ultimately success have made them slightly less fashionable.
That said, I’d chew my right arm off for a similar situation at Molineux. Ha!
Wolfie: Obviously a quality bunch of players, and finally looking like gelling as a team, but overriding perception would have to be summarised as “upstart oiks ruining the league (further) for the rest of us with lots of money and being very good” ;)
8. Likely Wolves starting XI for Saturday, and score prediction?
Although I’m an optimist, I’m also a realist and just can’t see us getting anything other than a good hiding. I’ll say 4-1 City.
Wolfie: Predicting the score is a scary prospect at the moment. Wednesday was one of the best Wolves performances of the year so however much I want to say we’ll surprise everyone, I think I’d be going out on a limb.
Predicting the Wolves line up is usually very easy: Fans – me among them – will bay for some combination of Milijas, Hammil or Guedioura to start and for a change in defence, but Mick will stick with the same team as last week. This time I think a few players made a good case for a place in the starting line up and we might even see a little bit of a reshuffle. I’ll go (with no confidence this is what we’ll actually see, although surely we won’t play two up front):
Stearman – Johnson – Berra – Ward
Henry – Milijas
Hunt – O’Hara – Jarvis
and wouldn’t be surprised to see Guedioura and Hammil make an appearance.
Hell, I’ll say it anyway – we’ll surprise everyone…
and only lose 2-1. But I always hope for better.
Come on Wolves!