I have to admit if there is one name in the bottom six that surprises me by being there this season, then it has to be Wolves. Arriving back to the Premiership as Championship winners, they currently stare upward towards Birmingham City and Burnley. West Ham and Portsmouth have struggled with financial issues, Bolton Wanderers fans hate their manager which doesn’t help when you lose a local derby, Hull City are still struggling with the hangover from last season and Wigan are still coming to grips with life without Steve Bruce.
Yet, Wolves have a settled management team, strong finances, a big and vocal home support and a side sprinkled with experience and pace. They just seem to be suffering from being star struck still, a dangerous game in the ruthless world of the Premiership. 7 games have now passed since the last time Wolves garnered 3 points and a local derby on the horizon, the need to get going can not come any sooner.
What has surprised me more than anything is the lack of goals from Sylvan Ebanks-Blake. Only one goal in 8 league appearances so far is a strange return for a player who ran Championship defences ragged over the last three years. Along with Michael Kightly, Ebanks-Blake is struggling to get in to the swing of things due to missing pre-season training. In tandem, these two make an attacking threat that is crucial to Wolves’ hopes of survival.
The lack of sharpness that preseason gives you can never be underestimated and those two should be finally ready to deal with the demands that the Premiership can throw at players week in week out. McCarthy will know that it needs to be sooner rather than later as December will see them face away games at Manchester United, Liverpool and Tottenham, so victories in the next two home matches are imperative to their hopes of survival. Kightly, Ebanks-Blake and Kevin Doyle need to get an understanding working but when you’re getting ripped to bits by Chelsea, it’s hard to do.
Thankfully, we don’t seem to see any real daylight beginning to open just yet at the foot of the table, but eventually someone will get cut adrift. Just nicking points here and there is one of the aspects that sides need to have, if they want to make a fist of any chance of survival once the run in begins. After Birmingham City visit, Wolves will entertain Bolton Wanderers who apparently have lost their zip. After watching them capitulate against Blackburn, and manager Gary Megson getting the dreaded vote of confidence today, Bolton are there for the taking.
These two games are crucial for Wolves if they have any idea of being here next season and as I mentioned earlier, both games could be classed as 6 pointers already. Two wins and Wolves will clamber up and away from the foot of the table. Even four points will suffice, but anything else will be a bitter pill to swallow for the fans. The manager can’t be enjoying things too much either, after the Manchester United Carling Cup defeat, he looked fed up, but that was to be expected after playing so well and ending up with nothing.
No doubt though, at the back of his mind has to be his failure with Sunderland the last time he managed at this level, but the circumstances couldn’t be any different this time. He has a chairman that supports him 100%, they have money to spend and so far he’s made some wise purchases. I would expect them to go looking for a bit more nous in the January window, just to add to the undoubted potential the side has.
Wolves have potential to be around the Premiership for a while yet and I have a feeling that we’ll see one or maybe two sides who have clogged up the table relegated come May. Last year saw two fairly well established sides fall out of the league, so no-one from 10th down can have any foolish idea’s about being too big to go down. The Molineux faithful will be hoping that they can be part of the new order come May 2010.