Fan Focus: Wolves (H) Pre-Match Views

Big Mick returns to the Stadium Of Light this weekend hoping for a result that will see them safe.

Joining us this week for Fan Focus is Tom Baugh. Tom runs/writes/operates the leading Wolverhampton Wanderers blog - "Wolves Blog" and it's a cracking site.

Tom was kind enough to answer our questions, and will be doing so again after the game too, so why not head on over to Wolves Blog for more info on our opposition and see how they feel heading into the business end of the season.

Now though, here's Tom's answers to our questions... Enjoy!

A season of ups and downs for your lot it would appear from the outside. How’s things going?

Tom: I think 'ups and downs' is probably a nice way to sum up our season. When you consider we've beaten Man Utd, Chelsea, Man City and Liverpool, yet still find ourselves involved in the relegation scrap, you get an immediate idea of the rollercoaster we've been on.

We spent a fair bit of dosh over the summer and many of Wolves fans were hoping we'd push closer to midtable, but sadly that hasn't been the case. The Premiership has been harder this time around and even though we've improved, so have many other sides. 

Still, if we manage to stay up and secure a third season of Premier League football, the lionshare of our supporters will be satisfied.

Big Mick in charge too, and also Jody Craddock in the backline (occasionally) how are both getting on down at Molineux?

Tom: Mick McCarthy divides opinion amongst supporters and it's easy to understand why at times.

On one hand, he got us up as champions and kept us in the top tier last season. He was given some money to spend of course but for the most part, he invested it wisely, building a young, hungry and highly capable squad from scratch.

He was then given even more money to spend last summer, which we all hoped would push us forward again. However, many supporters feel he didn't invest this kitty on the type of players we needed, which is a fair point, particularly when you look at where we find ourselves in the league.

Added to that, he often infuriates fans with strange tactics, leaving out key players and pushing others into positions they weren't brought to play in.

Overall though, I personally feel he's still the man for the job and if he can keep us up again, I firmly believe we will push forward next season.

Jody Craddock has been a wonderful player for Wolves and firmly cemented himself as a big favourite amongst the fans. It's amazing to think that when we brought him from you lot back in 2003, he was despised for his lack of pace and more than a few glaring errors.

But as he's got older, he seems to have got better, with his pace strangely being less of an issue. He barely puts a foot wrong these days and was voted our player of the season last year having won us more than a few games with brave defending and vital goals at the other end. His contract is up in the summer, so it will be interesting to see if he gets another one. 

As for the game this weekend, how do you see things going? I see that a win should guarantee you an extended stay in the Premier League.

Tom: Your guess is as good as mine.

Both sides seem capable of winning or losing to anyone. We're desperate for the result, but you're bang in the middle of an injury crisis. There's so much to contemplate, it's almost impossible to predict what will happen.

We played out a cracking game at Molineux earlier in the season, so if it's anything like that one, we're in for a real treat.

Like you say, a win for Wolves would almost certainly guarantee survival and it would be lovely to go into our final game of the season knowing we were already safe.

Should you stay up, where will need improving on the pitch in order to avoid a repeat of this season and you can rest a little easier?

Tom: In a word - defence.

I look at the midfielders we've got (Milijas, O'Hara, Henry, Jarvis, Guedioura, etc) and the forwards (Doyle, Fletcher, Ebanks-Blake) and see the nucleus of a decent Premiership outfit, but we're short in defence.

We can't keep relying on Jody Craddock and the jury is still out on whether the likes of Stearman or Berra can play consistently enough to cut it at this level.

We also need a left back. It's been a constant headache for us over the last two or three seasons. We've got George Elokobi, whose capable of brilliance and utter calamity as well as Stephen Ward, who was signed as a center forward, which tells you everything you need to know.

If we stay up, Mick needs to make a tough decision, move on a couple of our defenders and spend big on a center back and a left-back. I think he was too loyal to his squad last summer but hopefully he'll learn his lesson this time around.

I hear too that Matt Jarvis has been out the side for a bit, a bit of a risk from McCarthy or justified?

Tom: He was dropped against Albion last Sunday and it turned out to be an inspired decision. Stephen Hunt came in and played a blinder, setting up two goals and frightening the life out of our bitter rivals.

Prior to kick-off the fans were going mental that Jarvo had been left out, but nobody was complaining at full time.

It was gigantic risk, but it paid off big time.

Nice to have a player like Jarvis on the bench too, in case we need a bit of a spark.

With that in mind what do you think the starting XI will be?\

I suspect it will be the same as last weekend. We played very well against West Brom so I can't see why Mick would change it. That would mean an eleven of:

Hennessy, Foley, Craddock, Mancienne, Elokobi, Hunt, Henry, O'Hara, Guedioura, Fletcher, Ward

That team will fight and scrap for everything, so what they lack in skill, they more than make up for in effort. We'll have some real quality on the bench too with the likes of Jarvis, Milijas and hopefully Kevin Doyle waiting in the wings.

From our side, we’re still massively depleted with injuries, but is there anyone you think could cause Wolves a problem on Saturday?

Tom: Despite all your injuries, I'm certain you'll cause Wolves many problems on Saturday.

If anyone needed reminding not to take Sunderland for granted, they got a wake-up call last weekend against Bolton. To win at the Reebok, with all the players you've got out was some achievement and says to me that all the players are pulling together for Steve Bruce to finish as strongly as possible.

Teams are at their most dangerous when they know they're up against it, so I'm expecting a really tough game on Saturday.

Looking at your team from the Bolton match, Henderson and Malbranque are both players who've impressed me in the past and I also fear the unknown quantities of Elmohamady and Sessegnon. I know nothing of these player and that scares me to death.

And lastly, what’s your prediction for the game itself?

Tom: As stated above, I'm fairly certain Sunderland won't make this easy for Wolves, even if they have more or less nothing to play for.

I'm also quite sure that our quest for survival is going to go right to the wire and that would only happen if we failed to win at the Stadium of Light.

I'll say 1-1.

Thanks very much for joining us Tom, and we'll speak to you after the game!

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