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Reprieved ... but only just!

Reprieved ... but only just!

This report is going to be difficult to write, as I am not only very emotional but have also drunk too much alcohol.

It`s been a nerve-wracking build-up to this afternoon`s match. The week has dragged by, though my pulse has been speeding up by the hour. I`ve anxiously scoured all the websites for information; have read the prognostications over and over again; and have thought of nothing else except the scoreline at 5.45 p.m. this evening.

In a real sense this match has been a long time coming because we have all been focusing on it since the beginning of the season. As MM has constantly been telling us, it`s our position in the table after the last game that counts. In spite of misgivings, most of us were probably happy that we kicked-off against Blackburn with our fate still in our own hands.

My wife and I slept fitfully last night, though for different reasons. Unconcerned about the fate of the Wolves, she was worried about our daughter, who is training to be a teacher and is applying for jobs. It troubles me, too, but she`ll have another chance when this week`s adverts come out. The Wolves did not have that luxury. Yet, how can I tell her to stop worrying at interviews which, after all, will affect her future when I turn to jelly merely contemplating an event which will have no bearing on my MATERIAL well-being!

I heard the church bell strike five o`clock this morning and, unable to get back to sleep, decided to get up. All quiet outside, just as it has been on the Vital Wolves site for the past few days: tension rules. On the other hand, NewsNow Wolves has been full of relegation stories, permutations and forecasts. If they had any bearing on the actual result, it would have been a foregone conclusion: we would stay up. This, in itself, is a minor miracle, given the fact that the press has condemned us to oblivion throughout the whole season, victories against Chelsea, Liverpool, MC and MU notwithstanding. I was less optimistic and events justified my concern.

I left the house at 10.45 a.m., intending to stop at all the motorway services en route to talk to fellow-supporters and to ease my dodgy back. I talked to a family of Wolves fans at Oxford services, all confident of a Wolves victory, but surprisingly saw no-one in a WW strip at Warwick. Well, I was incognito, too, but that`s because I only possess a Doritos shirt (and I don`t really like the new one either).

I arrived at West Park at 1.40 p.m. to find all the spaces taken so I had to turn round and park in Albert Road. As I was meeting friends at Nando`s in Queen`s Street at 2.15 p.m., I headed into town, which was full of Wolves fans: far more than had been in evidence for the WBA game. Leaving the restaurant an hour or so later, we could hear the Blackburn fans chanting as they were being escorted to Molineux. We hurried to keep ahead of them.

I took my seat in the Billy Wright Stand at 2.40 p.m. and, unusually, everyone was sociable, communal tension uniting us all. By the time that the match started I could hardly write any notes, as my hand was shaking so much. I clearly knew what was about to unfold.

We were awful in the first half, almost as if we felt there was no need for urgency. But nerves were probably to blame. Our defence was at its fragile worst . None of them played very well and Blackburn looked dangerous very time they attacked. Even Craddock appeared vulnerable, though he was probably the best of the bunch. Mancienne is certainly not the answer to our problem in central defence and when he was substituted in the second half I was pleased. The Blackburn players dwarfed him and he looked so waif-like that I worried for his health. It`s an admission but I longed for Berra to come on.

The defence was at fault for all three goals. For the first one Craddock did not cut out the ball and a Blackburn player turned Elokobi for the cross, which Roberts diverted into the goal. For the second, Hennessey chose not to come out and Craddock headed the ball to Emerton, who volleyed into the net. For the third goal, the defenders failed to deal with a long ball and Hoilett dribbled past three players before scoring. At this point we were doomed and even MM was shaking his head in disbelief.

Upfront, we did not look like scoring, Blackburn stifling our attacks by maintaining a high line and pressuring our runners. Fletcher and Ward were largely ineffectual and we had no real chance on goal. They were not getting much support from the midfield either. Henry was another player, who had a poor game. Not only did he not enforce very effectively, he also allowed the tension of the occasion get to him. In the 24th. minute he reacted to a free kick awarded against him by pushing the `injured` party. He was lucky to stay on the pitch. Shades of Wigan!

At the half-time whistle the team left the pitch to boos from the crowd. MM must have given the team a roasting for in the second half we made a game of it. SEB came on for Mancienne and immediately we looked more dangerous. Indeed, in the first minute Hunt should have scored from a free header in the box.

About mid-way through the half, Ward, who had shown a degree of skill and bags of commitment, was felled by Salgado`s elbow. The pause seemed to check our momentum but, hardly had I written this observation in my notebook, than O`Hara scored a beautifully engineered goal from a free kick.

Game on! With the crowd urging the team forward we went looking for the goal that could secure our future in the PL. The bloke next to me had to provide the stats but it seemed as though a second goal would give us the edge over Birmingham. And, when it came in the 87th. minute, it was a stunning strike from Hunt. At this point both sides started playing out time, the Wolves to the extreme annoyance of the home supporters who wanted us to go for the draw.

Even so, with Blackpool trailing MU by two goals and Birmingham conceding a late goal to Spurs, we were safe and the mood of the crowd changed. It was carnival time!

The game was remarkable on account of the split focus of the crowd. A number of people round me had I-players (or whatever) so we all knew the situation at the other grounds. As a result, emotions ebbed and flowed according to how we were faring, comparatively speaking, in the survival race. It was touch and go all through the match, an unenviable situation made worse by our abysmal performance in the first half. I thought we were down.

If any person even thinks about telling us that he (or she) told us so, he (or she) should immediately squash the impulse because it was far too close for comfort and we were very lucky to get away with it. I feel that I have been put through an emotional wringer today, a sentiment that all WW fans will endorse. It cannot happen again and we must strengthen our team in the summer.

MM will tell us that survival has vindicated his stewardship of the team but his reactions during the match, as well as the obvious relief he felt at the end, so apparent in the Football First interview, indicates that he knows how close he came to failure. He has to buy two decent central defenders and a left back this summer , as well as acquire another enforcer and a striker. He has bought time - and the club has the money - so he mustn`t squander the opportunity. If he does, we will be in the same position this time next year. This is not the occasion for criticism - let`s enjoy the moment - but I shall be asking questions before very long.

Reprieved ... but only just. As a bonus, when I arrived home, my wife had a bottle of champagne chilling in the fridge. It seems as though she had watched the results coming in during the afternoon and had got quite excited. Even so, the fate of the bottle of the champagne changed several times. Fortunately for us, it did get drunk. Cheers!

Click here to join in the debate on the club forum.

Date:Monday May 23 2011
Time: 12:58AM


I would make a quick journey down the M6 and purchase Johnstone and Dann for starters. As I wrote in another blog it is not good enough and its only through the failure of others we have survived. I think people will not be so forgiving next year!,we have survived but why do I not feel elated?I suppose it must be in the way it was achieved.UTW.
Crete Wolf
23/05/2011 06:02:00
And what about Charlie Adam ? Or is he too highly profiled to try to get him ?.......... Anyway, great article Southbank..... It must have been wonderfull to be on the stadium yesterday :)
23/05/2011 06:39:00
I had a real heart attack 7 years ago and it lasted 90 minutes. Since, it has become part of my nature to remain calm, whatever happens. Down with 4 minutes of normal time to go, yet I was telling myself - okay, I won't tell you, Southbank - something will happen, for I knew all along that we won't go down, and that feeling never wavered, not even now; quite the contrary. The moment I said 'now'Hunt scores, then Tottenham make compensation for the two points they denied us back in March. In the end it turned out just as I had forseen: Wigan with a chance at Stoke, but the two B's doomed. Alex a Sir indeed. The main point now: as someone said elswhere, is this as far as it can go with the present set-up, fighting to avoid relegation? In other words, will new signings put things right and make for the Club establishing itself in the PL? I am not saying it won't, it is a question I find myself unable to answer. And Southbank, would you say the omission of Guedioura contributed to Blackburn going out and dominating the midfield and the game in the first half?
23/05/2011 07:42:00
I can understand why you have to remain calm lovesW and, if you can manage to do that as a WW supporter, you have an iron will. Yet, this self-same will also irrationally believes in fate, giving you a conviction that WW would stay up come what may. Whether you were at the match, listening to the Beacon broadcast or watching a murky freeview channel, you could not have realistically entertained that conviction at any point during the match (until Spurs scored their second goal, of course). As for Guedioura, he would have played with more enthusiasm in the first half and might have had an effect. Henry, moreover, was a liability. Unlike you, he did lose his composure and was lucky to stay on the pitch. Was it fate that he was not sent off? He certainly did not enhance his reputation as hard but cool enforcer. Why didn't the team start the match in the way that they came out after half-time? Blackburn expected it but thwarted it by adopting our plan and it worked for them. As Crete Wolf so perceptively observes, why are we safe but I don't feel elated. Well, I am but there's something gnawing at me which is dampening down my euphoria. I do not want to go through this experience again. We have to make changes and improve the squad.
23/05/2011 08:40:00
Time for Mccarthy to go... he has taken us as far as his limited ability manager, and a brand new defence. Scottt Dann as mentioned. Whilst Im at it Macnienne can F** off back to Chelsea and stop using up valuable funds. This was a complete backward step of a season, and the only good that has come out of it is Hunt and Fletch. Morgan, you are backing a Donkey with Mcarthy, hardworking maybe, but cannot take us any further. WE WILL BE RELEGATED WITH HIM IN CHARGE NEXT SEASON If West Brom can go out and get a quality manager like Roy, why cant we ??? Come on, experts, why cant we ??????????
Ad Mant
23/05/2011 09:59:00
I believe we already have a good manager. I cant find anymore where I read that, but Mick said before match something like "I am 3 points from improving the team" and then there was something in the sence, that this was the last relegation dogfight season.
23/05/2011 10:32:00
Yeah Yeah Pan Filuta thats how things work in the real world... put the comic book down, Mick didnt "plan" this to be a rubbish season so that next we could hit a top 10... Mick doesnt have a clue MCCARTHY AGAIN = RELEGATION
Ad Mant
23/05/2011 10:53:00
The least he deserves is one more year to show progress.
23/05/2011 11:38:00
Investing in the Fox Soccer Plus proved well worth it! Both the Albion and Blackburn game were on, sparing me a trip to Nevada Smiths and having to listen to several games at the same time- although I had plonked myself in front of the television I had several sites up online none of which appeared able to relay scores to me before the crowd could. It was a horrible afternoon; worse than one could have imagined. Seeing the table keep popping up- I thought I had all eventualities figured out but as the game wore on I was losing track. We can talk about 'a game is 90 minutes' (we still lost) or 'a games of two halves' but the contrast faces of Wolves is not healthy. I spoke with a fellow life long Wolves fan at half time, not living in Texas. He started and ending with 'nothing to say about that', listened to my 12 minute rant then closed by saying he would not be taking phone calls. Talk about shooting yourself in the foot. We marched out in that respect with Uzi's. I have come to the conclusion that it does not matter who plays- we can't defend and it has to boil down to the coaching. It was only the spirit of the players that got us through the second half and make anything near a game of it but we have seen where that has got us; fighting spirit should be a given- it is however, nowhere near enough. Of the teams relegated and those coming up there is nothing to suggest next season will be any easier. I actually warmed to the reasoning during the week that finishing 15th again, with 5 more points than last year would mark an improvement. We have finished 17th and whichever way you look at it that means it cost us 18 million pounds to go backwards. Will it take 20 million just to reach the dizzy heights of 15th again? Balance investment against return and we are spending alot of that Premiership money just to maintain. Going into the final games of the season with the likes of Doyle, Jarvis and Blake on the bench to name three- it shows what a strong squad we were finishing with. It is not my argument that he has wasted the majority of it; he has brought some great quality to the club; he does not however know how to best employ. I look foward to reading more opinions as the dust settles on our season. One thing that is certain, as we knew all along is that Mick McCarthy will lead us into the new season. Premiership football. I'll take that. I am already waiting for the fixture list.
New York City Wolf
23/05/2011 12:07:00
Well. I can't help but get the ball rolling. O'Hara says he wants to move and has put the ball firmly in Wolves court by saying he wants it sorting in a week, and fair play to him. I am not concerned another club is going to come in and nick him because it sounds like a deal has already been agreed between the clubs; I would expect them to announce it within a matter of days and he will prove a very good signing. He will keep getting better and of course at his age he could have a long future with the club. Now they can rip up the 'Championship shopping list' and concentrate on showing the fans they are serious about taking this to the next level. Let's see some quality signings and make it snappy!
New York City Wolf
23/05/2011 12:21:00
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