Club Focus – Wolverhampton Wanderers – Almost there

Before last night’s game between relegation-threatened Hull City and Aston Villa, Wolves chief Mick McCarthy said he could be nothing other than a Villa fan for the evening and would have been delighted to see them win.

Martin O’Neill’s men defeated the Tigers 2-0 at the KC Stadium and it looks as though they are a sure thing for the drop into the Championship, which means Wolves are more or less safe and can mathematically confirm so at this weekend. If Wolves maintain their current six-point gap over Hull and their seven over Burnley after this weekend then they will earn Premier League football for another season, unless Hull can overturn a 17-goal deficit with just three games remaining. McCarthy will not be resting easy, however, as he and his team will still feel it necessary to try and make completely sure they are safe. It will be better to clinch safety as soon as possible so they can approach any remaining games with more freedom. Wolverhampton’s three remaining fixtures are Blackburn (home), Portsmouth (away) and Sunderland (home).

This weekend Wolves will be hoping to end a recent goal drought, which has lasted for the last four games, when they face Sam Allardyce’s Blackburn Rovers at Molineux. Allardyce’s men have a formidable defence, but their defence is undoubtedly a lot better at Ewood Park than when they are on their travels. McCarthy is unmoved by the Wanderers’ recent barren form in front of goal and insists that a solid defensive foundation is key in the search for success. Wolves have only conceded two goals in their last five games – both in injury-time in games against Arsenal and West Ham. Whilst the men in gold have had poor form in front of goal their defensive clean sheets have helped them to keep picking up points here and there, which has been inching them to safety over recent weeks. The former Republic of Ireland boss believes that keeping things tight at the back has been the bedrock of Wolves’ improvement this season and if they do not concede goals they always give themselves a chance of stealing three points. The Wolves chief said: “It’s no surprise that we’ve had to base our game on trying to keep clean sheets because if we don’t give anything away then we’ve always got a chance.” He pointed out that points are more valuable than goals and will sacrifice a more entertaining style of football, and cited ninth-placed Birmingham City as a team who have had a lot of success in a similar way. “Birmingham have played in that same solid way and their success has been built on clean sheets.”

As the current season draws to a close the Wolves season ticket holders will be voting for their player of the year at Saturday’s game. The winner of the coveted prize will be announced at an end of season dinner in May, but which player deserves the accolade the most? Jody Craddock will be one of the main contenders after his five league goals and impressive form as part of a tight back four. Despite his age the defender has impressed this year and is up for a new contract. Craddock, 34, has been singled out for praise many times by his manager this season for his continued commitment during his veteran years at the Midlands club. Fans may prefer to opt for their record signing Kevin Doyle, who has scored seven goals this season and has shown a tremendous work-rate. The Irish striker may have attracted a lot more interest if Wolves were to go down, but now it looks as though the Black Country club will survive in the top flight, which will make them a lot more likely to hold on to a prestigious talent in Doyle. David Jones, Matt Jarvis and captain Karl Henry have all seemingly made a successful transition from the Championship into the Premier League. And there are also many other honourable mentions who may be worthy of the award such as Marcus Hahnemann, Roland Zubar, Christophe Berra or even last year’s winner Kevin Foley.

More importantly for the Molineux faithful is Premier League survival and they would love to get the party started early with a win at home to Blackburn this weekend.

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