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BLIND, STUPID AND DESPERATE
 
00/01: Reports:

Nationwide Division One, 28/10/00
Wolverhampton Wanderers
versus
Watford
 
It's Wolves again!
By Matt Rowson

So let me get this straight.

Hospitals are good things, right? I mean, like, everyone likes nurses (careful) and doctors and being looked after when they're poorly. And not having to wait to get better, like.

And schools. Schools are pretty important, all things considered. A decent edyukayshun'n'that. The future of this country, future leaders of industry - Tony Blairs, Richard Bransons, Kevin Keegans (okay, bad example).

Fine. Hospitals and schools important. With me so far? Excellent. Make sure you correct me if I get anything wrong though.

Public services. The police, say. Everyone complains about them, but we'd be buggered if we drew Millwall in the cup and there weren't enough police to keep the world's last tribe of neanderthals in check. Firemen too, they do a good job. No argument there, firemen definitely important.

So if we're agreed that doctors, nurses and hospitals, schools and teachers, policemen and firemen and so on are all pretty important, can someone please explain where the logic is in protesting about petrol prices? When there are already too many cars on the road, when the public transport network is in such desperate need of investment, whose bloody brilliant idea was fuel blockades and thqueaming and thqueaming and thqueaming until we're thick? (Hmmm, many a true word...). So what would you rather have? Cheap fuel and no hospitals, teachers, policemen? Or maybe you'd rather the government raised money through an extra penny or five on income tax?

Given free reign I could go in further detail into exactly how cretinous the whole shebang has been and looks tediously like being again, but this is supposed to be a match preview and so I'll move swiftly on to the solution. So beautifully simple and, like all solutions once they've been identified, painfully obvious.

Get rid of Wolverhampton.

It makes such perfect sense. For starters, the money saved on providing Wolverhampton with hospitals, schools and other public services could be rediverted into reducing fuel duty. Plus, when you consider the vast amount that the country spends on fuel each year, even the very small proportion that would be saved by removing the necessity to travel to/from Wolverhampton constitutes a very reasonable sum of money.

The removal of Wolverhampton would considerably unsnarl the M6 to the north of Birmingham thus saving more fuel (otherwise expended in idling traffic), not to mention bettering the general mood of the travelling public in either direction and thus reducing the number of impatience-related accidents and easing the strain on the NHS. Indeed, the feelgood factor instigated by the removal of Wolverhampton could do wonders for the British economy on a level exceeding even Euro 96.

But above and beyond all this, the removal of Wolverhampton would lay the way clear for the nation's experts in natural sciences to isolate and ultimately tap the hot air and high-grade manure that has characterised Molineux for as long as anyone can remember. Truly one of the few unexplained mysteries of the modern world, the potential here makes the discovery of North Sea Oil seem like very small fry indeed.

We last played Wolves shortly after the departure of the odious Mark McGhee. His replacement was Colin Lee, arguably the least inspiring Watford manager of the last twenty years, assisted by Graham Taylor's mate John Ward. Two years into the job, Lee is under steady fire from the Molineux support, a barrage only mildly tempered by the encouragement of the weekend's result against Fulham.

A lack of financial support from the board is also widely perceived as limiting Lee's options, not to mention the sales last season of first Robbie Keane and then his replacement Ade Akinbiyi. However, there's no excusing playing one lone forward in home games, and utter inconsistency in selection and formation around a generally defensive mindset bears all the signs of a manager who has lost the plot. Watford fans who remember that far back are unlikely to be overly surprised.

"Hell hath no fury like another season in Division One" wails one correspondent on the official site's messageboard. With Wolves in seventeenth at the time of writing, this may be one punishment that Colin Lee could yet be able to avert, although local derbies with Stoke and Port Vale probably aren't what the protester had in mind.

In goal for Wolves will be Michael Oakes, former Aston Villa reserve who displaced the long-serving Mike Stowell between the posts.

Right-back and skipper is Australian Kevin Muscat, currently struggling to reproduce his fine form of last season. Muscat was once famously described as "the least popular man in football" by Birmingham's Martin Grainger, no stranger to a two-footed tackle himself. In the case of Muscat, however, anyone who numbers David Kelly amongst his recent victims can't be all bad.

On the left will be promising England U21 fullback Lee Naylor, who attracted some attention from Premiership clubs during the summer. Another option on the left is Mohammed Camara, on a four month loan from Le Havre having been recommended by Ludo Pollet, but young right-sided Welshman Ryan Green picked up an injury on international duty and misses out.

In the centre, teenager Joleon Lescott has been one of the few positives of Wolves' season thus far with some imposing performances that haven't prevented Lee dropping him recently. He was partnered last weekend by Frenchman Pollet, last year's player-of-the-season who serves a one-match ban during Wolves' midweek fixture. Darren Peacock is the most obvious central cover, on a month's loan from Blackburn.

Wolves' only ever-present last term was Darren Bazeley, in need of no introduction and whose departure was the only real disappointment of that glorious summer. So often a frustration in his time with the Hornets, if only for his spasmodically fulfilled ability, his reversion to a wide-right midfield position should throw up an interesting confrontation with Paul Robinson.

On the left against Fulham was the experienced Andy Sinton, although Welshman Carl Robinson is another option here. Simon Osborn is not universally popular amongst Wolves fans, but was recognised as having done an effective "job" on Lee Clark last weekend.

Tony Dinning is looking like a steal from Stockport at 700,000, but Temuri Ketsbaia appears to be disruptive both to the team's play on the pitch and to the dressing room, despite his occasional brilliance. He was recently linked with a move to AEK Athens.

Wolves' options in midfield are seriously restricted by injury; veteran Steve Sedgeley has a knee complaint, whilst Scott Taylor faces a long lay-off with ruptured tendons. Pointless German Robert Niestroj, meanwhile, is on loan with Iraklis in Greece.

Another midfield - or defensive - option is that of Graham Taylor signing Neil Emblen, whose bizarre employment in a lone attacking role on Saturday was only partly down to Wolves' injury problems. Michael Branch and Robert Taylor were both reputed to have stormed out of Molineux on Saturday, claims later denied by Lee who cited injury as the reason for both players' omission. Taylor, in particular, is struggling to win over the home support.

George Ndah is injured again - like Stern John, he looks like a couple of million well not spent by the Hornets. Saudi international Sami Al-Jaber gave a tantalising glimpse of his potential before disappearing on international duty for a month, whilst youngster Adam Proudlock was recalled from loan in Scotland to cover injuries, and has performed competently.

Nobody likes Wolves, and this is the sort of game that would be lovely to win whatever the circumstances of the two sides. But, unfortunately, the real reason that my money-saving, fuel-crisis averting plan would never work is that without Wolverhampton there would be no Wolves, and without Wolves who would finish seventh?

They can start climbing the table after Saturday, mind.