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Nationwide Division One, 17/4/01
Wolverhampton Wanderers
Big head
By Matt Rowson

When I get up in the morning I want my wife to say "Hello, Big boy". I say, "It's a Big day today, got a Big meeting with the Big boss. Gonna clinch the Big deal". She gives me a Big kiss on the cheek and says "Big head"...

And so on. A Big world needs a Big bank, apparently.

Size matters. Wolves, so clearly a Big club, will be in agreement. Bankers in all but name.

Supporters' assessment of the values of football frequently depends on whatever casts their club in a positive light. Manchester United and Liverpool fans, therefore, hold great stock in the importance of trophies as a measure of their greatness. Tottenham's support, less able to boast the trophies, cite a mythical style and panache. Other clubs will have a particularly strong sense of local identity, Newcastle being the obvious example. Some, particularly smaller clubs, claim a moral high ground via the traditional and virtuous bringing through of youngsters (Crewe). Less credible was the risible boast of a Fulham fan who proudly proclaimed via BSaD's comments form some years back that "Money makes the world go round, and we've got plenty of it". The finances were, in this instance, an end in themselves.

But Wolves really take the biscuit. Only Wolves see the determining feature of any club being how Big it is. "Should have stayed with the Watford", sang the Hornets to Darren Bazeley at Molineux. "He wanted to play for a Big club" came a response which could easily have been self-deprecating wit, but wasn't.

Barclays' "Big Bank" ads were grossly out of line with the actions of an institution that was courting a groundswell of unpopularity with its 171 local branch closures. Ironically, neither does the "Big club" mantra sit terribly well with a club that, should Portsmouth succumb to the drop, will be the undisputed longest-serving membership of Division One.

And not, it has to be said, a terribly imposing member at that. Wolves may be safe from relegation by virtue of the number of clubs padding them from the dropzone, but a seven-point margin of error would be a matter of some disappointment were anything but sheer Bigness of import. As it is, some strong performances in recent derby encounters have been followed up with a couple of dismal showings, most recently a limp capitulation to Huddersfield. Wolves have very little to play for. This may be no bad thing.

In goal for Wolves will be former Villa stopper Michael Oakes, whose deputy is the long-serving Mike Stowell. Full-backs are Lee Naylor, whose performance on Saturday was erratic to say the least, and on-loan Stockport defender Sean Connelly. Connelly seems to have developed the Des Lyttle art of wandering upfield and lacking the pace or awareness to backtrack when needed. He is covering for the deeply unpleasant Kevin Muscat, on international arse-kicking duty with Australia but not enjoying the best of seasons in any case.

In the centre, Ludovic Pollet, the French club captain carried off in the game at Molineux, has lost his confidence and early season form. His was the error that gifted Huddersfield the win that the Yorkshire side had scarcely pursued at the weekend. Alongside him, however, is the extremely promising Joleon Lescott. Lescott has been selected for England U18 duty in a week or two, but such are Wolves' injury problems that he may not be released.

Most recent of the players added to the casualty list is Gifton's old mate Paul Butler, who had a groin operation at the beginning of the week and will sit out the rest of the campaign. In his absence Liberian Mohamed Camara is the most likely cover in the centre, although the versatile Neil Emblen can fill in at the back. Emblen, a rare survivor of GT's Molineux reign, is likely to leave in the summer with Mark McGhee amongst the potential bidders. Young Welsh fullback Ryan Green, however, is on loan at Torquay, whilst Steeve Epesse-Titi has joined Exeter. Darren Bazeley is out with a torn cartilage, although Wolves have (sensibly?) employed him more frequently as a winger than a fullback.

In midfield, Graham Branch's modest goalscoring record has seen him move out to the right flank with limited results. Carl Robinson has put in some industrious performances in the centre, alongside youngster Keith Andrews. On the left Andy Sinton, almost fifteen years Andrews' senior, was reported to be responsible for giving the ball away a lot on Saturday. Tony Dinning may also make a significant return to the side after a shoulder injury, whilst Temuri Ketsbaia's unpredictable explosiveness tends to be introduced from the bench. Simon Osborn is on-loan at Tranmere Rovers.

Up front, George Ndah has finally shaken off his injury problems but his blistering pace has had precious little to feed off in recent games. He is partnering another promising youngster, Adam Proudlock. Cedric Roussel's limited success since his arrival from Coventry is probably linked in part to Bazeley's injury. Håvard Flo is still lurching around in the reserves, whilst an unconvinced Wolves fan at Molineux succinctly described Robert Taylor's limitations: "When he jumps for a cross, you couldn't get a ciggy paper underneath him....".

Wolves' claim to be a Big club is founded on two things. Firstly, the size of the catchment area and very respectable crowds by Division One standards. Second, the club's successful past, albeit success that's now largely over forty years back in history, based in the late Stan Cullis' sides of the fifties.

And the value of history, self-evidently, is in education. Sure, everyone likes a good story. But history is truly bunk if we are unable to learn from achievements, philosophies, experiments and mistakes that have gone before. So the most damning piece of irony, so soon after the announcement of Graham Taylor's impending retirement from club management, is on the Wolves messageboards where disgruntled supporters, already looking to next season's (Big) promotion push, are calling for Dave Jones' head.