By Matt Rowson
I went to the Harlequin today.
I don't like shopping, as a rule. For Tsega and, it would appear, a number of her sex, shopping is in itself an pleasurable pastime, something to be savoured, enjoyed, even a skill to be perfected as some would practice controlling a football. Not for me. It's a means to an end, and not a particularly tolerable one. All hail to the internet for at least removing the pain from many of our everyday purchases. Unfortunately, you can't (yet) try on a pair of shoes over the internet, and my work shoes having developed holes in either sole big enough to allow large amounts of water in (but not back out, strangely) on Friday, the bullet had to be bitten.
There is one annual event that kinda demands shopping to an extent that even clever use of the internet will still find you needing to brave the malls (particularly when you and your wife have eleven siblings between you...). Christmas is, as ever, coming, as was already very much in evidence this afternoon - witnessed not least by the festively stacked "WH Smith Christmas catalogues" at the entry to the store. The realisation that this exercise, Christmas shopping, has to be endured yet again within the next six weeks or so is a dead weight, an exhausting, uninspiring prospect.
As is the arrival on the horizon of yet another game with Wolves. For all that they're clearly a Premiership club in waiting - clearly - we seem to have been playing them forever. Indeed, since 1989-90 - when a 3-1 win at the Vic in November became only our third league encounter - we've played Wolves twenty-four times in the league and twice more in cup competitions. Half of those games have ended in draws - including the last six (technically, like, after ninety minutes).
This is my ninth Wolves preview for BSaD and even this exercise, as simple as shooting fish in a barrel as the Wolves once again gravitate towards seventh, is losing its appeal. Ever since Glenn Hoddle's appointment no amount of scorn or sarcasm on my part could ever be anywhere near as entertaining as keeping half an eye on Molineux itself as the manager dismisses another limp draw by spending an interview stroking his chin, focusing on something on the floor some ten feet behind the interviewer and wondering why his players fail to live up to his shining example.
Wolves' two away wins this season came by convincing margins from short-ish trips to Stoke and Crewe within the same week at the end of September. Since then they've picked up two points from four games, three of which at home where the support has never been particularly patient and booed the side off after a draw with Preston at the weekend. A glut of injuries - and one suspension - makes their task even harder this weekend.
With Matt Murray perpetually injured (I think it's a broken foot this time, but it's hard to tell whether accounts on various websites relate to this injury or one of the previous six) Michael Oakes will line up in goal. On loan deputy Stefan Postma's one start for Wolves to date came in our League Cup encounter five weeks ago, whilst out of favour Paul Jones is on loan (and on the bench) at Millwall.
At the back, Jackie McNamara's cruciate ligament surgery looks like putting him out for the season; Wolves have this week signed Sheffield Wednesday's former Rangers fullback Maurice Ross on loan following a trial with a view to providing cover, he'll challenge Rob Edwards for McNamara's right-back slot with Lee Naylor a fixture on the left.
In the centre the classy Joleon Lescott, who recently signed a new contract at Molineux, has been partnering on loan Hungarian Gabor Gyepes. Gyepes, however, has been mentioned by Hoddle as a possible replacement for thigh-injury victim Paul Ince in midfield, in which case one assumes that the experienced but fallible Jody Craddock would step in.
In midfield, Darren Anderton provokes some surprise by being fit during an injury crisis (if only barely, returning to the side a couple of games ago). He played in the centre with highly-rated youngster Mark Davies on Saturday, but Rohan Ricketts may be back from an ankle injury to challenge for a place. Mark Kennedy, now twenty-nine and reportedly vice-captain, should play on the left with Seol Ki-Hyeon, spasmodically impressive in the League cup tie, on the right. Seyi Olofinjana, a scorer in this game last season, and Colin Cameron should be options on the bench.
Up front, leading scorer Carl Cort missed Saturday's game with a swollen knee, of which a more comprehensive diagnosis is expected early this week. Any prolonged absence will be particularly unfortunately timed from Wolves' point of view with Vio Ganea serving a one-match ban this weekend for a double-booking incurred against Preston... the first for overcelebrating by diving into the crowd. To be honest, if you're going to be booked for over-celebrating you might as well do it properly. With George Ndah also, unsurprisingly, out with a thigh injury, Wolves' attack would appear to default to Kenny Miller (reportedly a target of Roma) and Leon Clarke.
Another game with Wolves, then. Another home game too, another chance to improve what's a very so-so home record so far. We've already beaten Wolves once this season of course, albeit in a game of two under-strength sides, but could really do with finally sorting a league victory that several of those recent draws have merited.