By now, most of us have probably heard, read and/or written as much about Stoke City v SAFC as we can take. Time to move on, and to spare a thought for our old manager Mick McCarthy. Bill Taylor, pictured with the Germany coach Joachim Low during a recent trip to Stuttgart (surely not a mission to poach Low to Molineux) wonders how poor old Wolves can be languishing at second bottom …
This is far from an original thought but… funny old game, football.
Consider, for instance, the top seven teams in the Premiership: ManU, Arsenal, ManCity, Chelsea, Spurs, Liverpool and Sunderland.
Now consider the position of a club that’s beaten five of those sides so far this season – everyone but Arsenal and Spurs – coming back from a very early goal deficit on Saturday to nail Brandchester United 2-1.
That would be Wolves. Sitting, not at a respectable height in the league as you might expect, but right on the trapdoor to the Championship, in 19th spot – albeit only on goal average above West Ham, a team that couldn’t beat a drum on a consistent basis.
Wolverhampton, though, regularly enough to make you wonder if it really is a fluke, keep managing to pull quite stellar performances out of the bag.
Though it’s usually been at Molineux, they beat Liverpool at Anfield. And they came within striking distance of pulling off a double last month at the City of Manchester Municipal Recreation Ground (or wherever it that Citeh calls home), finally going down to a wholly respectable 4-3.
At the other end of the scale is ManU, handed their first league defeat of the season by Wolves, and held to draws by the likes of Fulham, Everton, West Brom, Aston Villa and Birmingham, none of whom are setting the Premiership alight.
I’m disregarding Carling Cup results here (Wolves putting on another respectable performance, going down 3-2 to ManU, who went on to be Hammered 4-0 at the Boleyn Ground) because you never know what collection of has-beens, wannabes and never-will-bes the likes of Brandchester and Chelski will put on the field. They just don’t care.
What I’m saying, though, is that individual results are fairly meaningless. What count are patterns.
ManU play to a consistent high standard. Wolves don’t. They can pull a performance out of the bag once in a while, rising to an occasion and playing above themselves, but their general standard is low.
Similarly, individual players are far less important than teams. Darren Bent did most of our scoring last season because we let him. It was actually a rather disturbing trend because we started to wonder what we could possibly achieve without him.
Now that he’s gone, we know. Others step forward to fill the gap. Danny Welbeck went on the injured list, but we still keep scoring goals. Asamoah Gyan’s having a decent season but he’s not carrying the team on his own.
The same, I’m sorry to say, goes for Newcastle. They let Andy Carroll go but then rose to the occasion Saturday with a stunning – let’s be honest, it was – comeback from a four-goal deficit against Arsenal.
Fernando Torres moved from Liverpool to Chelsea and Liverpool promptly beat his new club on their own ground. The Reds, after a shocking start to the season, have finally pulled themselves together.
Which is why Sunderland’s shabby defeat on Saturday doesn’t much bother me. Sure, I’d like the ref, if he really is incapable of being impartial, to play on OUR side once in a while. I wish Craig Gordon had had a better game or that Simon Mignolet had been given a run-out. And I share Steve Bruce’s disappointment – as stated in one of his regular billet-doux to M. Salut! – that our defence had not been sharper. Or perhaps, given the dour nature of the opposition, a lot blunter.
But it was one game. One result. Sunderland’s pattern is still proving effective. We have a good, cohesive team. We’re in a very solid position with no sign of the slump that has hit us in previous seasons – the sort of thing that Blackpool is going through right now.
Steve Bruce, Niall Quinn and Ellis Short can be very happy with the way things are going. We have money in the bank and we’re doing a lot more right than we’re doing wrong.
Wolves, for all their occasional flashes of inspiration, don’t have that. Given that those flashes do seem to occur quite regularly, I wonder if they’re not on the verge of settling down and finding the pattern that they need. I’m not yet convinced that they will be relegated this year.
Apologies if I’ve been stating the obvious here. But I started jotting down my thoughts as a way of figuring out why I wasn’t nearly as depressed as I thought I should be by Saturday’s result and why the Cats still give us every reason for optimism.
Plus, it was also a good way to let M Salut run the picture of me with Joachim Löw. (I didn’t much want to pose with JL, you understand, but he insisted. Funny old game, football.)