It’s been a while. I’ve been in a bit of a daze, wondering what on earth there is to do without football. Football Manager 2020 is filling some sort of void, but what is a man to do once you’ve won all trophies available and have just signed Erling Braut Haaland? There is always a ceiling. So without a clue of what is going on in the future, a nod to yesteryear is the order of the day for my latest blog – my top five individual performances by Wolves players.
Before we start some criteria. These are all performances I witnessed live and each player can only feature once – I have various (spoiler alert) Diogo Jota performances in my back catalogue of GOATs. So here goes with the first in the series, in no particular order…
Andy Keogh – Wigan Athletic 0-1 Wolves (2009)
Bet you weren’t expecting this, were you? Well once you’ve scoffed on whatever it is you may be scoffing on, hear me out.
First some context – for the entirety of my life, Wolves had not won a single game away from home in the Premier League. Granted, there was only one campaign to speak of, but for the team to go a whole league season without gaining three points away from Molineux, spoke volumes of the feeble nature in which we succumbed during that campaign. So a trip up to Wigan on a midweek night after a humbling 2-0 defeat to West Ham on our return to the Premier League wasn’t actually the most exciting in prospect.
Throw in the fact that new signing Kevin Doyle was not deemed ready for action, Sylvan Ebanks-Blake had succumbed to injury in the opening fixture with West Ham and Chris Iwelumo, the previous campaign’s second top scorer was stricken in pre-season, leaving us with the youthful Sam Vokes and the aforementioned Keogh. Youth teamer James Spray was actually drafted in to the squad as a striking reinforcement, such was our predicament.
Keogh had a mixed reputation within the fanbase at this point. He arrived at a time of new beginnings, lowered expectations and was part of free-spirited group that made an unlikely assault on promotion with exuberance, innocence and no little quality. But as expectations grew, his selfless, slightly flaky style seemed to draw its share of critics especially given his goalscoring record. Keogh was a striker that didn’t really score goals, barely featuring in the penalty area for much of games.
What he did do on a number of occasions, was score important goals though, as anyone who was at Derby County earlier that year will attest to. Keogh was the ultimate team player and it’s with great irony I include him in this list. I was one of his fans, as I’m sure was anyone who partnered him in attack. Ebanks-Blake was one clear beneficiary, in the second half of the promotion campaign.
Given the cards that had been dealt to him though, Mick McCarthy decided that Keogh needed to go it alone on this occasion. This meant playing a 4-5-1 which would go on to become the system that saved Wolves’ season, but at this point was borne out of necessity. Keogh was not your typical target man, but he was perpetual motion, even if it meant spending a fair share of his time away from goal.
Facing up against Keogh was a back four of Mario Melchiot, Paul Scharner, Titus Bramble and Maynor Figueroa. By the end of their respective careers, collectively this back four would have made more than a thousand Premier League appearances. For all of his laughable, high-profile errors, Bramble was not the buffoon he was often made out to be. Memory can be a deceitful place and Bramble would not have made nearly 300 of the aforementioned Premier League appearances without some level of talent. Quite a daunting prospect for Keogh, making Premier League start number two.
As I mentioned previously, memories can be deceiving and the fact that no footage of this fixture seems to exist anywhere (if you’re reading Wolves social media team, holla at your boy), it is either making me doubt myself or creating a mystique around this one ultimate performance to add to the legend of Keogh. But if I do recall the key moments of this display, they all seemed to be based around the blond-haired Irishman.
Firstly, Keogh received the ball inside the penalty area, to the left of the box and clipped a lovely, curling effort on to the crossbar, just minutes into the game. It was a sign of his threat to goal, one he fulfilled just a few minutes later, when he headed in Nenad Milijas’ free kick for his and Wolves’ first goal of the campaign. One of the features of his time at the club were some impressive headed goals – no one will forget the diving effort at Pride Park. From the on Keogh offered an excellent prequel to fellow Irishman Doyle’s offerings later on in the season, a veritable ploughing of the loneliest of furrows. Maybe there’s just something about the Emerald Isle that means they thrive in these scenarios. It all came to a head when Keogh once again received the ball with his back to Bramble in the penalty area, before pirouetting seemingly in to thin air for the gigantic defender, who could only bring him down. I was celebrating the award of a penalty before somehow, Mike Jones (of course it was Mike Jones) decided Keogh has actually dived and booked him for simulation.
It would have been the perfect way for Keogh to complete what was arguably his finest performance in a Wolves shirt (a nod to his double salvo against Derby once more). Well I’m arguing the case for it now anyway. It was basically all down hill from here for Keogh, who had run his course in a Wolves shirt. Wigan away will remain his nadir in my eyes. The most impressive part? Greg Halford started that game.