We’ve all got one. Perhaps more. For me it’s Diomansy Kamara careering down the left channel before scoring and doing that utterly ridiculous and inexplicably infuriating celebration. Also, Gary Breen’s pure anguish after miscuing a clearance directly to Kevin Phillips – I don’t need to tell you the rest. He was ‘inevitable’, in the words of a Marvel supervillain. Maybe for others it’s the last-gasp equaliser from Carlos Vela, or Mark Little being cleaned out by Matt Murray after seemingly recovering to tackle Kamara, leaving an empty net and even emptier hearts. Or maybe it’s even more chilling thoughts of pies, pints and Tesco carrier bags on your beloved seat.
Whatever it is, there’s always a Black Country Derby that stirs the emotions to despair or just pure anger. You may notice I haven’t mentioned one game in particular, but the near 9 years that have passed since have etched that fixture in to our souls. I have no business reminding anyone of that game.
I was all set for a battle cry of a blog, a veritable announcement of war, with some kind of wind in our sails. Rewind to last Friday night and we were looking good again, a comfortable victory over Premier League opposition in the FA Cup, our most dangerous player looking to have hit form, a clean sheet. That, coupled with Albion’s own travails this season looked to set up what felt like a tantalising prospect of a derby. Never in my lifetime has there felt such a gulf between the sides. Even in the years of Albion’s relative Premier League mediocrity, it never seemed like they had a squad so advanced of our own that it seemed like they were operating at a totally different level to us. Even when we were in League One, WBA were scrambling for survival, finishing 17th in the top flight.
Many of us had relished this at the start of the season. Wolves, riding higher than we have for 40 years, European quarter-finals, a squad jam-packed with high-end internationals, a modern, forward-thinking coach with a style of play (!) and results to show for it. The other side of the fence, while on the high of a promotion campaign, wasn’t exactly attracting any envious glances. Let’s not beat around the bush though – they’re awful. 1 win in 17 league games. The worst defence in the Premier League. Dumped out of the FA Cup by League One Blackpool. Even Sam Allardyce can’t get them to defend. Robert Snodgrass drafted in to save their season. The only saving grace for them is that Sheffield United are even worse.
But I refer you all back to my first paragraph. This is generally speaking a pain-inducing game. For the vast majority of my life, they’ve had the upper-hand and even when it looked like we were set up to take advantage of our superiority, things have begun to unravel for Wolves. Adama Traore’s absence against Everton didn’t concern people for that game, the attention was immediately on whether he will play on Saturday lunch time. Pedro Neto, the de-facto talisman of the side in the absence of Raul Jimenez, picked up some kind of knock against Everton, so what of his fitness? Add them to the list of WIlly Boly, Daniel Podence, Jonny and Jimenez and you have the core of any football team ripped out, almost as if the Dementor that is WBA had wandered into our postcode at the start of the season, ready to inflict some kind of upset, no matter how badly they fared themselves. It’s as if their single purpose on this planet is to ruin things for us. I mean, they don’t have any other achievements of note in the last 30 years, do they? To coin another famous film quote: “Some men just want to watch the world burn.”
But enough of the despondency. While some will be shuddering at the prospect of this weekend’s fixture, or waking up in cold sweats as Peter Odemwingie haunts their dreams, there is optimism to be had. Our last victory over the old enemy, a 3-1 romp at Molineux thanks to Steven Fletcher and Adlene Guedioura, wasn’t exactly delivered by a vintage Wolves XI. Let me recall the lineup that day: Wayne Hennessey, Kevin Foley, Jody Craddock, Michael Mancienne, George Elokobi, Guedioura, Karl Henry, Jamie O’Hara, Stephen Hunt, Stephen Ward, Fletcher. That team had no business winning that game so comfortably. It can be done.
So for all of the negative thoughts this game evokes, how about George Ndah’s finest hour in a Wolves shirt? Iwan Roberts’ hat-trick? Jay Bothroyd making a fool of Tom Ross? A Wayne Hennessey penalty save? Envisage a new memory: a Fabio Silva tap-in. Patrick Cutrone’s tears of joy at full time. Nuno bending Allardyce over his knee and giving him a good spanking. Anything.
Whatever it is, I think I speak on behalf of the entire fanbase, who ache to be with you on occasions like this: just make sure we bloody well win, Wolves.