Wolves visit Carrow Road on the back of a loss to QPR, meaning they’ve relinquished top spot, at least temporarily. Jon Punt and Wolves Blogger Michael Petalengro talk irrational Wolves hatred, Lambert, Iceman, RyBen and Tuesday night under the lights at FCR…
Jon: You may be aware already, but City fans largely have no affection for Wolverhampton Wanderers. In fact, as the old Carrow Road chant does "We only hate Wolves and Ipswich...."
Now I can't really put my finger on where this kind of hate-filled passion emanates from. It might be hark back to the days of Kevin Muscat's bone crunching horror challenge on then City youngster Craig Bellamy, which ruled him out for a large period of time. It might even be the fact that around the same time Wolves were, well, just a little bit better than Norwich. It might just be the fact Molineux just isn't a welcoming place for visiting fans. That said, I don't really get it.
However, are Wolves' fans even aware of the hostilities that exist or is this very much a one way thing?
Michael: I'll be honest, I don't have a clue where the animosity came from at all. I know Nardge have some issues with Wolves but I always thought it was one of those 'Pantomime Villain' type of things, Wolves’ history, record, current levels of investment (or lack of it). Maybe a few Nardge got a slap or two once in the past when they visited and it kind of grew into an urban 'hate legend' or something. Wolverhampton is a very welcoming place, it's one of the most cosmopolitan towns outside London, we have the greatest number of students who decide to stay on and work in the city they studied in the UK. Perhaps it’s the fact that Norwich hate us and the hate isn't reciprocated? In fact the more I think about it, the more I think that's the reason. You hate Wolves? Get in the queue...somewhere at the back.
Ha, good answer, and I don't think the current crop of Norwich fans have any idea where it comes from either. Lets be friends then. Maybe. We'll see after Tuesday. Alright?
Your boys have started like a juggernaut, which many wouldn't have foreseen despite the levels of investment. Free scoring and pretty on the eye, which given what we've been through over the last 7 days (local derby, 120 minutes at the Emirates and a exhausting weekend encounter) scares the shit out of me. What's changed so much this season?
In pre-season things seemed different, there was a kind of feeling going around which was positive and dynamic, things we weren't used to at Wolves to be honest, it looked like we had intent, belief and were playing some beautiful football due to our new imports and presents from Uncle Mendes.
As the season progresses I can say yes, it is at times beautiful football. The Portuguese are definitely the cherry on top of a trifle that contained home grown talent from the academy. 7 of the players that outwitted Pep at Manchester City were academy or pre-Nuno players. Gone are the depressing groinballs of Lambert and McCarthy, we have a new bloke Nuno.
He's a football academic, a thinker and maybe even a philosopher? He's getting the best out of players and bringing them to new heights for. I'll be honest I only hate Birmingham City and that occupies most of my angst-bone but hey I don't want you to feel left out. I'm sure after Tuesday I can find maybe 0.5% hate for Norwich....but you'll have to remind me I hate you.
Good old Paul Lambert, ridiculously good for Norwich, pretty terrible anywhere else. What did the Wolves fans make of him and his abrasive style?
I can't speak for other Wolves fans of course but there were a number of issues for me. One of them was that he turned up at his unveiling wearing a pair of Trainer shoes. Major faux pas. I'm sure he had some expensive polo shirt on too but he'd done it by then and was labelled under 'scruffy git'.
But. What did for him here was that he was devoid of imagination and ideas. His style was pure Ron Forehead regardless of the time he said he spent in Germany. I didn't believe a word he said either, in press conferences he would always be pulling an earlobe or touching his face. It was weird. He was weird, I was glad to see the back of him.
By the time Lambert had reached Molineux he'd ditched his deputies Ian Culverhouse and Gary Karsa who, if rumours were to be believed, were the real brains of the operation. That said, he led us into a golden era, successive promotions and flirting with the top half of the Premier League for a while. Those. Were. The. Days. My. Friend.
Trainer shoes though? Jeez. He was always a tracksuit and boots kinda guy when he was here.
During his time at Carrow Road he signed a couple of players you may have heard of, John "Iceman" Ruddy (no-one knows were that nickname came from) and Ryan "Dogshit" Bennett (everyone knows where that nickname came from). Obviously they're plying their trade in the Black Country now, how have they fared since arriving?
Well both of them were heavily traumatised after their stay in Norwich and were given counselling when they arrived here. They were amazed by hot water straight out of taps and staggered by the idea we didn't have a town square Wickerman to burn Witches etc. Jokes, Ruddy is a capture, mobile, good vision, seems to know when to play the ball out instead of wanging it up field. Bennett? Well I'll be honest I haven't got any opinion about him apart from he plays for us sometimes.
Believe me, the less you see of Ryan Bennett in your starting line up the better. Started relatively well at Norwich then descended into an utter fraud of a centre back. The only issue was the less he played, the better he got in some people’s eyes. Ah well, you’re welcome to him, enjoy.
So, what are we to expect from Wolves when they chip up at our gaff? The QPR result was a surprise, what happened at Loftus Road?
Loftus Road? Yes, that was a weird one and quite easily answered. Width. It's a narrow pitch and we were squeezed like you wouldn't believe, also the football gods felt a bit sorry for Holloway I think. Every ball that spilled loose was gifted to a QPR player. We were slow to the second ball sometimes and never really took advantage of the amount of chances we had. Definitely one of those games you want to forget about. Not a bad game but just uninspired and a little strange. Have we got the bouncebackability to inflict some pain on Norwich? Who knows? We are going to be fast I know that.
Historically pace has often threatened Norwich, however we seem to be much better at anticipating runners right now so it should be an interesting contest. Who should we fear from your squad?
Michael: Jota, a total player, he moves fast has great vision, moves like lightening and has a great first touch with an eye for goal. He's now building up a great relationship with Bonatini our striker and top scorer.
Bonatini has elements to his game that stagger the mind. He moves and pulls players around him allowing Jota and Ivan Cavaleiro space to either shoot, move or pass. Our other random variable is Bright Enobakhare a talent so brilliant and so young he often just falls over the ball as he's thinking two or three moves ahead but he confuses defences allowing our other players to flourish.
Neves our midfielder had a bit of an off game last Saturday but his passes are sublime and intensely sexual things, slipping between players, slicing defences apart at will. The watchword here is 'youth'. They are a very young squad of lads and a mix of academy players and recent buys. Sometimes it all gets a bit sticky and fumbly as QPR discovered last Saturday. But if they are all singing off the same hymn sheet then watch out, a goal can come from any one of our players.
Well that’s a bit of a worry then. It seems like our two continental coaches have gone for similar approaches, young and hungry players. However, we’ve adopted a much more solid formation and style since getting battered at Millwall and Villa.
Provided we keep it tight, where can Norwich have some joy against your lot and is there anyone in our squad you’re particularly worried about facing?
Well you saw us against Man City, we have strength in depth especially in defence. A solid formation will not help you, Enobakhare is a hurricane of probabilities, you can't predict what he'll do. Your best way to better Wolves is to play ugly football, seriously. We haven't got an answer to things we don't understand.
Ah, we can do ugly, we’ve shithoused our way through a number of scrappy away wins already this season. You being favourites in this one might just suit us down to the ground. With that in mind I’m going for a spawny 1-0 to City, courtesy of a refereeing decision finally going our way. Your score prediction?
I'm going for 1-3 to us, these young men are not normal and they have things to say. I am looking forward to this.
Thanks to Michael for taking the time to speak to us. He tweets at @petalengro and his Wolves musings can be found here.