Wolves preview and pubs: Lambert’s side face battle to stay up
Wolves were booed off the pitch on Saturday, despite picking up their first win in eight league and cup games beating Rotherham 1-0, and are in trouble at the bottom end of the table.
Our game with them on Tuesday is one of two taking place in the Championship, with the other also in west London as Fulham play host to Blackburn, who are currently in the bottom three but only one point and two places behind Wolves.
Wins for Brentford and Rovers would see Wolves drop a place to 21st and with a tricky final 10 fixtures to come.
They go to Fulham on Saturday before entertaining Cardiff straight after the international break but then come two games that could ultimately decide whether they stay in the Championship for a fourth consecutive season.
On Tuesday 4 April they entertain Nottingham Forest, currently one point ahead of them, and four days later travel to Bristol City, currently one point behind them.
Later in the month they also host Blackburn, while promotion contenders Brighton and Huddersfield are among the other sides still to visit Molineux this season.
Their form since the end of January, following their famous FA Cup fourth round win at Liverpool, has been partly responsible for leaving them in this situation.
The Anfield success was followed three days later by a 3-1 Championship win over Barnsley, which lifted Wolves up to 16th in the table – 10 points clear of the drop zone.
However, they lost all four of their league games in February and the first one in March before stopping the rot with a goalless draw at Ipswich last Tuesday and then beating the Millers.
The 2-1 win at Anfield, which put Wolves into the FA Cup fifth round for the first time since 2008, was one of the results of this season’s competition and earned a home tie with Chelsea, who had beaten us in the previous round.
And the Premier League leaders earned another win over Championship opposition as they beat Wolves 2-0.
WHO’S IN CHARGE
Paul Lambert took over as Wolves manager at the start of November – replacing former Italy international goalkeeper Walter Zenga, who lasted only 14 games in charge after being appointed in the summer.
Lambert was Blackburn manager for most of last season until he left in the summer, while he had three years in charge of both Aston Villa and before that Norwich, who he led from League One to the Premier League in successive seasons.
His managerial career began at Livingston and he went on to lead Wycombe, taking them to the Carling Cup semi-finals, and Colchester before moving to Carrow Road.
As a midfielder, he had long spells in his playing career at St Mirren, Celtic and Motherwell and also played for Borussia Dortmund, where he won the Champions League, and Livingston.
WE’VE MET BEFORE
In our first meeting this season towards the end of September, Wolves ended our four-match unbeaten run when they beat us 3-1.
Joao Teixeira gave Wolves the lead immediately after half-time and doubled the lead 10 minutes later. Sulley Kaikai pulled one back with his first Brentford goal but Ivan Cavaleiro made the game safe for the hosts deep into stoppage-time.
We did the double over Wolves last season – starting with a 2-0 midweek win at Molineux in October.
Marco Djuricin gave us the lead in the 17th minute and Philipp Hofmann, on as a substitute, confirmed the victory with an 88th minute second.
The Griffin Park game was also played under floodlights and once again we kept a clean sheet against as we ran out 3-0 winners.
A goal in each half from John Swift, sandwiching a strike from Sergi Canos, wrapped up a comprehensive triumph which ended a three-match losing run and took us up to 11th in the table.
When we met in League One in 2013/14 – the season we got promoted together – we failed to score as a goalless draw in the Midlands was followed by a 3-0 Wolves victory at Griffin Park.
While this is the fourth consecutive season in which we have met Wolves, that 2013/14 campaign was the first time the sides had played each other since 1992/93 – our last season in the league’s second tier.
BBC WM Wolves commentator Mike Taylor tells us what has gone wrong for Wolves this season, remembers a penalty miss that knocked Brentford out of the Auto Windscreens Shield and reveals his fond memories of covering Dean Smith and Romaine Sawyers in their Walsall days.
Q – What is the general feeling about Wolves’ rollercoaster season? Was a promotion push expected, did fans fear relegation or was a mid-table season anticipated?
A – Fans are unhappy. They would be unhappy enough even were it not for all the inevitable expectation created when new owners arrived last summer promising endless riches. Last season was a dull slog to mid-table, and that was disappointing enough after the previous year had brought a surprising tilt at the play-offs following their return to this division from League One under Kenny Jackett, but this is now clearly worse, since many were expecting (maybe a little unrealistically given the rebuilding required, but still) a real challenge at the top.
The owners have become the latest to discover that the puzzle of the Championship can’t necessarily be solved just by throwing money at it. Lambert’s arrival was thought pretty underwhelming by many, with local views probably jaundiced by his experience at Aston Villa. That was a bit unfair, as he’s eminently well qualified for the job, but after a pick-up in spirits a few weeks ago with the Cup run, the doom and gloom is all back, and everyone is getting some of the blame.
Q – How hard has this season been for the club given the managerial turmoil and what didn’t work under Walter Zenga?
A -Zenga was an interesting man but it was a strange appointment given his complete lack of experience of the Championship, and English football altogether.
He threw himself into it – and is still following closely from afar, apparently – and he did win over a lot of fans very quickly with his personality. There was a feeling among some, though, that he was flailing around a little by changing the team radically every week – in his defence, having arrived barely a week before the start of the season in an alien environment, and then having a big bunch of new players come in just a few weeks later, he had to experiment to catch up.
Having appointed him in haste, though, it could be argued that they then despatched him without giving him a fair go. So it was a fairly unsatisfactory experience all round.
Q – How optimistic are you that the club will be able to pull away from the bottom and finish in mid-table safety?
A – They certainly should have the resources to do that, and I think it’s still more likely that they will survive than they’ll go down. But given that the club slipped down this particular tube relatively recently – again with a squad that should never have been relegated – it’s no wonder that fans are a bit edgy. It may come down more to a test of nerve than anything else. They are better equipped than last time in terms of having a stronger manager, but they’ll need more than that alone.
Q – What are your best memories of the Cup win at Anfield?
A – It was a tremendous day for the club. Firstly, the team fully deserved it – they played marvellously, just as they did at Stoke in the third round. They took the game to Liverpool from the start, but without being reckless, and in the first half in particular played some thrilling football. Later it got nervous, inevitably, but it was a great Cup tie. Two particular things stand out, apart from the goals obviously – one 80-yard run from Helder Costa that almost resulted in what would have been one of the club’s greatest ever goals, and the jubilant celebrations of the squad in front of 8,000 travelling supporters at the end. You didn’t have to be a diehard Wolves fan to appreciate their emotions.
Q – Do you have any good or bad memories, or have you been involved in any unusual incidents, of previous trips to Griffin Park, or in home games against Brentford, either for work or as a fan?
A – My first trip to Griffin Park was to cover an Auto Windscreens Trophy match in (I think) 1998. It hammered down with rain and the pitch must have been close to unplayable, but I think both teams were quite keen to get the match played so on it went. It was 0-0 after extra time – and yet as I recall it had been far more exciting than that score would suggest, and both teams threw themselves into it gamely. At the end, in a shoot-out, Charlie Oatway put a penalty over the bar which might still be going up even now.
Walsall have always been a friendly club to cover and they were a particularly great story that season, having been considered certain to be relegated in August and ending up being promoted along with Fulham and Manchester City in May – an astonishing achievement, and really nice people to be around as well. So that’s a match I remember fondly, even though it doesn’t look like much in the record books.
Q – How has ex-Bee George Saville done this season – is he an important member of the squad?
A – Alas he has not so far really progressed beyond “squad member” in his time at Wolves. He’s been in and out of the team under both Zenga and Lambert, and hasn’t really held down a first-team place consistently since his arrival. It would be fair to point out that he has often filled in taking positions that don’t look as though they suit him.
We saw very clearly what he can achieve in two tremendous performances in the Cup games against Stoke and Liverpool, when he was given a chance to play and made the most of it. In the League, though, he remains a relative bit-part player for now. If only his early shot against Chelsea in the fifth round hadn’t hit the post! He’s a good guy, though, so I hope his time will come at Wolves in the end.
Q – Which Bees players will you be wary of?
A – After Wolves’ last two visits to Griffin Park, all of them! Romaine Sawyers was obviously a big talent while he was at Walsall, but often frustrated some of the fans there (and some of the criticism he received was certainly unfair). I think he has a great deal of ability. I’m very sorry to see that Alan Judge has been out of action for such a long time – I’ve always been very impressed by him.
I should also mention Dean Smith – I gather he hasn’t been every Brentford fan’s cup of tea since his arrival there, and indeed there were always a few Walsall fans grumbling about him. They were wrong to do so in my opinion – perhaps my opinion is coloured by the fact that he’s a thoroughly good man to deal with, and was always a friendly face, but I thought he did a remarkable job managing Walsall and in my opinion it’s only a good thing for Brentford that they’ve got him (and the same goes for Richard O’Kelly as well, for that matter).
I hope to see Dean to say hello to at Griffin Park and I’m sure he’ll make a success of it at Brentford or anywhere else he ends up during his career. A good man.
Wolves made three changes against Rotherham on Saturday, but still played their regular 4-2-3-1 formation.
Long-serving former trainee and Nigeria international Carl Ikeme, who has played more than 250 games in Wolves colours, retained his place in goal behind a back four which showed two changes from last Tuesday’s draw at Ipswich and had two recognised midfielders in the full-back positions.
Conor Coady (ex-Huddersfield) and the experienced Mike Williamson (ex-Newcastle) returned at right-back and right-sided centre-half to team up with ex-Bee George Saville, continuing in an unfamiliar left-back role, and the other centre-half Kortney Hause (ex-Wycombe).
Saville made 40 league appearances (33 starts) for us in midfield, scoring four goals, in our League One promotion season in 2013/14 on loan from Chelsea.
Former trainee Jack Price and Romaine Saiss (ex-Angers (Fr)) formed the defensive midfield duo behind an attacking trio of the returning on loan Monaco midfielder Helder Costa on the right, Ben Marshall (ex-Blackburn) on the left and Wales international David Edwards (ex-Luton), who has nearly 300 Wolves appearances under his belt, in a central role.
Austria international striker Andreas Weimann, on loan from Derby, was the sole striker and scored the winner against the Millers.
Iceland international striker Jon Dadi Bodvarsson (ex-Kaiserslautern) and fellow front man, and former trainee, Morgan Gibbs-White came on as substitutes along with midfielder Ivan Cavaleiro (ex-Monaco).
The unused subs were experienced goalkeeper Andy Lonergan (ex-Fulham), defender and former trainee Matt Doherty, who failed to feature on the pitch for the first time this season, fellow defender Danny Batth (ex-Colchester) and Mali international striker Nouha Dicko (ex-Wigan).
Two more former trainees in striker Bright Enobakhare and defender Dominic Iorfa have also featured this season as has defender Richard Stearman, who is on loan at Fulham and in his second spell at Molineux.
PUBS IN BRENTFORD
For Wolves fans coming down, you are probably aware there plenty of pub options pre-match and all are most welcoming.
There are now only three pubs around the ground, following the closure of the Royal Oak.
The Griffin is closest to the away end (like 30 secs walk) and is very popular with away fans – but also very, very busy. The New Inn is on the other side and is also popular with away fans. The Princess Royal is the other option.
Other pubs slightly further afield for the more creative amongst you include (and this is by no means a definitive list) …. The Globe (Windmill Rd) is the Beesotted pre-match pub. This boozer & The Lord Nelson (Enfield Rd) are both incredibly friendly and cosy away-friendly pubs and about 1 min walk from each other .. frequented by ‘away fans in the know’.
The Plough (Northfields Ave) in Northfields is a decent stop-off if you are coming by tube to Northfields (it’s a much better pub crawl route getting off at Northfields than South Ealing) before making your way down to the ground (normally stopping off at The Globe and Lord Nelson en route).
There is also a pub right by Brentford station always referred to as … the Pub by Brentford station.
For ale head to the Magpie and Crown pub on Brentford High Street. The Royal Horseguardsman can probably hold 15 of you at a push. The Brewery Tap is a cosy boozer by the river. And if you are super adventurous, get off at Kew Bridge and visit the brand new boozer One Over the Ait right on the river – beside the bridge. There are loads more too.
A quick Google search and you’ll find them all. There are many many more too if you have a look around.
Parking is pretty easy away from the ground going up towards and over the A4 Great West Road (ie. North) via Ealing Road or Windmill Road.
You can check out details of how the tube is running on Transport for London’s website here.