Blues 0 Wolves 2 .. Ron's Report

Last updated : 13 January 2009 By Richard Barker

Some of my earliest memories of being a football fan are of Coventry City winning the Cup at Wembley, then losing to Sutton United the following season, and of that same season, Dave Beasant saving John Alrdridge's penalty and Lawrie Sanchez glancing in Dennis Wise's free-kick. The FA Cup is important. It's special. And it's over for Blues again.

Prior to tonight's game, there was the usual "paper talk". Roy Aitken had roared that Blues were "hungry" for the game. They weren't. They were were far from hungry. They were the opposite to hungry. They were replete. They were settling down into the sofa after a four course Sunday lunch and they were loosening their belt. They couldn't have been less hungry. There are some Americans who are (somehow) hungrier than Blues were tonight.

It's fairly logical that first halves set the tone for football matches. Here Blues were so comprehensively outclassed by Wolves in the first half that they shouldn't have bothered with the second half. As the supposed "hungry" Blues team sat back, eased their gut out over their belt and dozed off, Wolves looked as hungry as an Ethiopian child who'd had his monthly rice stolen. Unlike the line that Duran Duran once sang, Blues were not hungry like the wolf. (Get it? That's clever that is. I bet Tattum nicks it...)

As they have been so often this season, in the first half Blues were slow, plodding, dull and predictable. Debutant Robin 'Mr Stepover' Shroot provided a couple of early moments of excitement, but after that, it was all Wolves. Andy Keogh is a bit of a headless chicken at times, but as no one has ever said before, the one thing about a headless chicken is that they have legs and they run. As such, his movement caused Blues defence problems, whilst his strike partner Sam Vokes was also a handful. Those one-eyed Blues fans who post-game will have said, "ah, but we had people missing" will no doubt miss the point that these were Wolves' third and fourth choice strikers.

Keogh had made it 1-0 after some statuesque Blues defending, and the home side could be thankful to get into the interval just one goal down, after Liam Ridgewell inexplicably tried to be clever (if you look like that, just don't even try - know your place) and set up a five on three Wolves attack. Luckily their initial chance was closed down and then Ridgewell was able to clear Michael Kightly's rebounded effort off the line. Ridgewell's fans will point to it as a goal-saving clearance. Ridgewell's critics (like me) will point out that it was his idiocy that led to the chance in the first place.

Marcus Bent was injured in the closing moments of the first half (although he'd been fairly ineffective anyway). He was unable to continue in the second half, and so logically, with Blues now having to chase the game, Damien Johnson replaced him so that Nigel Quashie could be pushed up front. It would be laughable if I was making it up, but I'm not. Granted, Garry O'Connor is injured and James McFadden and Kevin Phillips both have "knocks" (ie. the sort that managers use as an excuse when they're not taking a game seriously), but surely, surely, surely, surely there was a better option than this? Even Martin Taylor? Or Franck Queudrue? Or either of the two young midfielders (Mitch McPike or Ashley Sammons) who were on the bench? At least they'd have been lively. Anyone, surely?

Well, it was all elementary early on after Wolves broke to make it 2-0 and kill the game off. Blues had actually been on top (just) for a couple of minutes, but then a crossfield ball hit referee Howard Webb, Wolves picked it up and Blues were horribly exposed, and Vokes tapped in. It was an awful moment for Webb, and given that I'm not totally irrational, I felt for him. There's no way that he intended to intercept the ball and you could see his remorse when Wolves went on to score. Often referees inadvertently get in the way of a pass. Rarely does it directly lead to a goal. It was a shame for Webb who, despite some people not watching the game properly and abusing him, had a good game. Yes, it was bloody annoying as a Blues fan, but it couldn't be helped. I'm sure Mr Webb offered some apologies afterwards.

After that, Blues had what I often refer to as the "standard/token home side chasing a game pressure". Actually, they managed to get Cameron Jerome into the game a little more. He forced Wayne Hennessy into a couple of saves before rattling his crossbar with a stunning effort, and then clearing a Radhi Jaidi header off the line himself only to backheel the ball back at goal for it to be cleared. Mr Stepover also went close after a Kaka-esque pass by Quashie, only for Mr Stepover to be denied by Hennessy. Blues actually had enough chances in the last 20-30 minutes to possibly earn a replay. I use "earn" loosely though, as Wolves had already earned their win, and any result for Blues would have been a bit lucky. They say that you reap what you sow, and by playing with pace, movement and fluidity early on, Wolves earned their win. Fair play to them.

People will want to know more about Mr Stepover. As the name suggests, he likes a stepover. Everytime he got the ball, no matter where it was on the pitch, he did a stepover - sometimes two. He looked decent on the ball, but very lightweight and nervous - the latter is understandable in the circumstances, of course, having been signed from AFC Wimbledon for whom he couldn't get in the team and was on loan at Harrow Borough. He was tentative at times and too often looked for the easy pass back inside, but he was ok and there were plenty of poorer performances in blue shirts.

For Blues, the complete lack of desire in a big game will be a concern (again) and something that Alex McLeish really needs to sort out. These "performances" are becoming tiresome now. What is also tiresome is the lack of movement and craft in Blues' play. It's woeful at times. They are beyond predictable. At times they look as though they struggle to break down a Wendy House. There's nothing clever in their play. They play the obvious pass to the obvious player and pick the obvious option. It's too easy to defend against. The truth is, it's garbage. There's no craft. No creativity. Nothing. It's a bunch of half-decent players going through the motions and not testing themselves. Companies, organisations, etc only improve by the individuals within pushing themselves, breaking down barriers and improving themselves. No Blues players do that. Not one goes beyond what is necessary. They go through the motions and do what they can do, but they never strive to be a little better or a little cleverer. There's a complacency amongst the players and, well, they don't seem to be striving for anything. The easy option is always preferable for them, and that's a worry. If you stand still, you end up going backwards.

Fortunately, Blues do have a number of new signings, so hopefully that will be redressed. McLeish seems to have identified the lack of pace and the lack of dynamism and the lack of drive as a problem, and looks to have tried to address that. Identifying and recruiting people to try and change it is one thing. Actually putting that into practice remains to be seen. I hope it happens, but whether it will or not remains to be seen.

So, as Blues trudged off after another poor home display, the Wolves players saluted their fans who sang of a trip to Wembley. You can't help but think it may be a little premature at this stage... after all, there'll be some decent sides in the play offs.