Sunday, April 19, 2009

The Premier League Opens Its Doors to Mick McCarthy's Wolves

Wolves secured promotion to the Premier League yesterday after beating QPR 1-0 thanks to a goal by Sylvan Ebanks-Blake, the club's top scorer this season, who bagged his 25th goal of the campaign.

After missing the previous three games through injury, Ebanks-Blake struck just after half-time to send the Molineaux faithful in the South Bank into rapture, and in doing so Wolves have gained top-flight status for the first time since 2004.

The prolific striker poked home from close-range after good work from quick footed Irish international Andy Keogh on the right hand side of the QPR box.

Rangers, who had sacked their manager Paulo Sousa last week, were at sixes and sevens for most of the match, and it was only a matter of time before the inevitable happened.

When it did, the Wolves fans nearly tore the roof off their famous stadium, Mick McCarthy leapt from the bench punching the air with delight but then quickly checked his watch to see how long the match had left, an agonizing 40 minutes.

Wolves were comfortable for the most part, but it would only take a momentary lapse in concentration or a bad decision by the referee or linesman and promotion would have gone begging.

But McCarthy was in no mood to allow such a thing. The ex-Ireland manager shouting advice and cajoling his team through the inevitable sticky patches that they had to go through.

They received a massive fright when QPR striker Rowan Vine's speculative shot deflected off Christophe Berra, and with the highly impressive Wayne Hennessy beaten in the goal, cannoned off the crossbar. Wolves fans were praying to whichever god would listen.

In the end, promotion was secured. Wolves fans and team mates hugged each other in delight; the Premiership beckons. A just reward for the best footballing team in the Championship.

Following Glenn Hoddle's disastrous period at the club, it was decided upon by the board to start again. The club was asset stripped of all its talent and a new manager, Mick McCarthy, was appointed to oversee the club's new outlook.

Since taking over in 2006, McCarthy has built this team on a shoestring, scouring the lower reaches of the game to snap up exciting players like Michael Kightley, Andy Keogh, and Stephen Ward to name but three.

Sylvan Ebanks-Blake was brought in from Plymouth Argyle, where he had amassed a reputation of being a decent prospect.

The ex-Manchester United youth had scored 22 goals in 66 matches for Argyle over three seasons, and McCarthy saw him as the vital cog his team were missing.

The young Englishman has repaid his manager's faith in spades, in his two seasons in the famous black and amber of Wolves, he has bagged a highly credible 37 goals in 60 matches.

Ebanks-Blake has Premiership written all over him, powerful, quick, strong, and good in the air, the midlands team will have to do everything in their power to hold on to him this summer, especially when established Premiership teams like Fulham and Wigan come calling.

Wolves, one of the many sleeping giants in English football, had a golden era in the '50s under legendary manager Stan Cullis. During that period they won the league three times and the FA Cup twice.

And as Wolves moved in to the '60s and as teams began to emulate their training methods and eventually surpass them, Cullis was sacked, thus bringing an end to their golden era.

McCarthy will bring a wealth of experience to the table having managed Sunderland on two previous occasions in the Premiership, and bringing Ireland to the World Cup in 2002.

But keeping his young Wolves team in the league would be his greatest feat, and despite the fact that they have won the Championship, they will start next season as firm favourites to go down.

But lets not dwell on negatives, Wolves have been promoted, deservedly so.

An emotionally drained Mick McCarthy spoke about his team's triumph after the match.

"I'm not sure I can articulate well enough how I'm feeling.

"I'm knackered, I'm beaming on the inside, I'm absolutely thrilled by our achievements. I'm very proud of the players, they've been brilliant all season long.

"It doesn't register, it doesn't sink in. It's not something you can really savour, you just enjoy the high of it for the moment and savour it when I wake up on Sunday."

And savour it he will. A just reward for one of the game's nice guys.

twitter / WillieGannon