Ahead of Manchester United’s crucial game at the weekend, which a draw alone would see us go top of the table with Chelsea playing in the FA Cup on Sunday, Thomas Baugh from Wolves Blog has given me a few minutes of his time to discuss Kevin Doyle, who he wants to win the league and Antonio Valencia, amongst other things.
Scott the Red: The biggest story for Wolves this year has probably been Mick McCarthy’s decision to play an entirely different team at Old Trafford to the the team that beat Spurs at White Hart Lane days earlier. What did you make of his decision?
Thomas Baugh: On the night itself, I certainly didn’t agree with his team selection. United were struggling, if you can ever say that, and Wolves had just secured their best win in years at Spurs. I felt we had the momentum to go to Old Trafford and give a really good account of ourselves. It was disappointing we never got that chance. We can argue all night about whether he was right or wrong. There’s no correct answer to that question. We could have played our best team, lost to United and then lost to Burnley. Equally we could have got something at Old Trafford and then beat Burnley. But it’s all hypothetical, so there’s no definitive answer. I can tell you that significantly fewer Wolves fans were complaining after we beat Burnley to move up to 12th in the table though.
STR: You were still left with reason to complain though after the Premier League issued you with a ridiculous suspended fine, something we strongly opposed on RoM. What are your feelings on it?
TB: It’s completely ridiculous. It’s all very well pointing to this rule and that rule, but if you’re not going to be consistent, what’s the point? All the top sides play weakened team regularly ahead of big games, so why should it be any different for the teams struggling at the bottom? Also, what gives the Premier League the right to decide what constitutes a weakened team? Who are they to say one player is better than another? I suppose McCarthy was perhaps silly to change all ten outfield players. Had he only made 6 or 7 changes, nobody outside of Wolves would probably have batted an eyelid.
STR: There was a lot of talk of McCarthy’s decision helping United win the league but nobody seems to care less when the teams at the top help decide who gets relegated by playing their weaker teams! Looking at the teams at the top, who do you hope wins the league this season?
TB: If I’m being honest, I couldn’t really give two hoots in the grand scheme of things. I’m so completely consumed by scientifically analysing the bottom half of the table, I don’t even concern myself with the top. But to redeem myself, and you’ll like this, I’m glad Liverpool have struggled. Do you know when you just don’t like a team and you can’t put your finger on why? Well, that’s how I feel about them. It certainly wasn’t helped by the way their players crowded the referee to get one of our players sent off at Anfield back in December. If I have to put my head on the chopping block, I’ll say United, simply because Rooney is just a sensational player and the season he’s having, it would be travesty for him not to win a major trophy.
STR: Well it’s good that our opinions on Liverpool are similar, although I can put my finger on exactly why I despise them! Rooney has been brilliant this season, although this was the kind of season our fans expected from him this season. Other than him, which current United player would you most like to see in your squad?
TB: Another United fan asked a mate of mine this exact same question and he went for Evra, as we don’t have any particularly good left-backs. That’s not a bad shout and he would certainly do nicely!However, I’d have to go for Valencia. When you got rid of Ronaldo and Tevez, two players in their absolute prime, and replaced them with one player who’s seen better days in Owen and one who’s far from the finished article, Valencia, I thought you’d struggle. But as is so often the case, Sir Alex was pretty much right on the money. Valencia has really impressed me, particularly in recent weeks and I can only see him getting better and better. We’re crying out for a right sided midfielder who can go passed people, so I’d chew my right arm off to see the former Wigan man in old gold.
STR: Yeh, Valencia has been up there with our best performing players this season. Along with Evra, Rooney and Fletcher, he’s been very important for us keeping pace with Chelsea, despite missing pretty much every defender for ages! What about a former player of ours, David Jones, did we miss a trick in letting him go?
TB: Well, he played a key part in getting us promoted last season and at Championship level he’s probably as good as anyone. At the start of this season, he couldn’t get into the matchday squad, let alone the team, which seemed strange to me. But since he forced his way back in about a month ago, he’s definitely been one of our better players. He competes well, has a good eye for a pass and knows where the goal is. So in essence, he has all the right attributes to perform at the highest level. I’d say he and Wolves are well matched i.e. a little bit too good for the Championship, trying to find our feet in the Premiership but with potential to make an impact if we hang around long enough.
STR: Good for him. I hope he goes on to become one of the many former youth team lads who go on to carve out a good career in the Premiership. With Wolves being a bit too good for the Championship, what would you say would make a good season for you?
TB: I’ve said from the very start that 17th place constitutes success. Survival is the be-all and end-all and however we go about achieving that, it’s imperative that we do. I still firmly believe we’re a club moving forward, so relegation would be a pretty big setback for us.
STR: Whilst staying up is always a team effort, there have to be one or two players who shine. Who has been your best player this season?
TB: Without hesitation, Kevin Doyle. He’s carried the fight almost single-handedly at times this season and is a constant thorn in defender’s sides. Critics might point to the fact he’s only got 6 goals, but I can’t emphasise enough how much he brings to this Wolves side.
STR: He’s only played 25 minutes against us this season after coming on in our League Cup game. Given that we went down to ten men with just half an hour played, I’m sure he would have been hoping to have made a greater impact from the bench. Maybe we’ll see him come to life against us this weekend. What are your predictions?
TB: To put it bluntly, defeat. I’d like to think we’ll give you a run for your money, with our strongest eleven of course, but ultimately, I think we’ll come up short. I’ll go 2-0 United. Don’t get me wrong, I’d love it if we beat you. Love it. But once again, we’ve got Burnley as our next fixture and that to me is a season-defining game. With that in mind, this match falls comfortably into the ‘Bonus Points’ section.
STR: Alright Keegan, fair do’s. Thanks for your honesty and best of luck for the rest of the season… after this weekend.