Wolves’ fans entered this season optimistic that their front pairing of Sylvan Ebanks-Blake and Kevin Doyle would fire them to safety. The former was the darling of Molineux back in August, fresh from helping the Black Country team back to the big time, with his 25 league goals. The latter was the new kid on the block, but eagerly anticipated after his excellent goal ratio for his previous employers Reading and because of the record transfer fee attached to his head.
So far neither is on par with expectations. Ebanks-Blake quite simply hasn’t reached them. But Doyle has surpassed them, and then some. The Irish work-horse may have only netted five goals so far, but his all round play has been a delight to watch, a real shining light in a team often devoid of creative ideas. Mick McCarthy demands plenty of endeavour from all of his players – that is the minimum requirement – but Doyle has that something extra. He has been asked to play the lone striker role in the past couple of weeks and it has not fazed him. He is deceptively strong and holds the ball up magnificently due to his lovely first touch.
And his efforts have not gone unnoticed by his manger, who heaped glowing praise on the club’s record signing after the nil-nil draw with Liverpool last week.
“If anyone has seen a better centre-forward display at Molineux than against Liverpool, then I would like to see it,” McCarthy said.
“That was a classic performance from Kevin Doyle. He was outstanding. If he had scored to top it off, it would have been a ten plus rating out of ten performance.
“I thought we were getting a really good player when we signed him because I knew him from the Irish squads and playing against Wolves with Reading for a couple of seasons.
“I’ve not been surprised with how well he has done and have been absolutely thrilled with him overall with his personality around the place, his contribution to the club.
“He is a terrific player and, whatever we paid for him, he is worth every penny.”
But what about Ebanks-Blake? The stocky forward was supposed to terrorise defenders this season with his power and finishing ability, but it just hasn’t materialised. The Molineux crowd, who still fervently sing his name, desperately wants him to succeed, for in his first 18 months with the West Midlands club he swept all before him in the Championship scoring 37 promotion-winning goals, some of the utmost quality. But this year he has looked off the pace for much of it, only producing the goods in short bursts and yet to score from open play, his solitary striker coming from the penalty spot at home to Aston Villa in October. He has missed a few sitters and has also come up against some inspired goalkeeping.
Unfortunately the Premier League is a cruel environment and McCarthy could no longer continue with his underperforming hit man.
“Sylvan is a striker who has got his kudos in the game from scoring goals. He has played well in some games this season but it does come to the point where it is not getting easier to score and he has to come out of the side. You can show a player loyalty, support and encouragement and I have played him for around 18 of the last 20 games. But eventually you have to think about making a change,” McCarthy said.
Wolves head to Selhurst Park tonight for their FA Cup fourth round replay. Big Mick is likely to give the once prolific 23-year-old a run out, in the hope he find some much needed confidence. His blonde-haired star on the other hand is likely to be rested, wrapped in cotton wool and saved for the relegation battle ahead, for without his goals Wolverhampton Wanderers could be destined for the trap door.
The song that rang around Molineux last week against the scousers was: “One Kevin Doyle, there’s only one Kevin Doyle.” With Ebanks-Blake currently failing to deliver Wolves could really do with two workaholic Irishmen up top.