12 February ~ The last time these Black Country rivals met at Molineux back in May, Wolves powered to a 3-1 victory that did much to secure their Premier League status. While that game may have mattered immensely to both sets of supporters, it was easy to conclude that Wolves had bagged the points largely because they needed them more. Nine months on, little has changed. Mick McCarthy's side go into this derby on the back of a dismal run of form that was only broken thanks to a helping hand from Djibril Cissé – to Roger Johnson's throat, that is.
Last weekend's victory against ten-man QPR was Wolves' first since the start of December. It lifted McCarthy's men clear of the relegation zone. It also lifted some of the pressure that has been building on their beleaguered boss.
Roy Hodgson, meanwhile, continues to be the very epitome of reliability at West Brom. Having won 35 per cent of Premier League matches with Blackburn, 34 per cent with Fulham and 35 per cent with Liverpool, Hodgson is currently enduring relative failure. The Baggies have won just 33 per cent of their league games under his watchful gaze. It is fair to say you know what you are going to get with Hodgson and it is good enough for survival. One can assume, therefore, it is more than good enough for Jeremy Peace, the erstwhile yo-yo club's chairman.
Albion supporters would doubtless like to see a few more of that 33 per cent coming at The Hawthorns, where they have picked up just one league win since disposing of Wolves in November. But they will also be grateful for their much-improved away form when they visit Molineux today. Albion's tally of 18 points won on their travels hints at a team set up for the speedy counter-attack, which could prove to be Wolves' undoing.
It certainly proved decisive in Wolves' previous home match against Liverpool, in which all three of the visitors' goals came on the break. The game was also notable for the jeers that accompanied the closing stages of the (no) contest. Chairman Steve Morgan took the brunt of the criticism, with sections of the home support suggesting the construction magnate was more concerned with a local housing development than events on the field.
Morgan's response was to storm the dressing room at full-time and berate his players – a move that seemingly emasculated the no-nonsense boss McCarthy. Given that a loss to arch-rivals West Brom could bring with it a tirade of abuse far more hostile than that seen against Liverpool, one can only speculate as to what Morgan could do this afternoon. Suffice to say, McCarthy will be keenly aware that his job may depend on avoiding that particular scenario. Adam Bate