Wolves huff without puff

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The Independent Football

The misleading nature of friendly fixtures, with numerous mid-game changes, makes it dangerous to draw conclusions. Suffice to say, Wolves this season may well find themselves suffering from the absence of midfield invention and defensive reliability. The chant of "going up" at the end yesterday has been rehearsed all too often.

The misleading nature of friendly fixtures, with numerous mid-game changes, makes it dangerous to draw conclusions. Suffice to say, Wolves this season may well find themselves suffering from the absence of midfield invention and defensive reliability. The chant of "going up" at the end yesterday has been rehearsed all too often.

Another season approaches, and Wolves are predicted to take their familiar position in the support cast of the First Division. Not that Southampton are ever likely to top the Premiership bill, but at least Glenn Hoddle achieved something rare at The Dell last season by avoiding the usual late, despairing struggle to stave off relegation.

Wolves' situation has not been helped by seeing Keith Curle depart for Sheffield United and Ade Akinbiyi go to Leicester. In return, the club's comparatively modest conception of lashing out financially has been to pay £900,000 for Newcastle's 32-year-old Georgian forward, Temuri Ketsbaia.

Ironically, he had been on the verge of joining Wolves three years previously but could not agree terms with the then manager, Mark McGhee. Ketsbaia will appear for the first time next weekend, against Sheffield Wednesday.

A newcomer who did turn out yesterday at Molineux, Sami Al Jaber, a Saudi Arabian with 44 international goals, actually cost Wolves the gate receipts. His work permit has not yet arrived so the money, small as it was, had to go to charity. The Wolves' manager, Colin Lee, had not seen Al Jaber play except on video, but had described him as of "Alan Shearer size". Actually, he is several inches smaller both in height and girth but is quick and skilful though much too easily dislodged to be a centre-forward in Britain.

Wolves should be warned against scoring spectacular goals in friendlies they may never repeat in competition. A deep cross from Darren Bazeley after only four minutes was so perfectly driven under the crossbar by Andy Sinton that it should have been withheld for a more meaningful day. More mundanely, Marian Pahars slipped an equaliser under Michael Oakes. That was sufficient to settle Southampton for whom Uwe Rösler, a close season signing from Tennis Borussia Berlin, was a natural attack leader to complement Pahars.

Al Jaber, though he achieved one first-half shot that missed the far post by a shadow, was continually bundled out of possession. Curiously, his opposite number Rösler fell victim to what physical demands a largely gentle game imposed. A nasty crack on the knee saw him being helped from the field.

In spite of Rösler's absence, Southampton made ominous space in the Wolves penalty area and Hassan Kachloul strolled eight yards into it to beat Oakes. Rösler's replacement, James Beattie, was an equally strong presence and Southampton's dominance in terms of power rather than any superior individual skill allowed them to play within themselves.

Southampton, under Hoddle, are clearly better organised defensively. And there is still the enigma of Matthew Le Tissier, who is surely destined to remain the club's great entertainer - on the odd occasion that he is allowed on stage. His brief appearance yesterday brought the most exquisite pass of the day and two straight to opponents. The seasons pass but some things never change.

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