Henry tackles tricky subject of staying up

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The Independent Online

Reaction was definitely mixed when the Wolves midfielder Karl Henry was named in Fabio Capello's provisional 40-man England squad this month. Even Wolves fans were surprised. Reading various websites, some reckoned the 28-year-old might do a job as a holding player in a five-man midfield but few could imagine him representing his country as part of a 4-4-2 formation.

The likelihood of Henry making the final squad was always slim, and it may be the nearest he gets to a senior England team. But in a season when he has been excoriated for over-aggressive tackling, and spent two months on the sidelines with a knee-ligament injury, it was official acknowledgement that somewhere under that hard image lurks a rather decent footballer.

"I was shocked, mainly because since I came back from injury I don't think I've played particularly well," said Henry. "I'm realistic enough to know there are a lot of very good players ahead of me, but it has spurred me on to keep my performance levels high and do my job. It's an achievement, but the only thing at the forefront of my mind is staying up."

In that context, to be relegated at the end of a season in which you beat five of the Premier League's top sides would be more than disappointing. Yet unless Wolves replicate the sort of performance they gave in beating Manchester United against their rivals at the other end of the table, starting with West Bromwich Albion today, that is what is going to happen.

Henry disputes that Wolves have tried harder against the best sides. "People talk about second-season syndrome but I don't think we have taken our foot off the gas," he said. "It's a tougher league this season, and to stay up would be a far bigger achievement than last season. The teams that came up are better sides, and teams have shown us more respect because we are not a surprise package.

"To have been in the position we've been all year and stay up would be a great achievement. We have a good run-in, we are aware of that, but we are also aware that we haven't done well against teams around us. We have to put that right, and everyone is confident."

With Albion also facing relegation, and playing their first game under their new manager, Roy Hodgson, the atmosphere around the Black Country derby is likely to be even more abrasive than usual. And Henry's belief that the Baggies may be inclined to lose their heads is unlikely to spread oil. "They've been out of it [relegation danger] all season and we've been in and around it, so going into the last 12 games, there's nothing we haven't seen already," he says. "There's no more nerves and there's nothing more that can be thrown at us.

"For them, the closer they get to the relegation zone, the more they're going to panic," he adds. "It's a horrible situation to be in, but we've got a great opportunity to get ourselves out of it."

West Bromwich Albion v Wolves is a 12pm kick-off today

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