Hungry Kightly ready to run with Wolves

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The Independent Football

Wolves' line-up to face Fulham this afternoon may include an Ecuadorian signed from Serbian football, an Austrian ex-chef with Bayern Munich among his previous clubs, and the return of last season's top-scorer. The "new" face for whom Molineux will reserve its most rapturous welcome, however, has Basildon United and Farnborough Town on his CV and has never played in the Premier League.

Michael Kightly, the flying winger Mick McCarthy signed – nay stole – from Grays Athletic for £25,000, is finally ready to complete one of the journeys from out-house to penthouse on which sport thrives. A broken metatarsal in March meant that the 23-year-old missed the run-in to the Championship triumph his goals and crosses did so much to set up. After playing an hour in the reserves, he is keen to make up for lost time.

McCarthy's side will be unfamiliar to many of the crowd. Segundo Castillo, who played in the top flight for Everton, has appeared twice for Ecuador since arriving on a season-long loan from Red Star Belgrade but has yet to don the old gold. Stefan Maierhofer, the 6ft 7in capture from Rapid Vienna, scored a debut goal as substitute at Blackburn and could start ahead of Sylvan Ebanks-Blake, who is back after damaging a hamstring on the opening day.

Even the 25-goal striker does not set pulses racing like Kightly (pictured above), and McCarthy has played down expectations surrounding the England Under-21 player. "If Michael was coming into the Premier League without having foot and hip operations this summer, and had a pre-season under his belt, it would have been a different ball game," his manager said.

All the same, he admitted Kightly's return to training had raised the quality levels. It is not the first time he has raised eyebrows on the practice pitch. Scarcely believing their luck, Wolves snapped him up in 2006 without their manager seeing him play. "My scout Dave Bowman and then assistant Ian Evans saw 'Kights' and we took him on their say-so, and at 25 grand I just knew we couldn't go wrong. On his first day in training I think the words were: 'Who the fuck is that'?"

McCarthy, striving to win a Premier League home match for the first time in 22 attempts with Sunderland and Wolves, has "no doubt" that Kightly will succeed at the highest level. But Castillo is in "great shape" and may start, while Maierhofer ("not built like Peter Crouch, but like me with another five inches on top," according to McCarthy), is likely to be pitched in against the 6ft 5in Brede Hangeland.

Fulham, who drew at CSKA Sofia in the Europa League on Thursday, looked laboured in the 2-0 defeat by Aston Villa which followed a similar trek to Russia. Their manager Roy Hodgson is likely to bring back most of the nine players he rested in midweek. But Kightly, even if he is used sparingly, hopes to show he can make the best of defenders look as if they have just stepped off a flight from Bulgaria.