Striker Andy Keogh is relishing the growing battle for a starting place in the Wolverhampton Wanderers attack after manager Mick McCarthy recruited two new forwards during the summer.
Sam Vokes and Chris Iwelumo have both added to the firepower available to McCarthy this season, but the Wolves boss said Keogh and strike partner Sylvan Ebanks-Blake were in pole position to be his starting front two after their impressive performances towards the end of last season.
“Andy and Sylvan won’t relinquish their positions very easily, like anyone,” said McCarthy. “Remember, we finished the season very well. Everyone has come back to a fresh start, but those two are in pole position because of what they did last season. They all want to play and they’re as hungry as hell at the moment.
“Andy might not score as many as he deserves, but we score goals from his effort, work rate and movement. He drags people around and we create chances because of him.
“You need all sorts of players to make the team work - if you had 10 Sylvan Ebanks-Blakes, you wouldn’t win anything. You’d score goals but you need a mix. Andy won’t score as many as Sylvan, but they’re different players.
“If you look at the number of assists Andy provides and what he does, he brings a lot to the party and he’ll still get double figures. I try to accentuate the positive about what they can do, rather than the negative.”
Despite the lofty praise, Keogh is not getting carried away and knows if he doesn’t perform, then McCarthy will not be afraid to make changes.
“Yes, it is nice to hear the manager say those things but I will not take anything for granted and will be working as hard as ever to stay in the team,” said the 22-year-old.
“Every one of the strikers brings something different to the squad and the variety of strikers we have will give the manager plenty of options.
“I just have to concentrate on my own performance because I know the manager well enough to know how he thinks. If I do the business, then I know I will stay in the side but if I don’t, then I am sure the manager will tell me.
“I thought my performances last season were okay but there is always room for improvement and I want to better myself as a player. Sylvan and I had a good understanding last season. We worked well together and did some damage so we will be aiming to do the same this season.”
Keogh admits the spirit in the Wolves camp during their pre-season tour of Scotland was very high but said it counted for very little unless Wanderers get off to a good start.
“Yes, the spirit is good within the camp but I should imagine it is the same within every squad,” he said. “It all comes down to the opening game of the season and we must take it onto the pitch. There are a lot of sides who are strong in this division.”