They may be four points clear at the top of the Championship and, some might say, the side with the easiest run in, but manager Mick McCarthy insists it is “nonsense” to suggest Wolverhampton Wanderers have secured their dream of top-flight football for next season.
Wolves travel to Pride Park this afternoon to take on 17th-placed Derby County, having seen Birmingham City drop points again at the weekend in their goalless draw with lowly Charlton Athletic. Meanwhile, Reading capitulated to Sheffield United in their top-of-the-table clash, leaving the Blades now looking the most likely threat to the West Midlands’ battle to take the top two automatic promotion places.
But McCarthy insists there is still a long way to go and says no one at Molineux is getting carried away just yet. “I’m not even contemplating Premier League football at all – I’ll only contemplate it if we do it,” he said. “It’s still a big ‘if’ – I’m not getting wrapped up in all that nonsense.”
Of this afternoon’s encounter with Nigel Clough’s Rams, McCarthy said: “I think it’s a difficult place to play. It really is a terrific club with fabulous support – they’re the best-supported club in the division, without doubt.
“Because it’s the top-of-the-table team going there, they’ll be buoyed by it and want to knock the smile off our faces. The fans and the players will be inspired and motivated by that.”
The Yorkshireman believes both teams still have much to play for, with Wolves wanting to ensure that they not only win promotion, but the Championship trophy too, while Derby need to ensure they do not get dragged back into the relegation dog-fight.
“I was a player and it didn’t matter where I was in the league, or what league I was in, I wanted to win the game, he said. “So I don’t go with this ‘graph scale’ of ‘how do you feel?’
“Throughout a season of 46 games, I think you’ll have a couple of iffy ones where you’re not feeling too great, but the other 44, you want to win them. You want to win the other two, but you might have a couple of bad ones.”
McCarthy insists his side can cope without their injured strikers and the duo who have helped them to net more than 40 goals this season.
Wolves are still without Sylvan Ebanks-Blake and Chris Iwelumo ahead of the trip to Pride Park. Ebanks-Blake, the man with 24 goals this season and a nailed-on certainty to lift the Championship’s Golden Boot for the second successive season, is still nursing a hamstring strain while Iwelumo has knee-ligament damage suffered in that tackle by Birmingham City’s Lee Carsley at St Andrew’s a week ago.
Wolves hit three goals against Southampton on Good Friday without their main marksmen and McCarthy says his side can cope in their absence.
“Sylvan and Chris won’t be fit and so I will have same squad I had on Friday,” McCarthy said. “There won’t be anyone else coming back but Matt Jarvis is fit and played well against Saints.”
McCarthy hopes Scotland international Iwelumo may yet be ready before the end of the season, even if the player suggested otherwise on Friday.
“We hope Chris is going to be okay,” he said. “There are three weeks left and he’s got retanacular damage which, apparently, is damage to the ligament that keeps all the other ligaments together.
“He’s got medial ligament damage and bone bruising, but he’s a million miles better than we thought he would be. I live in Hopeful Street, so let’s see.”
The Wolves boss also has Aston Villa loanee Marlon Harewood available. “He’s had very little football,” the manager admitted. “He had 90 minutes on Monday (against Birmingham) in a really tough game and I wanted fresh legs – I don’t need to back that decision up.
“Andy Keogh and Sam Vokes are a good partnership and maybe having Harewood around has inspired them because I thought they were a different class against Southampton.”