If Wolverhampton Wanderers’ challenge for promotion to the Barclays Premier League wasn’t exciting enough to keep Wolves fans intrigued, the enthralling battle for the goalkeeper’s jersey promises to be a gripping side plot.
When Matt Murray competes his comeback after knee surgery, manager Mick McCarthy arguably has the two best goalkeepers in the division at his disposal.
Murray tore his cruciate knee ligament during pre-season training last summer and missed the entire campaign. His absence, however, didn’t have such a dramatic impact on Wolves’ challenge as his replacement Wayne Hennessey was nothing short of a revelation.
The 21-year-old was outstanding throughout the campaign and was voted the club’s player of the season. His impressive performances also saw him become the first-choice keeper for Wales.
However, with Murray now back in training and the return to fitness of Carl Ikeme, Hennessey faces a stiff battle for his No1 shirt.
“Goalkeeping is a tough position,” Hennessey said. “You work so closely with the other keepers at a club that they also end up becoming your mates and I’m delighted Matt is making good progress. But at the end of the day there’s only one jersey and you’ve got to grab it.
“Whoever is in the team the other keepers carry on helping as much as they can. If I’m playing then I know Matt will be giving me advice and if he’s playing I’ll do the same.
“It’s important for another keeper to tell you if you’re doing something wrong or if they’ve played against a particular team before to give you tips.
“The fans love Matt and he’s been fantastic for Wolves so it is a bit of added pressure on my back, but that’s what you need to keep you on your toes and keep your standards high.
“Hopefully I can go into the season and keep the No 1 shirt but I know I’ll have to keep working because Matt Murray wants the shirt as much as I do.”
Hennessey kept 19 clean sheets last season and was named in the PFA Championship Team of the Season.
“I think most goalkeepers tend to look around the 15 mark as a good target for clean sheets so to get 19 in my first full season was really pleasing,” he said. “There are a lot of good teams in the Championship so for us to get that many was a decent effort. It’s a shame we didn’t get that little bit further but hopefully this season we’ll do well.
“Pre-season has been going really well. I didn’t have all that long off because of internationals but it’s good to be back. Matt’s in there as well which is good.
“We don’t do as much running as the others because instead we’ll be out with Bobby (Mimms, goalkeeping coach) doing more agility work, but everyone is certainly looking forward to getting back out there on the pitch for the friendlies.”