Wolves boss Stale Solbakken today urged his players to keep their heads in tonight’s tea-time televised West Midlands derby against Birmingham.
Solbakken’s side have had two sendings off in the last five games – captain Karl Henry and Christophe Berra, although the latter was rescinded.
The fixture has seen some fiery clashes for more than a decade, with Blues men Craig Gardner and Lee Carsley seeing red in May 2011 and April 2009 respectively, the latter when Wolves striker Chris Iwelumo was carried off.
Blues had Martin O’Connor and Bryan Hughes sent off in April 2000 after Martin Grainger allegedly pursued Kevin Muscat down the tunnel in the previous derby, later calling the Aussie the “most hated man in football”.
“I think we’ve had our sendings off for this season, and losing your head and temper in a game like this could make the opposition better than they are,” said Solbakken.
“Some players need to think twice sometimes so we don’t have this over-focus on tackling and battling, and we also have to play football.
“But I’m quite optimistic we’ll see a good Wolves side and we’ll put in a good performance.”
Solbakken is expected to recall midfielder Tongo Doumbia after missing the last two games with fatigue.
“He should have recovered,” said the boss. “He’s in the squad and we’ll see.”
Winger Jermaine Pennant is fit to face one of his former clubs after having an injection in his troublesome ankle, although Bjorn Sigurdarson is favourite to continue in the wide right role after playing so well in last week’s 4-1 win at Bristol City.
But Pennant has been warned he has no excuse not to perform after nine games since joining from Stoke on loan, which expires in January.
“He’s been handicapped by his ankle but he’s had an injection so he looks livelier,” said Solbakken. “There’s no reason why he shouldn’t do well.”
The teams went into the weekend with a point and two places separating them and Solbakken believes this season’s second tier is the most difficult. “It looks like it’s the toughest Championship ever,” he said.