Carl Ikeme today admitted he will continue to go ga-ga in the goalmouth as he stated the case for the defence for record-hunting Wolves at Walsall tomorrow.
While Kenny Jackett’s side aim for a club-record equalling eighth straight win, there’s an equally impressive quality underpinning their run of victories – their back line.
Wolves have kept five successive clean sheets and a sixth tomorrow would be their best since February 1992.
Modest keeper Ikeme is keen to acknowledge the contribution of understudy Aaron McCarey, the former Walsall loanee, who was in goal for the first two of those five games.
And equally, he stresses the massive turnaround – Wolves’ tally of 20 goals against this season is the best in all four divisions after leaking 151 in the two previous campaigns as they suffered successive relegations – has been a real team effort.
“As a back line, it’s our triumph to keep a clean sheet – it’s what we strive for,” said the 27-year-old shotstopper.
“Keeping a clean sheet is like us scoring a goal – if you see me go mad for no apparent reason at times it’s because I’m determined to try to not let any goals in or keep it to as low an amount as possible.
“All the lads at the back are the same, putting their bodies on the line and putting in last-ditch challenges.
“Until I score a goal I’m just happy with my clean sheets!”
Ikeme himself has kept five shutouts in a row before – but for Middlesbrough, on loan in September and October 2011.
“I had five in a row in my 10 games there,” he said.
“But Aaron played in the first two here and kept four clean sheets in five, so he has to take some of the credit.
“He did fantastically well, so it’s a proper team effort and I was happy for Aaron as well.”
All of Wolves’ current back four have played in the Championship, albeit Danny Batth did so frustratingly briefly last season.
But Ikeme is convinced they can all flourish at a higher level.
“’Stears’ (Richard Stearman) has been here a while, Sam (Ricketts) has played at the top level, and Danny has come in and done brilliantly,” he said.
“He was probably ready to play regularly last season but credit to him for working so hard, and Scott (Golbourne) has added something different as well.
“Stears, Sam and Scott have already played in the Championship but Danny and ‘Doc’ can play higher and all four of them, plus Matt Doherty, who’s been out injured, can definitely go on to play at a higher level.
“We can’t look at that at the moment though because it’s about concentrating on where we are at the moment.
“But hopefully if all goes well, they will get the chance.”
Walsall go into the game on the back of two points from their last 18, with four defeats in their last six since a 5-1 win at Notts County.
But the intensity of a local derby is a leveller, and, with the Saddlers having won 1-0 at Molineux back in September, Ikeme realises Wolves’ back line is going to be at the top of their game to equal the wins record.
“Walsall gave us a tough game when we played them in September,” he said.
“It was a bit of a surprise at the time, and because we hadn’t been beaten this season at that point. But we knew Walsall were a decent side and they seem to do well against the better teams of the division.
“It was just a shame to get beat in a local derby, but you’re going to lose games during the season.
“We haven’t really played each other for a long time which always adds a bit more spice to the game.
“But I’m not really thinking about the record – it’s more about trying to get another win in what’s a difficult month.
“We all enjoy derbies so it’s one to look forward to but we’ve got to concentrate on our performance and hopefully the right result will come.
“It’s about us and where we want to go and what we want to do.”
Wolves sold out of their 3,410 allocation for tomorrow’s game in double-quick time.
And as one of the ‘local’ players settled in the area – long-serving Ikeme is from Castle Bromwich – the keeper has been well aware of the keen interest in the game.
“I’ve been asked for about 15 tickets already so I know it’s sold out!” he said.
“Being a tight ground you can imagine what the atmosphere is going to be like.
“We’re taking a fair few fans and I love derby days – there’s a bit more of an edge to the game and people look to get the bragging rights as well as us pushing on for promotion.”