Express & Star

Kightly puts a bit of a spring back in Wolves' step

Moments of uninhibited joy have been few and far between for Wolves supporters this season, writes blogger Tim Spiers.


Moments of uninhibited joy have been few and far between for Wolves supporters this season, writes blogger Tim Spiers.

You know the kind – when you momentarily lose control of all your senses, hug and/or kiss a complete stranger, shout yourself hoarse and jump around like House of Pain are back in fashion.

They're the moments football fans live for, the ones that make being at a game incomparable to following it online or on television.

In a barometer for just how depressing this season has mostly been, I can recall just two so far in 2011-12, namely Steven Fletcher's winner against Sunderland and the full time whistle at The Emirates.

But there was a candidate for a third last Saturday; step forward Michael John Kightly (his middle name might not be John, it's a moot point, but Wikipedia says it is and that's good enough for me. It could be Ghengis or Saddam for all I care).

And boy was this moment overdue.

Incredibly, his last goal in gold and black was in March 2009, and that was another one to savour.

It came against Nottingham Forest, on a gloriously sunny afternoon by the Trent, when the diminutive winger popped up with late-ish winner to send 5,000 or so short-sleeved Wolves fans potty.

Promotion to the Premier League was in the bag a month later and Kightly had played a pivotal role in the team's success, contributing eight goals and 19 assists, the latter being more than anyone in the division (interestingly current scapegoat Stephen Hunt was second on the list with 17).

Kightly missed the business end of the run-in, however, having broken his metatarsal in a rather pointless training ground friendly against Shrewsbury.

That broken metatarsal would be the first of a catalogue of debilitating injuries which for some time threatened to make the Forest game Kightly's Wolves swansong.

He made four starts in the Premier League the following season, then just one in 2010-11, threatening to place him in that most agonising of football categories – those with unfulfilled, untapped potential.

We've had a few of those "what might have been" players at Molineux over the years and Tony Daley's appearance on Football Focus last week was a timely reminder of another flying winger whose talent was cruelly denied a chance to shine.

Daley made just 21 league appearances for Wolves in four seasons, an absurd waste, just like Matt Murray, Geoff Thomas and yes, even Neil Masters.

So desperate has Mick McCarthy been to prevent Kightly from joining that list, the manager has refused to splash out meaningful money on a right-flank replacement, with only perennial outsider Adam Hammill brought in.

As well as fleeting appearances from Hammill, McCarthy has used a variety of players in that role with varying degrees of success, including Matt Jarvis, Stephen Hunt, David Edwards, Kevin Foley, Greg Halford, Adlene Guedioura and even waffle fan Jelle van Damme.

He has also given Kightly his number seven shirt for the past three seasons, despite not even including him in his 25-man squad at the start of this campaign.

That decision will have been a tough one to make but McCarthy, wary of not being able to carry a half-fit player in the fast-paced unforgiving Premier League, knew that loaning Kightly out would be the sensible option.

Lo and behold, after a massively beneficial stint at Watford in which he scored three times in 12 appearances, Kightly returned to Molineux ready to prove himself once more.

And against Aston Villa on Saturday, for a rousing 45 minutes at least, he was back.

In fact he wasn't only back; he was partying like it was 2009 in a first half performance to warm the heart of the harshest cynic.

With Kevin Foley behind him and Matt Jarvis on the opposite flank, this was a fond and timely reminder of the team which swept all before them in the Championship three years ago and for a short time Wolves looked like world-beaters once again.

In what was by a distance our most prolific passage of play of the season, chance after chance was created as Aston Villa were forced onto the back foot by some dynamic, positive, uninhibited attacking football.

Kightly was central to that, giving Ciaran Clark a torrid time, jinking like a champion slalom skier and racing to the byline quicker than a greyhound chasing Bug Bunny's particularly plump and juicy brother.

He made things happen, he tried different things and he took risks.

With Jarvis on the other flank, Wolves had a welcome balance to them which has very rarely surfaced during the past three seasons.

And then there was that goal.

After the equally-impressive Emmanuel Frimpong teed him up, beating two players with a sublime piece of skill, Kightly beautifully cut inside and found the bottom corner of the net with a controlled, measured finish.

There was nothing controlled or measured about the resulting celebration, which was understandably laden with raw unquantifiable emotion.

After his team mates started to meander back up field Kightly turned once more to the South Bank and emitted a colossal roar, letting out three years of pent-up anger and frustration.

What a moment.

I'm sure the volume around Molineux was higher than normal for a goal celebration, too.

From the non-leagues, signed for a pittance and with his relaxed, down-to-earth demeanour, Kightly's easy to associate and connect with and is a bit of a cult hero.

If he could replicate that first-half performance between now and May then survival looks a much easier prospect, although I'm sure McCarthy will be keen to dampen expectations of just what he can offer given his prolonged spell on the sidelines.

It was just one goal, one half, one match, one step on the ladder, but for now it's feels wonderful to have Michael Kightly back.

Long may it continue.

Sorry, we are not accepting comments on this article.