So, first up, can you tell us a bit about how the Offside Rule pod came about?
Sure – I’m afraid it was a project born out of some frustration. Kait, Hayley and I all worked together for Sky Sports and were there in the wake of the sacking of Richard Keys and Andy Gray following their sexist remarks levelled towards a lineswoman. We decided we wanted a platform to showcase our knowledge of football and share our opinions, something we were not being encouraged to do as much as our male colleagues at the time. So, we opted to start The Offside Rule podcast. It’s worth saying that Sky Sports has made great strides since 2012 to really improve as a company and address the opportunities they give to women, but back then being a woman who knew about football wasn’t high on the employability chart.
Keys and Gray, you say. Vaguely recall those names. Whatever happened to them?
The pod’s raison d’etre – to actively promote female inclusion in all elements of football – has been instrumental in raising the profile of the women’s game. You must be chuffed at its success and also its reach?
We’re delighted. Not only have many of our female volunteers over the years gone on to forge successful careers in football, but we’ve found from the engagement we have with our audience that they feel extremely comfortable sharing their opinions and engaging with us about football. Better still, we have a large male audience who are absolutely on board with that and supportive of what we’re trying to achieve. We couldn’t do it without them either as the podcast only continues to be successful if it gets good listening figures that can compete with other football podcasts on the market. We never wanted to exclude anyone, and that’s our mantra really. Football is for all of us, let’s enjoy it and talk about it and definitely not alienate or intimidate.
Quite. Spot on. It works. You’ve more than played your part in getting that important message across.
So, now with your Old Gold hat on – a Wolves supporter by choice or design? Why Wolves, in other words.
Ha, by design and choice. I was born and grew up in Wolverhampton so they were my local club. My family were all supporters (pretty much apart from my dad who is the only man in the entire Black Country to claim to like Wolves and West Brom!). My grandad had been a scout for Wolves and written a few match reports on them. He was football mad and mainly responsible for where I get it from. I don’t think when I was very young he would have accepted me supporting anyone else, but after going to my first match at Molineux in the early 90s I was hooked – my favourite players were Steve Bull and Andy Mutch! I realise now looking back how lucky I was to have also had the chance to play for a school football team. So many of my female colleagues didn’t get the chance to play and playing from such an early age really helped my understanding of the game.
You must be happy with how this season has gone? What were the expectations at the start of the season, especially given how high the bar was raised last season?
I’m the happiest I’ve ever been as a football fan. I’m honestly savouring every moment right now. Last season was fantastic, adjusting so well to the Premier League and finishing in the Europa League places. I never thought I’d see Wolves playing in Europe in my lifetime given the journey I’ve had so far in my life watching them. But something special has happened under Nuno. This isn’t the team I watched get promoted and relegated from the top flight first under Dave Jones and then Mick McCarthy. This feels different and, of course, the financial backing of the Fosuns helps with that. I came in to this season feeling pretty optimistic, trying not to get too carried away. I thought a top 10 finish alongside a good run in Europe would amount to a superb season – but now I’m getting caught up in the good run we’ve been on and thinking, why stop there, let’s push for a higher finish than last season!
Understandable! You’ve clearly reached the point where the next logical step is a sustained assault on the top six … but is this even possible? Do the owners have the financial muscle and/or desire to make this happen?
I believe so. There’s quite clearly a project in place at Wolves and the owners, in a very methodical, “let’s not run before we can walk” way, are helping build towards the goal of consistently competing in the top 6. Of course, how long they can hold on to Nuno and have a savvy plan B if he does go will determine if that’s sustainable. There’s a big 12 months ahead at Wolves. Key players will be of interest to other clubs too, we’re not naive enough to think that some won’t get prized away, but it’s how the owners respond to change that will indicate whether this is a purple patch for the club or a longer-term success
Are you expecting them to spend big in January? Any areas of the team that specifically need strengthening?
I don’t think they necessarily spend big. They will make a couple of signings but January isn’t always the best time to buy players. They will be more active in the summer transfer market I suspect. Right now we could do with more reinforcements in defence and there are rumours Vallejo could go back to Real Madrid after failing to impress as much as expected. So that’s an area that needs strengthening. I’d also like to see another creative midfielder come in and be nurtured. Moutinho is fine for a couple more seasons but at 33 we do need to be thinking who can replace him eventually – and trust me he is going to be very difficult to replace. He is an exceptional player
Who’s excelled this season so far? Are we right to be fearful of Traore’s power and unpredictability? (because we are)
Yes – Traore should scare any defence. His power and pace have always been a handful but now he’s found that final ball and finish which were missing before. Clubs beware! I also love watching Jimenez and Jota link up, they have a great understanding and are responsible for a lot of our goals. They can hurt anyone on the counter-attack so watch out for those too.
What have you made of our season so far?
You got off to a great start. Unfortunately, the number of injuries in such a short space of time were difficult for Farke to manage. This Christmas period will be a big test as it’s often the time of year when some teams get cut adrift, but I really believe Norwich have a great chance of surviving. Teams with proven goalscorers, like you have in Pukki, usually tend to grind out results. Newcastle have struggled in front of goal lately, in the last match against Burnley they had no shots on target, so to me they are catchable IF Pukki can keep firing in the goals.
Finally, standard fare … a score prediction for Saturday?
I think Daniel Farke sets Norwich up really well, especially at home. But I do think Wolves will have too much in attack. Both teams to score, I’m going FT Norwich 1 – 2 Wolves.
Cheers Lynsey. Enjoy the rest of the season… after 5 pm tomorrow 🙂