Table-Toppers Once More!
Carl Rocks Telford – With A Little Help From His Friend
Carl Ikeme went for Joao Moutinho. Sylvan Ebanks-Blake opted instead for his and the keeper’s former team-mate, Matt Doherty. Well, choosing Wolves’ best player is no easy task these days.
But they agreed that promotion success took some beating as a career highlight – even if a certain players’ Christmas party in Dublin had been a bit special, too!
The duo were in the spotlight at a weekend q&a night in the Telford suburbs that leaned more towards open disclosure of fun times in seasons past than ‘what goes on in the room stays in the room’.
In other words, it was tremendous knock-about fun, with around £1,500 raised for the Race Against Blood Cancer charity and copies of Ikeme’s excellent autobiography snapped up and signed along the way.
Two men who did much for the club at opposite ends of the pitch in the pre-Fosun era needed no introduction when taking their places on the top table alongside the book’s co-author Paul Berry.
They are big mates; big enough for the striker to have been part of the trusted inner circle when Ikeme was waging and thankfully winning the most important battle of his life in a Manchester hospital.
They are very much at ease in each other’s company and were comfortable here behind their microphones, Carl utterly laid-back in a black t-shirt that revealed his well-tattooed arms and Ebanks-Blake more covered up under a baseball cap – and a shade keener to reach for the one-liners.
In front of a capacity 150 audience at Wrockwardine Wood Football Club, the first half was a walk through of their Molineux careers, prompted by the informed questioning of Wolves’ former head of media.
And so we learned that both were surprised and disappointed when Karl Henry was stripped of the captaincy – ‘a crazy decision’ as one of them put it. “I live quite near Roger Johnson and I get on with him. I can see why he took it but it brought a lot of pressure and disrupted the dressing room,” Sylvan said.
The sacking of Mick McCarthy, coming when it did, made no sense to either of them – “We loved TC (Terry Connor) but it spiralled from there,” Carl said – and mention of Dean Saunders’s did not immediately reverse the tide. “I played for him at Doncaster and it was a shambles there without it all being his fault,” the keeper added. What about at Wolves? “I don’t dislike Dean at all but it was a bit erratic. A lot of tension built up in me.”
Paul Berry steered the chat on to Ikeme’s crushing cancer diagnosis and, with the famous Telford Wolves flag as a backdrop, drew the response: “Of all my playing mates, this man bailed me out big time.
“And watching from my hospital bed and seeing that flag all over the country was overwhelming. I felt such love from the fans. It was very emotional.”
The supporters club were part-organisers of an evening that has boosted the coffers of the Race Against Blood Cancer charity, which had a team of local volunteers in attendance. And Ebanks-Blake will, along with Joleon Lescott, be in the saddle to support his mate’s late-season bike ride round all the clubs he played for.
“It was really hard for him up in Manchester but his mentality makes him. He was really strong. I know there were dark periods but he was inspirational in the way he tackled it.”
It was on to lighter topics in a quick-fire second half in which the questions came from the audience, complete with sporadic chants and songs.
So what else did we learn? That Ikeme looked up to Peter Schmeichel, David James, Shaka Hislop and Mark Bosnich in his development years while Ebanks-Blake, who is still a regular face on MUTV, turned to his Old Trafford roots in naming Andy Cole and Dwight Yorke as mentors.
Sylvan found Wes Morgan and Darren Moore especially tough opponents in the physical sense while Carl named Graham Stack as the funniest team-mate from his Wolves career – and rightly had the evening’s last word.
“I am enjoying being a fan and don’t know whether I would want to be so involved in football again as to lose that,” he said. “Football has taken a lot out of me and I am enjoying being in a more normal life.
“It is a true blessing that I can come back to chat to fans at a place like this and say thank-you for helping me live the dream in the best years of my life.”
*To sponsor Carl on his bike ride, please visit http://www.virginmoneygiving.com/carlikeme