A View To Be Envied

Blake Gives It Them Straight

A front cover star during the promotion heartbreak in 2001-02.

Among those looking on at close quarters while a record number of Wolves players compete at this European Championship finals is a former Molineux man whose own international career did not scale such heights.

Nathan Blake is an experienced figure at the microphone these days and is in the Azerbaijan capital, Baku, to summarise for the BBC at Wales’ games against Switzerland on Saturday and Turkey on Wednesday.

The Cardiff-born promotion specialist was heard on 5Live at the weekend as he sat at the side of commentator Rob Phillips during a production that also went out on BBC Wales.

Molineux press box regulars recall seeing the ex-striker when he has been on duty in these parts – the home FA Cup game against Swansea in January, 2018 springing to mind – and might have heard him present his closing thoughts on the opening game.

“Could do better,” he told listeners. “Not a brilliant performance – it was a bit worrying that we looked a bit leggy. I understand the heat but it was the same for both teams.

“We didn’t perform anywhere near our best and at set-pieces we looked really suspect. I don’t think Aaron Ramsey was it his best. I don’t think Gareth Bale was at his best. We must do better if we want to progress in the tournament.”

Blake, who turns 50 in January, was one of the scorers when Wolves famously beat his former employers Sheffield United in his home city in the 2003 play-off final, having previouly also gone up to the elite division with Bolton and Blackburn.

But, with our eyes on the Euros, it is his achievements with Wales that are perhaps more relevant to this article.

The first of his four goals at senior international level was against Moldova in a qualifier for the European Championship in England in 1996 and his second was against Wales’ next opponents in this tournament, Turkey.

He also has the unfortunate record of having netted the first international goal at the Millennium Stadium by a Welsh player – an own goal against Finland in March, 2000.

Nathan Blake pictured just after his signing at Molineux in the autumn of 2001.

Blake, whose career with the country was interrupted by a row with then manager Bobby Gould after which he refused to play, won 29 full caps across a stretch of some ten years.

He announced his international retirement in September, 2004, ten months after playing his final match – in the Euro 2004 play-off loss against Russia.

His Wolves career of 85 games and 26 goals had by then just ended with a move to Leicester, after which he also briefly served Leeds and Newport County.

Wales’ weekend goalscorer, Kieffer Moore, has clicked big time with Mick McCarthy at Cardiff, 12 of his Bluebirds goals having come since the appointment of the former Wolves boss in South Wales in late January.

Thomas Publications