Highs and lows
As part of Sky Sports' Championship spotlight, we speak with Wolves goalkeeper Carl Ikeme.
Last Updated: 27/05/13 11:02am
After winning six of their opening 10 Championship games in the wake of last season's Premier League relegation, things were looking bright for Wolverhampton Wanderers at the beginning of the current campaign.
New manager Stale Solbakken's ideas seemed to be having an immediate impact and talk at Molineux was of an immediate return to the top flight.
For Carl Ikeme, it was also an enjoyable beginning to the season, as, after nine different loans in almost a decade with Wolves, the goalkeeper found himself as first-choice at the expense of the misfortune of injured club-mates Wayne Hennessey and Dorus De Vries.
However, a seven-game winless run has now seen Wolves slump to 16th in the table and, although the tight nature of the Championship means things can change in a short space of time, Ikeme knows he and his colleagues need to make improvements.
After relegation from the Premier League, what has the mood been like among the Wolves squad this season?
The spirit is fine at the minute, to be honest. Everyone is working hard to put things right and there is no dull atmosphere. Obviously we have not won in the last few games. We have been close to winning in a few of them. Sometimes things just do not go for you. But we are still all trying to put it right. There are so many games so you always have a chance to put it right.
Wolves kept a lot of their squad together from last season. How important was it to maintain the majority of key players?
It was massive. A few of the lads went but we have kept the core of the team. We have brought a few lads in as well to give us a bit more quality and flair. It was important to keep the core of the British lads, who know the league, and then the manager has brought in real quality from the foreign market.
Despite a recent dip in form, Wolves are still just six points off the play-off positions. What sort of motivation does that provide?
Win a few games and everyone is talking about promotion again. We have not won in a few games and everyone is concerned. But the league is that tight, if you win a few games, all of a sudden you are looking at being in second and first place. Things can change, because sometimes you play three games in a week. In the space of a week, you can be looking at something different to the start of the week.
How is life working under new boss Stale Solbakken. What sort of new ideas has he brought to the club?
He has been quality since he came in. Obviously he has got his way of working and the lads have taken to that. He inherited a lot of trouble when he first arrived - a lot of players wanted to leave and things like that. He also had to bring in his players in a short amount of time. His ideas are starting to come across. It is a change to what we are used to but I think everyone is enjoying it.
Did the problems which Solbakken inherited include a hangover from relegation?
There probably was a hangover. There was uncertainty when the manager arrived. Players were coming and going. But that was a few months ago now. Everyone has settled in and the hangover has now gone. But it did take time to move forward and put last season to bed.
From a personal perspective, how are you enjoying the faith Solbakken has offered you?
I am obviously delighted to be playing. I have been at the club for a while, have not always got in the team and have been out on loan. But I have always wanted to be playing at Wolves. I have been here since I was 16 years of age. I am delighted to be playing at the moment.
You have had nine different loans at eight separate clubs during your career. Was there ever a time when you thought you would have to leave Wolves on a permanent basis?
Sometimes that comes into the back of your mind and you are not sure how it is going to work out. All you want to do is play football. But I always thought it would happen at Wolves. It took a bit longer than I had hoped and being injured at times also did not help. I believed it would happen but there were also times when I was low and was thinking it would not.
Your career almost epitomises the highs and lows of football. You have had loans and, this time last year, you were facing a long-term injury. But now you are a Wolves first-team regular. How important is it to keep your feet on the ground?
You definitely cannot get too high or too low. I always try and stay at a middle ground. I have always been trying to work and improve my game. Things that have happened in my career have served me a purpose. I would not change it. I have learned things in my loans and clubs have given me experience. It has helped me improve and hopefully I can continue to improve this season.
What are the specific areas you look to improve in your goalkeeping?
As a goalkeeper, you are never satisfied. There is always something else you can work on. We work on different things day in, day out. I am always striving for perfection.
You have benefited from the misfortune of the injured Wayne Hennessey, who has been ruled out for the season. What is your relationship like?
Wayne and I have probably been at the club for the longest out of anyone in the squad. We have been room-mates and so we both support each other. He has been having a tough time. But he has always been supportive and I will support him through his injury. This is probably the time when he needs it the most.
At 26 years old, you are still quite young for a goalkeeper. What do you hope the future holds?
Without saying specific goals, hopefully I can keep improving from game to game and year to year. I am still quite young and I want to keep learning and striving for perfection. Where I end up after that is where I end up. I am not really looking for a certain goal or a certain outcome. We will see what comes.
But is promotion back to the Premier League the priority with Wolves?
We should definitely be looking at promotion. We have got good players and a good team. A club of our size is always looking to be promoted. We have just come back down from the Premier League and so getting back up is the main goal.
Wolves recently opened a brand new restaurant - WV1 Bar & Grill - offering a gastro-style pub menu in the redeveloped Stan Cullis Stand at Molineux. Visit www.wv1barandgrill.co.uk for details