(Photo: Action Images via Reuters / Andrew Boyers)
By Paul Eddison
CARL Ikeme knows what it means to be patient, but having bided his time at Wolves he has no intention on missing out on next weekend’s trip to Anfield.
The 30-year-old goalkeeper has been at Molineux for half his life, coming through the academy and experiencing a series of loan spells before finally establishing himself as first choice.
Even this season hasn’t been plain sailing, with an oblique strain and then Achilles and calf problems keeping him out for periods before Christmas.
But Ikeme was back between the sticks in the last round of the FA Cup against Stoke and, after producing a magnificent display in the 2-0 win over the Potters, he is dreaming of another Premier League scalp when they face Liverpool.
“A lot of the lads have never played at Anfield before,” he explained.
“You’ve got someone like Conor Coady who is a diehard Liverpool fan. It will be pretty special for him.
“We wanted to give something back to the fans. Getting past Stoke was great and we want to keep going as long as possible.
“Since I’ve been here, we’ve been terrible in the FA Cup. It’s nice to change that and give the fans something to cheer.
“For me it’s been tough the last couple of months. I’ve had a couple of injuries, so it’s been very stop-start.”
Like Ikeme, Wolves have endured an up-and-down season, flying out of the blocks under Walter Zenga in August before the Italian was sacked after a rough patch.
In his place is Paul Lambert, who appears to have turned the tide, with four wins in six games ahead of this weekend.
Ikeme, who has seen eight managers come and go before Lambert, says the Scot has the club on the right track, even if reaching the play-offs would require a remarkable second half of the season.
“He’s been brilliant,” said the Nigerian keeper. “He’s given a lot of players confidence and he’s got all the lads working hard.
“I’ve been here since I was 15. It’s my club. You never know what will happen in your career but everyone has a club that’s close to them. I’d like to finish my career here and, with the new owners and the new gaffer, hopefully we can start moving in the right direction.”
One factor that could be crucial to Wolves’ ambitions will be their ability to bring through players from the academy.
Against Stoke, 16-year-old midfielder Morgan Gibbs-White made his debut and, as a senior member of the squad, Ikeme has been impressed by Lambert’s willingness to put faith in youth.
“Players like Morgan, (18-year-old midfielder) Connor Ronan and others are all ready to play and he’s given them a chance,” he added.