Kenny Jackett has challenged Zeli Ismail and Jamie O’Hara to force their way into his plans as the fixture schedule hots up leading into Christmas.
Ismail is back and available again after a knee injury for tonight’s FA Cup with Budweiser first round replay with Oldham, while O’Hara, having returned to the first team set-up, hasn’t made the matchday squad for the last two fixtures.
“Zeli comes into my thinking,” says Jacket.
“He’s over his knee injury and trained yesterday.
“We just wanted to see how his knee was and how it’s settled down and he seemed fine yesterday and is very confident about tonight.
“It’s been difficult for him to get his head around James Henry and Michael Jacobs coming in, but it’s football life.
“You have to realise there will always be competition and if you can’t take that competition, you’re not going to survive.
“So if he does get a chance, then I’m sure he’ll be looking at it positively and will be trying hard to give me a problem with some wide options around.
“I’m also hoping he’ll be thinking that if James is out for a few weeks, there’s maybe an opportunity that he wasn’t expecting.
“He could influence my thinking and that applies for every single young player – that’s their challenge.”
While O’Hara has worked hard to regain his fitness after injury difficulties in recent seasons, and has impressed in Under-21 fixtures, Jackett believes the midfielder just needs to find an added level at senior football to further push his claims.
He added: “Jamie has been training with the first-team squad for three weeks now and has made two substitute’s appearances.
“I haven’t selected him recently and I haven’t put him in the last two games but if I feel it’s right to do that in the future, I will.
“Jamie has to keep working hard at his fitness and he has to get around the pitch.
“While he has undoubted ball-playing ability, which I love and which I think is a considerable strength, I just felt in the games he played that he does need to get around the pitch better – that’s very important.
“He’s training with the group, and, if selected in this busy period, I’m sure he’ll try to do his best for the club and earn and hang onto his place there.
“His passing and his composure is very good but I’ve said to him he’s got to be able to get around the pitch more.
“He’s played regular Under-21 football and played last week in a reserve friendly against Derby but playing first-team football is a step up.
“In terms of Jamie, he has to just keep working hard and try to get that fitness he needs.
“Maybe the time he’s had out has had an affect, but he’s saying to me now that he’s lost quite a lot of weight through working hard with a combination of diet and exercise.
“It’s in his hands really to get the type of fitness that’s needed.”
Jackett also has selection options up front this evening, including the decision whether to start with Leigh Griffiths who made a positive introduction from the bench at half time in Saturday’s win at Notts County.
Griffiths gave Wolves an extra attacking impetus in the second half, boosted by a County defence which had been forced to deal with Jake Cassidy’s physical edge and selfless running during the first period.
“Leigh didn’t score when he came on, but I didn’t think in the first half we showed anything near enough going forward,” added Jackett.
“So it probably wasn’t the right decision, and in the second half we created more chances.
“As someone in my position, you never do know whether it’s team selection or just the way the game is going to go, because they started at a helluva pace.
“Sometimes you’ve just got to defend well and take the sting out of them and then when the game opens up, you get your chance.
“Now that does happen anyway sometimes, but, going forward in the first half, we didn’t do enough, and in the second, we looked more potent, even when they were putting us under pressure.
“Griffiths was out wide and in the holes, and you could see runners breaking off and opportunities arising, and us with more chance of getting in behind their defence, which we didn’t do in the first half.
“Cassidy, Griffiths and Sigurdarson all had one-against-one chances added to the goal in what was the best period of the game for us.”
*Tickets are still available for tonight’s cup replay with Oldham, priced at £13 for adults and £7 concessions.
There will also be cash turnstiles for Wolves supporters – Blocks 7 and 8 of the Billy Wright Upper.
Visiting supporters should head to the Away Ticket Office in the Stan Cullis Stand to purchase tickets – cash only – from 6.30pm.
Prepaid tickets need to be collected from the office located between the Ticket Office and Megastore which opens at 5.30pm.