Birmingham-born keeper on the big derby
Carl Ikeme always knows when a Wolves/Blues derby is just around the corner.
The ticket requests start, and so does the banter, for Wolves’ Birmingham-born keeper.
Ikeme, set to line up in opposite nets to former Wolves team-mate Tomasz Kuszczak on Sunday (1.15pm), is well aware of the rivalry having come through the Wolves’ Academy and being born and brought up in Birmingham.
“It’s big to the players, probably even more so to me and a few of the local ones,” he says.
“I am from Birmingham and a few of the lads are from in and around Wolves.
“I know what it means to Wolves fans and I know what it means to Birmingham fans.
“I’ve been hearing that this week when I’ve been in Birmingham!
“It’s a big game and one everyone wants to be involved in.
“You see on Social Media what it means and the amount of ticket requests I have had!
“Every game is big but you do get an extra buzz for derby day.
“It is something we are looking forward to and wanting to give the fans something to cheer about by carrying on from our two home wins.”
Ikeme is now Wolves’ longest serving player, and his experience has proved vital in the last few years as one of the key figures in a largely youthful squad.
He did lose his place to Emi Martinez earlier in the season, but says it was important to maintain his professionalism, and he enjoyed a superb reception on returning to the fray after Martinez unfortunately picked up an injury.
“I’ve tried to seize my opportunity,” he says.
“I felt even when I wasn’t playing I kept my professionalism which was important.
“It’s easy to drift when you’re not playing and feel sorry for yourself and blame everyone else.
“I see it all the time with a lot of youngsters.
“I kept myself to myself and kept going, trained hard every day like I would if I was playing and always believed if I got my chance I could perform.
“At the minute it’s going o-k.
All of sudden I’ve become the old pro!
“And you realise you have to do a bit more. Sometimes people look switched on but they might not be. And the same with me, I need telling as well at times.
“Every year I feel like I’m improving vocally as a goalkeeper.
“I enjoy that (senior) role. Sometimes young players don’t realise what they can achieve, or don’t realise what a great club this is, and if you can achieve it how well you’ll do and the high regard you’ll be held in.
“Because I’ve been here for long enough I realise that.
“Even with the youth team players, I want them to have the same career and play X amount of games for the club, and if not have a good career somewhere else.
“I want everyone to do well and realise how fortunate they are.”
Two wins in the last three have seen Wolves up to 12th in the table, and, ahead of tomorrow’s fixtures, ten points off the play-offs and 11 above the bottom three.
Ikeme knows a top six push is a tall order, but believes Wolves have to focus on a strong finish to the season.
“Those wins in our last two home games were very important and hopefully we can have a strong push now to the end of the season,” he added.
“Realistically it is going to be tough for us to push for a play off place, although stranger things have happened!
“We do want to put a few results on the table to make sure we don’t get dragged into anything down below.
“We just need to build until the end of the season and then build towards next year.
“If we got to maybe within five or six points of the play-offs it might be different but at the moment we have to concentrate on Birmingham on Sunday and take it from there.”
*Wolves sponsors and local firm Techworx are offering one lucky supporter the opportunity to WIN a signed shirt or ball and to meet two members of the first team squad on the afternoon of Tuesday 15th March 2016.