Football: Bargain Sturridge Comes to Rescue of Lame Wolves; Big Money Transfers Are Not the Only Route to Success, Writes GED Scott

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Byline: Ged Scott

When he landed Dean Sturridge for a knockdown pounds 375,000 two years ago, little did Wolverhampton Wanderers manager Dave Jones know that he was making the best value of all his 21 signings.

When Jones turns to Aston Villa fan Sturridge to kick-start Wolves' ailing season tomorrow, the striker is once again in a position to illustrate what great value for money he was.

Following a board meeting yesterday, Jones has been given the green light to strengthen his squad when the transfer window opens in 19 days' time.

'We discussed the January transfer window,' said Wolves' chief executive Jez Moxey. 'And we have now formulated a plan as to what we are going to try to do.'

Yet, in the likelihood that not even a last cash infusion from Sir Jack Hayward would be enough to buy the sort of quality striker Wolves need, Jones does still have the talismanic Sturridge up his sleeve.

In tomorrow's battle between the Premiership's two least potent attacks (both have managed just 11 goals in 15 starts), Sturridge provides the sort of fresh legs Jones needs to spice up his flagging forward line, and become a quick-fix answer to the Wolves boss's prayers.

Sure, Wolves have leaked goals this season. But, take out their five hammerings, and they have conceded just 13 goals in their other 11 Premiership games.

The real problem is that they can't score. Wolves' strikers have scored just four Premiership goals this season: two from Steffen Iversen; one for Henri Camara, who has failed to follow up that last-minute winner against Leicester; and one for today's injury absentee Nathan Blake, and that a gift from a tired Newcastle defence.

It sums up the predicament that Jones' top scorer is five-goal midfield inspiration Alex Rae, followed by fellow Scot Colin Cameron with three.

Last season's top scorer Kenny Miller, who has managed just one Carling Cup strike since returning from injury, admittedly did score twice for the reserves in midweek, to boost his claims for a recall on the second anniversary of his pounds 3 million arrival from Rangers.

But it is Sturridge, the man who cost Jones little more than a tenth of that, who looks set to get the nod.

Just 11 days ago, Sturridge was all set to go out on loan to West Bromwich Albion in search of match fitness after a run of injuries. But a late change of heart from Jones put Sturridge back in the first team squad. And, after looking sharp in coming off the bench to good effect against both Arsenal and Spurs, Jones is ready to go one step further by starting him at Villa.

'I've got a lot of food for thought,' agreed Jones. 'I wouldn't say there will be sweeping changes from last week as, although we lost, it wasn't as bad a performance as one might think from the outcome.

'Like so often this season, it's just a case of putting your chances away. But I might look at one or two things.'

Wolves last won at Villa Park 23 years ago. It was a 3-1 Monday night win, just five days before a slightly more celebrated Wolves victory, the 1-0 League Cup win over Forest at Wembley, ironically settled (to Peter Shilton's lasting embarrassment) by former Villa favourite Andy Gray.

It ought to help Wolves that they are up against a Villa side beaten even more heavily last weekend. …