It was Diwali/Bandi Chhor Divas this week. Two important festivals to Sikhs and Hindus. This called for a trip to my local Sikh Gurdwara.
Having left the hall to have some food, I saw something i certainly didn’t expect to. I saw Nuno. I even tapped my brother on the shoulder to confirm. Now Nuno has taken on a position of messiah-nic proportions but to see him at my local Sikh temple would have been a real turn up for the (holy) books.
It turns out it was just a serious doppelgänger but I feel there’s actually some relevance to the whole Nuno-Diwali thing. As people will know Diwali is the Hindu festival of light. We’ve been through some pretty dark times of late down the Mol – I’m talking Saville-Evans-Edwards kinda dark times – but this season so far has been a 13 game festival of light.
Bandi Chhor Divas is the Sikh celebration that coincides with Diwali which marks the release of 52 Hindu Kings along with Guru Hargobind Ji, the 6th Sikh Guru. The shackles have well and truly come off with the arrival of Fosun.
Central to all of this though is Nuno. He of the permanent exam revision wisdom beard. A few strokes of that has taken us to the top of the Championship for the first time since 2009. We’re there to be shot at. Which leads me nicely on to Preston.
Alex Neil looks like he’s had a tough life doesn’t he? He has the dour Scot persona down to a tee, along with a gnarled expression which was exhibited nicely by the XI he put on to the field. For the first 30 minutes they were much the better side but as soon as Wolves showed an inkling of hitting their straps they were all over us like a rash. You certainly saw how Preston have claimed the most fouls and most bookings titles in the league this season.
They deserved a few more to add to their booking total too. On a serious note, the standard of officiating in the Championship on the whole leaves a lot to be desired. The lack of control this particular referee had over the match led to the game descending into chaos in the latter part of the game. Referees need to realise that their decisions have massive consequences to the rhythm of a match and this was never more evident than on Saturday.
Despite this we actually went 3-0 up. How? I think back to that game and all I remember is Preston harassing the hell out of us to the point where even Jota’s performance was suppressed. Jordan Hugill in particular demonstrated all the finesse of a caged bear and to see our very own Leo Bonatini caressing the ball around meant there is no feeling of ‘the one that got away’ despite his goal.
What I saw on Saturday though was lessons learned. This team is evolving. It’s developing extra arms and legs. This particular limb was a grizzly behemoth with cuts, bruises and no shortage of hair compared to it’s sleek and smooth neighbours of Dominant Possession and Devastating Counterattack. But it can still grab you by throat and strangle you until you admit defeat. Despite the way Preston tried to escape our chokehold we did not loosen our grip. They punched, they kicked and flailed but one of those flailing arms landed on their own nose with the red card of Alan Browne. Justice if you can call it that. The irony of Alex Neil bemoaning the referees at the end left a bitter taste in the mouth.
Another aspect of the Preston game that we perhaps haven’t seen from this side was the togetherness when things kicked off after the red card. I think I’m right in saying every player threw themselves in to back up their teammates. I loved that and that togetherness will stand us in good stead as the season progresses.
Alas, we emerged victorious and remain conquerors of the Championship thus far and it feels apt that conquerors will meet on Tuesday at the Etihad. After the Villa game on Channel 5 Sport’s Twitter I said I’d take this team in it’s current state and fancy us to stay up in the Premier League. It will be intriguing to see how we get on against such illustrious opponents who are sweeping all before them. Any team put out in the image of Pep Guardiola will be Premier League standard outfit and it would be a feather in the cap of Nuno if we put on a good show. To just be at this stage of the competition is enough for us but there’s a real sense that we can put on a good show at th Etihad.
Thanks for that Nuno. See you on Tuesday.