I used to like Ian Holloway. He was funny. He managed to compare Cristiano Ronaldo to a hamster. That always goes down well in my book. But then his mate became the sacrificial lamb for the Fosun revolution and he launched Operation Wolf Hunt in every one of his appearances in the media. So screw you Ian Holloway.
Holloway is as Championship as you get in real terms. He once created an entertaining team at Blackpool – built massively around the mercurial talents of Charlie Adam – but when he has managed elsewhere his teams haven’t set the pulses racing. But he’s a part of the make-up of Mr Championship.
Mr Championship. He’s a grizzly, well-seasoned old fellow. He’s got Neil Warnock’s continuously pained expression, on Steve Bruce’s big fat head, and Holloway’s bald head. When he speaks he whines. Think Lee Johnson moaning about kicking the ball back to his team. Mr Championship gave us a clip round the ear this weekend.
You see, we’re not playing Championship football anymore. And he doesn’t like that. Previously Wolves sides have always been very much Championship teams. When we got promoted we just did it better. And when we were relegated we were very much worse. But the characteristics were all there. Hard working midfielders. Defenders who couldn’t trap a bag of cement, but they could head one. Strikers that enjoyed nothing more than backing into defenders. It was second-ball football. Capitalising on the POMO – position of maximum opportunity. But Nuno had the gall to rip up the Championship textbook and introduce the Continental style that we have become so accustomed to.
But Mr Championship will have his day. He needs to be there to remind us all of his presence. That we’re in his town and he runs things here. Nuno threw the gauntlet down to Mr Championship though. He dropped the Chicken Foot into the middle of the throng. But Nuno took a blow this weekend. From time-to-time that will happen. A defeat in the Championship is as inevitable as death itself. As fans we’re big and ugly enough to cope with that. We’ve certainly seen enough disappointment in our time.
But things are different now. Even when we’re below par we’re creating chances. Witness the way Bonatini and Jota dovetailed for both the goal and Bonatini’s chance. There are still ideas there. A spark, a swerve and a feint that means we will always create chances. A stroke of genius that befuddles old man Championship.
Compare that to last season folks and Lambert-ball. Our ‘pressing game’ where we’d almost give the ball away deliberately in the final third in order to hunt and harry, led by General Dave and Lieutenant Jon Dadi. It was a Max and Paddy’s ‘Road to Nowhere’ kind of football. We picked up a couple of pigs on the way but we ran over a cow and the pigs just ended up crapping all over the caravan. ‘How duuuur you!’ bellows Mr Championship. He’s too savvy for that. Meat and drink for him and we got our just rewards for being so ordinary.
But in the words of Nuno ‘our ideas must be stronger than theirs’. In this case I’m sure they were. QPR just Championshipped the hell out of us with that that ridiculous first goal and the arrival of Big Matt Smith TM. But rest assured, we’re still on track. We may have lost this battle but we will not lose this war.
Norwich brings another challenge. A more sophisticated one no doubt and one that may require a new take on Nuno’s ideas with some new faces too perhaps. We have the squad, we have the style and most importantly we have the leadership to overwhelm Mr Championship.
Roll on Tuesday.