And so it arrived. The dreaded month of November. They told us all about it. No wins since 2013. I remember the worst of it. The days of Sagbo and Graham. Our over-reliance on Nouha Dicko was laid bare (just think about that sentence in the context of today). His injury was covered by a pair of carthorses who epitomised the darkest days of Kenny Jackett’s reign. There was a 4-0 away defeat to Brentford, a 5-0 away loss to Derby and a 3-0 loss at home to Forest. In hindsight that November in 2014 was a blessing in disguise. It kept us from getting into the play offs on goal difference. Afobe, Sako and Dicko were resurgent and who knows how those play-offs would have ended up? But less of the ifs, buts and maybes. This isn’t the ‘Dreaded Month of November’ anymore. How quickly we put that myth to bed. It’s Nev-ember. It’s Nu-November.
Fulham at home. One of the highlights of a drab previous season. You get the impression that a 4-4 scoreline would be an absolute offence to Nuno and his philosophy. Control. It’s safe to say anybody involved in a 4-4 game has no idea what they’re doing. The lack of control exhibited from both sides was Championship football in microcosm though and we took it to our hearts at the time. We had fight and spirit and we done all the intangibles. We had hard work and determination but what did we not have? Control. That, above all else, is what Nuno craves.
It’s safe to say there was a sense of awe when Fulham last came to Molineux. Pretty sure they brought fans and players all on the same coach by the way. But Fulham have to be the best footballing team I’ve seen in between both 18 yard boxes. If the game didn’t have goals they’d probably win some stuff. What, I don’t know, but round of applause all the same. They came again with their pretty football and patterns of play but they lacked something. Something that Nuno’s troops have. A killer instinct and purpose that drips off the Wolves team but bemused each and every Fulham player.
At the heart of all that was good about Fulham sat Kevin McDonald. This is an interesting point of reference for us Wolves fans. Down in League One after the dark days of Saunders, the phoenix from the ashes that was Kenny Jackett’s side was built around the talents of McDonald. Take yourself back to those days and evoke memories of KMac. He was a breath of fresh air, unlike anything we’d seen at Molineux before. He had the ball off the defence, he passed it and probed and we were hailing a new era of football at The Golden Palace. He had vibrant forwards ahead of him and a solid defence behind. He was the lynchpin. Sound familiar? That leads me nicely on to my next point – Ruben Neves.
A lot has been said about Neves. He’s the poster boy of the Fosun era. He’s our new lynchpin. McDonald may have been wearing an armband last night but he hasn’t got the leadership qualities of his 20 year-old opposition in midfield. Yesterday showed why Ruben Neves was made the youngest captain in Champions League history. At least 5 times I must have said ‘that was Neves’ best game so far this season.’ Yesterday he showed different elements to his game though. I haven’t seen him work as furiously hard as last night. What’s more amazing is that with the ability he has at his disposal he should be the most arrogant footballer on the field. Yet he plays with a humility that belies that talent. Like a peacock he fanned bis tail when in possession of the ball, all elaborate touches and expansive passing, before swiftly reverting to type and diligently putting in the yards to get the job done. Neves ensured control in a different way. He set the tone for ensuring Fulham were consistently hurried in their passing, channelling them into non threatening zones.
Fulham, to our benefit seemed panicky when they were confronted with the prospect of losing the ball. They were hyperactive in moving the ball around but decidedly sluggish around the 18 yard box to create opportunities. Fine by me, said Nuno. Keeping a team of Fulham’s class at arm’s length speaks volumes of the genuine aura at Wolves. We’re Premier League class in all but name, Teams were happy to proclaim Newcastle as an elite Championship team last season. What did they do at Molineux? Shut up shop and hope for a scrappy set piece goal for victory. And that was against a Lambert team. Not Nuno’s Wolves. This team confronts every challenge head on, wrapping it’s tentacles around the opposition and suffocating them into admitting defeat. Nobody suffocated as much as Willy Boly last night. Apparently he was struggling with a hamstring injury, but the composure and class of the man gave no indication of a struggle. At one point the Fulham winger began to run at Boly, looked up and saw his imposing frame in front of him and promptly gave up his fruitless endeavour. What’s so magnificent is that he plays football like a midfielder at the same time. What a signing.
The irony of this win was the method of the goals. Barry Douglas’ wicked deliveries are another string to the bow. We haven’t had as cultured a left foot stood over set pieces since Bakary Sako departed. When delivery is that good it doesn’t matter how physical or tall the opposition is – you simply can’t defend great crosses. A great asset to have.
Going to Molineux is a family affair for me. Beyond the thousands and thousands of brothers and sisters sat alongside us all in the stands, I’ve been attending matches with my twin brother, mum, dad, grandfather, uncles, cousins and recently my wife and her family have been brought along to enjoy the ride. My married life has certainly coincided with an upturn in fortunes for Wolves. There is nothing better than indulging in a Wolves feast of football, spending time with the family and chowing down on a load of jerk chicken and chips post-match, washed down with a couple of pints of ale. The Wolves family is a close-knit one. We live the journey and it can dictate the enjoyment of life on a daily basis. But we love it – we wouldn’t let it be any other way. And we have Nuno to thank for the smiles on our faces this evening.
Enjoy the international break people. Back to work at Reading.