John McGinlay. I must confess to never having seen him play and not knowing too much about him other than the fact he played for our opponents this weekend, The Other Wanderers. And yet, I found myself boiling with rage at the sound of his name. The McGinlay story is a well worn one and a path us Wolves fans have trodden many times – the feeling of being hard done by. Whether it be a refereeing decision, a poor performance or a punch in the face, the bemoaning of luck is a defining characteristic for many of us.
I play Sunday League and referees are generally overweight or over the age of 60. You also have the added challenge of confronting non-neutral linesman who take giving the attacker the benefit of the doubt on the offside rule as a cardinal sin. As you can imagine, the bemoaning of decisions is a 90 minute sport of its own. It usually leads to the call to be so good that these factors are simply irrelevant. That is the current Wolves.
‘Super John’ could go on a mental punching spree against this team, but he’d punch himself out and allow us to get the final knockout blow. We are so good that even ‘Super John’ couldn’t bring us down. The Other Wanderers fans could be heard murmuring his name up in the Gods but they were swiftly quietened down with a swish of Barry Douglas’ left boot.
Once again, we opened the scoring with a set piece goal, another string to the stringiest bow in the Championship. Teams can sit back and try to frustrate us but with Douglas’ Devilish Deliveries (TM) – if ever Barry wanted to start a courier service post-retirement – there is always a route to goal. He actually laid two on a plate for Big Willy, but he only took receipt of the one. This increased the amount of risk Bolton had to play with and we duly punished them.
The game often had the feel of an exhibition of our talents, a platform to show all the good things about Wolves this season. From the solid structure and dynamism of the team’s shape, to the intricacies of passing movements. The odd thing was we didn’t get out of second gear and still managed to hit 5 goals. I vividly remember our last 5-1 victory at home, against Nottingham Forest. It was the days of Kightly and Jarvis, of SEB and Iwelumo and we were rampant. The difference with this week’s effort was that the players were visibly on top form. The current contingent look as if they have gears to move into.
Witness the nonchalance with which Ruben Neves sets Diogo Jota on the way to setting up Leo Bonatini for his goal. He caresses the ball into the channel with the outside of his foot, coaxing the goalkeeper from his area, the ball whispering to him ‘come and get me’ while remaining entirely elusive and decidedly Jota’s. See how Cavaleiro pretty much telegraphs exactly where his penalty is going to go, but the keeper’s dive remains futile. For his second Cavaleiro lazily turns inside his man before lashing the ball into the top corner. The Bolton players made the game look like such hard work, while many of our boys may as well have strolled around in a night gown and carpet slippers. We have become too good for other factors to influence our results. There can be no questioning of our success, despite the ramblings of The Other Wanderers’ pre-match blogs or otherwise.
A word on Cavaleiro, who has to be the stand-out player in the league over the past month. Last season he looked like an expensive ornament in a badly decorated room. The walls were a bland shade of magnolia and there sat Cavaleiro, looking entirely out of place. His surroundings are much more befitting of a player of his class now however and he has carved out a spot in the corner of the room where he can shine, comfortable in his own skin and valued. Even in a team of Jotas. Costas and Bonatinis he can be our most devastating attacking talent, as Bolton found out this weekend.
In keeping with the nature of the game, the 5th goal was amazing in its simplicity and utter will to create a chance and score. Like a switch had been flicked, John Ruddy decided he wanted another goal and promptly released Jota to cap off the performance. It was a lovely moment and the togetherness shown in the celebration was heartwarming to see.
Amazingly it’s taken me this long to mention the return of Karl Henry to Molineux – see, we can do it Wolves fans! My only memory of him during the game was when Henry met Helder. Costa greeted Henry with a nutmeg and our Karl responded with a typically robust challenge which was met with a yellow card. Some things never change. Henry was the last Wolves Captain to lead us to promotion from this level. He’s got his place in the history of this great club. But his Wolves career will dwindle into the background compared to some of the current incumbents. Our No. 8 now is one of the most prized 20-year-olds in Europe. The thought gives me goosebumps.
And so ends the footballing month of November. The minimal fuss with which we have dealt with the supposed curse is frightening. We’ve gone from no wins to a 100% record. The South Bank may only have been speculating that Nuno enjoyed the second half with a pint in hand, but he could definitely afford himself one. This isn’t pint football though. This is Champagne Football. This is a bottle of Dom Perignon with a side of caviar. We genuinely did not get out of second gear this weekend. The prospect of what is to come is mouthwatering.
Next up, Small Heath…