In a season full of euphoria and one which many have described as the best in living memory that has brought us many breathe taking moments. This topped it all. I feel I’m still feeling the effects of the emotional hangover from Friday evening. This delayed blog is evidence of that. Yes we were lucky; but I can’t recall many games this season where we’ve needed any divine intervention and with everything we’ve achieved this season maybe we deserved it.
So it was the eagerly awaited clash of the Championship big hitters. I don’t think I’ve ever been so excited to go to Wales. Well since that famous day in May of 2003. The journey there was almost as stressful as sitting through added time. Three and a half hours and copious units of alcohol later we made our way into the Welsh capital. Upon our arrival we were greeted with a very interesting team selection. Bonatini and Afobe have not looked comfortable when in the team together and it made me wonder if Nuno would change his game plan for such an important game. But we change for no one. We have our identity now and we stick to it. It’s worked all season and it worked for us again.
We started as well as I could have hoped for. I actually cheered a little when captain Coady went in strongly on Junior Hoilett as it showed we meant business and were up for the fight. We had control, with and without the ball and Neves and Jota had a couple of decent attempts at goal. From then on the game followed the script many would have predicted. Cardiff retreated and afforded us possession. We looked comfortable but struggled with any penetration in the final third.
Bonatini is a shadow of his former self and he struggled to impose himself on the game. It wasn’t a game that suited him. Cardiff defended deep and he couldn’t hold onto the ball when it came into him. He was a huge blessing in the first half of the season considering he was our only recognised striker and it shouldn’t be understated how he has contributed to our success. However, I do feel his time in the old gold is limited. Afobe has definitely been studying our system these past few months and he did as well as anyone could expect for someone playing out of position. His work rate was commendable and he held onto the ball a lot better than Jota and Leo. Cardiff were very disappointing and considering the run of form they were on. The fact they were 5 points in front of Fulham and had a game in hand. I expected a little more adventure in their play. But perhaps I was giving Colin a bit too much credit.
We started the second half in tremendous fashion also. Our favourite Brazilian almost sneaked the ball into the near post after rounding the keeper. That was the sign we were going to ramp things up. Even though it was Bonatini who had our best chance of the game up to that point, we were waiting with baited breathe to see Costa and Cav getting stripped off and unleashed on this robust defence. We did manage to get through the lines of the Cardiff defence on a couple of occasions and on the second time it was just in range for a certain Mr Neves. It was pretty much exactly the same place as his free kick against Brentford. But the importance and effect it had was 10 fold.
This beautiful man that we can call our own has exceeded all expectations at the beginning of the season and we actually got a lot more than we bargained for. For someone so young to go to a new country, a new culture, a new style of football and still control games as he does is phenomenal. It’s remarkable that he is the old gold but let’s enjoy it while we can. The scenes in the away end after the goal were something I haven’t witnessed for a very long time. Strangers kissing strangers. Grown men had tears in their eyes. It was something extraordinary and I feel so blessed to have been a part of it.
I could try and put into words the events of this last few minutes but I don’t feel I would do them justice. What I will tell you is that the emotion and celebration of the final whistle was even more immense than when Neves scored and to see our manager struggle to keep his emotions under control just like all of us fans just makes the bond even closer and the family even tighter.
I don’t usually like talking about other teams and events but it would be remiss to not give Colin the inches in blogs and papers he so craves. After a little time to reflect. I feel his act of petulance was very childish, lacked the class he accused our Nuno of not having and in my opinion was pre-rehearsed. I’ve analysed the events after the game on Friday and looking at Colin’s face; there’s a lot of anger there. A lot more than any sane person would have after someone didn’t shake their hand. I feel the pressure is getting to him and he’s feeling the heat of the promotion battle. He’s one of the most experienced managers in world football and I thought he would be a bit too long in the tooth to let these things affect him. But once again, clearly I have too much faith in him. His reaction was comical and only added to our enjoyment and celebrations.
I must give word to the stewards and police in Cardiff. They were some of the best I’ve seen and didn’t hinder or dampen any of our celebrations whatsoever. They must have been Swansea fans. We stayed for an hour after the game singing and dancing in the car park. Partying like it was 2003 again. Let’s keep this good feeling going for the rest of the season. Let’s celebrate our players and all they’ve achieved. Even the most pessimistic of Wolves fans would have to admit it is merely a procession now and we should do all we can to enjoy these 5 parties we have remaining. I’ve no doubt Nuno will keep our lads focussed and hopefully we can confirm our return to where we belong on Sunday against the bluenoses.