Before I start, let me explain my current location. Irvine. Southern California. 30 degrees celsius. There’s a hot tub and a pool. There’s family and epic hospitality. And yet I would have given much to swap all of that for one evening back at Molineux to witness the events of Wednesday 11 April.
I’ve been fortunate enough to be able to keep track of pretty much all goings-on over the past couple of weeks of my holiday. Thankfully our family have also accommodated our need to engage with all things WV1 and have made arrangements accordingly and I can’t thank them enough for that. This is a historic season and it’s significance will no doubt become more apparent in the fullness of time, so to be away from the epicentre of the situation is a little saddening. Having my wife sitting next to me, kicking every ball and bemoaning every refereeing decision makes it all even more worthwhile.
Whilst in California, we’ve been busy rallying up some more troops and spreading the Word of the Wolf. See below.
The trials and tribulations of Middlesbrough, Hull and Cardiff have all been felt here on the West Coast of the US one way or another. It felt like we’d done our time and earned our corn for promotion in those three games alone. We were due a more classical Wolves performance and we got it. What we couldn’t have foreseen was how even this Wolves team managed to do something we’ve never seen before at Molineux.
Even the first goal was a piece of skill, the like of which we would not have been used to prior to this season. Willy Boly, with confidence, continually adds layers to his game. His latest trick is the defence-splitting ball over the top. Much could have gone wrong but thankfully Diogo Jota was the man receiving the ball and the two touches it took to finish were simply sublime. He almost froze Scott Carson on the spot with his first touch before nonchalantly lifting the ball over him. It set the tone for a genuinely routine victory. Wolves are near enough invincible when taking the lead, only dropping points on 3 occasions having gone 1-0 up. It kind of doesn’t matter who we’re playing in terms of the Championship. If we’re ahead, you have a hell of a job getting something out of the game. And so it proved, although it was bookended with a flourish.
The beauty of this Wolves team is that despite their immense talent, despite their continual pummelling of opposition and exceptional performances, being in the Championship means they go under the radar. And that means I get to tell the story of their talent to whoever fancies lending me their ear. This time it was my wife’s brother-in-law, a born and bred Yorkshireman whose footballing roots are back in Leeds. We’ve exchanged the odd bit of banter about our allegiances, but being halfway across the world this was the first chance we actually had to spend some time together. Whilst watching the Cardiff game I took the opportunity to introduce Ruben Neves to him. He duly won the game with a sumptuous free kick. Then Ruben Neves reintroduced himself to the entire world with something I could barely believe had happened in my own City.
We’ve all seen it. I don’t need to describe it to you. What I do need to offer is how profound an impact this man has had on our team. As Brother-in-Law Bill pointed out: “How on earth is this guy in the Championship?!” There may be some answers to that question and people have obviously questioned the validity of such a talent operating at this level, but I think there’s a wider context that legitimises everything about this move.
Neves had the same manager at his last club. He featured on a fleeting basis, in a league far less broadly competitive than the Championship. That had nothing to do with his ability level. Simply, the pathway was blocked by – in the coach’s eyes – a superior talent. It would be the easy option to sit at the club you love, on the bench, taking a generous wage, but what a waste? Neves’ is a talent to be appreciated. You can’t appreciate it from the bench. Wolverhampton Wanderers have given him the platform to do all the wonderful things we’ve seen him do all season long. That’s something to be cherished. More players should follow his example, along with the examples of Diogo Jota, Helder Costa and Ivan Cavaleiro.
So it’s all set up for the grandest of finales. I’ll probably be hovering somewhere above the North Atlantic Ocean somewhere at the time, but I trust you all shall soak in what’s to come on my behalf. Then we’ll really get the party started.