Away days. There really is nothing like them.
Being a Wolves fan is a serious commitment, especially during a Championship season, when it feels like games are coming at you from all angles. Thus, getting to away games can be a challenge when factoring in life’s other travails. The ones that I do manage to get to are that extra bit special though.
This one was never going to be a difficult game to enjoy. We’re up. We need one point to claim the title. We have in our way a team built on a shoestring, hampered by a transfer embargo, fighting for their lives and a team we’d already scored five against earlier in the season. Throw in the near 5,000 fans and you’ve got an Epic Away Day Starter Kit.
As Punjabis we pride ourselves on hospitality, in basically every walk of life. An accommodating nature is exactly that – it’s natural. Wolverhampton is our home and we embrace those who have embraced us. As long as Punjabi Wolves are in existence they can be held up as a shining example of pure British Asian-ness, a marriage of culture, passion and just pure love for life. It’s a packet of masala-flavoured pork scratchings, a pint of real ale with a shot of home-brewed desi in there and the greatest example of all of these fusions, a Chicken Balti pie.
It helps, of course, that we have a truly excellent football team. Even without two cornerstones of our success in Ryan Bennett and Ivan Cavaleiro, Wolves made light work of another Championship outfit. That’s nine goals against ‘The One and Only Wanderers’ this season. It’s 4 wins in a row without conceding a goal. Since the Villa defeat it’s seven wins and one dtaw from eight games. We know how to take care of business.
We also know how to play up to the atmosphere. It would have been so easy to take our foot off the gas and hold out for a point, but Nuno and his men wanted to finish with a flourish. One man in particular set about ensuring we had a good day – Benik Afobe. This was the first time I’ve seen Afobe look entirely assimilated with Wolves 2.0 since he returned to the club. Here we played to his strengths, whilst he served the team to the best of his ability. And how about that first touch for his goal? On his weaker side, with the ball coming over his shoulder – if it had been a Liverpool player we’d have been the subjected to the footage on a daily basis until Armageddon.
Helder Costa was a constant thorn in Bolton’s side, almost resembling a speed skater with a ball at his feet at times. What this game will always be remembered for though, is Conor Coady getting his ‘Claude Makelele Moment’. It would be pushing it to say he’s been underappreciated. Wolves fans know what he gives us. Hell, he got my vote for Player of the Season. There was almost something more appropriate about the fact Coady was the only regular starter who hadn’t got his name on the scoresheet this season. He was the gatekeeper, the man who turns the lights off when everyone else goes home. His was not the limelight and he rarely courted it, hardly crossing the halfway line all season and in recent weeks registering his two assists of the season. But this was the team and fans showing Conor how much we appreciate him and nobody will ever be more delighted to score a goal in a Wolves shirt. An adopted Wulfrunian he has become.
At which point the day was beginning to rise to a crescendo, to be played out just outside the stadium. You’ll have seen all the videos and photos on social media no doubt, but for a period of time that little corner of Bolton was claimed by Wulfrunians. Indy and his dhol conducted us like an orchestra. We exhausted this season’s songbook about 10 times over across the day.
Perhaps it’s a bit poignant that this blog is coming out on St. George’s Day. Rightfully, be proud to be English. But we live in a society where this identity has been hijacked by intolerance and those seeking to divide. We’re in a pre-Brexit landscape and Wolverhampton as a city was actually at the core of the population that wanted out of Europe. Whether the root of these opinions was founded in a desire to clear the country of immigrants is a debate for another day, but if you were to witness the events of Saturday 21 April at The Macron Stadium, then you’d wonder how on earth these people were from the same city that was so pro-Brexit.
Immigration has moulded and shaped the City of Wolverhampton and for it to have manifested itself in Punjabi Wolves is a testament to all of its citizens. All it took was a coach, a driver called Nuno, some strange golden jelly shots, a dhol drum, some samosas and one incredible football team.