Imagine life without football. How many genuinely euphoric moments do you ever get to experience? Over the course of say, an 80+ year lifespan, there are actually aren’t that many. Your wedding day, the birth of your children, passing exams, getting jobs – if you are that way inclined of course. But what is life for if you can’t evoke these kind of feelings on a more regular basis?
Football, eh? People might sneer at it’s gargantuan, capitalistic manner in this modern era but nothing in life will ever give you these emotions like successes such as this. Bottle those feelings up and sell them because you’ll be a millionaire, my son.
This game was built up to a frenzy like none I’ve experienced, other than perhaps the Play-Off final. That feeling of being part of something mammoth, a common goal amongst thousands across our region, uniting people who may never otherwise see reason to be affiliated with each other. Where else are those hugs with random strangers ever seen? Nay, I am doing you all a disservice by calling you random and strangers. This is a brother and sisterhood. Following this club has a familial feel to it. There’s a bloke that sits in my office at work who I have no reason to be acquainted with in any way, other than the fact he is a Wolves fan. The next time I walk into the office we will share a smile and enjoy the fact our team is something to be proud of.
This isn’t just the fact we are entering a semi-final of a competition we haven’t won since 1960. As is the way with Cup competitions, luck can lead you a long way. In reaching this stage we’ve disposed of Liverpool and Manchester United, the two standard-bearers when it comes to footballing success in this country. United especially in the modern era are the flagship club of this country. Any United team is a force to be reckoned with and we not only beat them, but we served them back to themselves on a plate. They were eviscerated by a second half spell of football that was the match of anything any team in the country has produced this season.
What struck me most about this game was just how we managed to answer every question United asked of us emphatically and essentially came out of this looking the better side. It had shades of the league fixture earlier in the season about it but we took the lead and scored the goals at the important times. I can talk about the performance till the cows come home but this was all about the raw emotion that was evoked by the scoring of each goal. I can’t recall hearing the sound that Molineux made last night at any point over the hundreds of games I’ve witnessed at the fabled place. Maybe it was the ADS (All Day Session) that everyone had seemingly embarked upon that drew this high-pitched, almost child-like shriek of excitement when Raul Jimenez swivelled and guided the ball into the net, or when Diogo Jota drove his footballing knife through the heart of the United defence, but it was a moment. These are heady times and it’s important to not lose sight of just how far we have come, just how difficult it is to actually get to the stage we’re at as a football club.
Clubs spend years and years just treading water at this level and yet here we are, at the first time of asking at the top level, muscling our way to a Cup semi-final. We’ve waited 21 years to right the wrongs of that day and maybe this is our chance now. Rest assured, Nuno won’t leave us with any regrets whatever the outcome.
The difference between then and now is that we’re absolutely, definitively amongst the best quality aides in the land. Jimenez, Jota, Ruben Neves, Jonny, Matt Doherty, Romain Saiss, Leander Dendoncker – all fully-fledged internationals with experience and quality in the key moments of international competition. No Steve Claridge or Robbie Slater amongst our ranks now. We’re strong from top to bottom, even if we do have a thin squad. But there is one individual who stands alone in the quality stakes.
This is a man I couldn’t take my eyes off all night, a man who wakes up each and every day and takes responsibility with every single breath in his body, who gives the team what it needs with every touch of a football, deserves praised above all.
Joao Moutinho, was stood over the ball about to take a corner in front of the South Bank and for a moment time stood still for me. Here he was, looking as regal as ever, his kingdom the football pitch and ruling it with authority. I don’t know why nobody ever seemed to take the plunge to sign him earlier in his career. I’m bloody glad they didn’t though because we wouldn’t have been able to witness the kind of glorious he’s serving up week after week. He is the best Wolves player I’ve ever seen and he will take some beating. To play against Manchester United and have the best player on the pitch within our ranks is a ‘pinch me’ kind of feeling. But that is what he was last night. Our Joao – a player fit to don any shirt in world football, but he’s our Joao. I know for sure who I’d suggest was the £89 million midfielder on the pitch last night and he wasn’t wearing red.
And so thoughts turn to Wembley. For what it’s worth, playing semi-finals at the stadium isn’t necessarily something I’m on board with. No doubt when I’m stood amongst a 30.000+ Old Gold throng stretching across half of the stand then it will change my mind about that. I still remember our day in the Millenium Stadium, being awestruck by the sheer vastness of colour that we covered half of the stadium with. I’ll never forget that day and I’m sure, whatever the result, this next date in the diary will live long in the memory. There is much to be decided and our chances of victory outright in this competition may hinge on the luck of the draw. But these guys are making history with every swing of their majestic boots. This is just the beginning, a watermark for where we set our standards going forward.
They say to be the best you have to beat the best so whoever we face up at Wembley, bring it on.