Christmas and New Year is a wonderful time of year, especially for us football fans. Game after game, a whirlwind of goals, action (and VAR of course) bookends the annum in the most festive way. What it doesn’t allow is ample opportunity for those of us looking to pen our thoughts on the action before us, to get anything out with any kind of timeliness! So if you’re expecting a run-down of my thoughts and feelings regarding the Man City and Liverpool games, you’ll just have head over to my Twitter page – apologies!
What is called for now I feel is a moment of reflection, the kind of which we have had plenty of over the last two and a half years, a period of growth unparalleled in the club’s history. Older viewers than me will recall the motoring through the divisions with Steve Bull in his pomp but the peaks at which we reside now weren’t visible through the glass ceiling we appeared to have above us.
We end 2019 in 7th place in the Premier League, with 30 points collected, level with Tottenham Hotspur, one behind Manchester United and a lingering feeling of injustice in spite of all this, it’s safe to say we can hail this calendar year as a good 12 months’ work. It’s genuinely difficult to think of a more upwardly mobile football club across the whole of the planet almost.
We can all recall the highlights:
- Dispatching Liverpool in the third round of the FA Cup
- A Wolves hat-trick in a thrilling 4-3 win over Leicester City, provided by Diogo Jota
- A never-to-be-forgotten Molineux night in the FA Cup versus Manchester United, a victory utterly deserved
- A further 2-1 victory in the league against United, who now haven’t beaten us in their last four attempts
- A run to the semi-finals of the FA Cup, culminating in a first visit to Wembley since 1988, no matter how sour the experience was
- Beating Arsenal, the last of the so-called ‘Big Six’ to fall to the hands of the Wanderers, in another utterly dominant display
- A seventh-placed finish and the promise of European football, for the first time in nearly 40 years
- Victory in the Premier League Asia Trophy, a tournament we would never have even contemplated featuring in a couple of years ago
- Victories over teams from Northern Ireland, Armenia, Italy, Slovakia and Turkey on the way to qualifying for the knockout stages of the Europa League
- The infamous trip to Braga, a highlight if only for the fact 6,000 Wolves fans made it to the fixture
- A double over arguably the greatest Premier League side in history, managed by the man who produced the greatest club side in history
It’s quite the run down of achievements, but rather than the bare facts of our current standing, perhaps it’s more about the feeling around the club right now.
Perhaps it’s the fact we aren’t simply ‘raising our games’ for the toughest challenges anymore, but there’s an overall sense of belonging in these games. Going toe-to-toe with a team who hold the record for points recorded in a Premier League season and against a team who have only dropped two points all season shows how far we’ve come more than any league position will tell you. Leicester may have won the league in 2015, but the following season behaved in the same way – unwelcome, undeserved, underdog. It may be the way to win once, but it’s entirely unsustainable.
It’s the fact no matter what kind of challenge we seem to face, there’s always a solution. This hasn’t always been the case – don’t forget in the same calendar year I’m regaling over, there were defeats to Huddersfield, a hammering by Chelsea at home and a deeply disappointing loss to Watford in that FA Cup semi final. A couple if the ghosts have been exorcised though, especially in the way we’ve since shown our superiority over the likes of Watford, Norwich and others.
But more than anything it’s the aspirations we hold now. If 2020 follows the trajectory of 2018, we’re looking at deep progression in Europe, further progress in the League and perhaps even the sound of that coveted theme tune at the beginning of the 20/21 season. All of what we currently have was a pipe dream no more than 2 years ago. You only have to listen to the latest podcast from Wolves Fancast on our Team of the Decade and many of those featured in our best team couldn’t have dreamed of the heights the club has reached.
The best could be to come. A January transfer window where Wolves look ready to add to a starting XI which already features Raul Jimenez, Joao Moutinho and Adama Traore, three of the best players on the planet on current form. We have Willy Boly due to return early in the New Year. It might not sound right but getting carried away with all of this is what it is all about. Football is nothing if not a vehicle for hope, a vehicle for feeling things you don’t tend to experience in your every day life.
Wolves is that experience for us all, and it shows no signs of ending soon.
Happy New Year everyone – the best is yet to come.