I’m walking back from the shop wearing my retro Sherpa Van Trophy Wolves shirt and a kid in a thick Dublin accent shouts at me,
‘Ey mate, Wolves are in the Premier League now aren’t they?’ I give him a thumbs up and tell him ‘we sure are’.
‘Weeeeey, it took you long enough’ I couldn’t help but laugh at the boldness.
I’ve walked up at down my street parading the old gold numerous times, even returning home one night draped in a Wolves flag, no-one took a blind bit of notice. I half suspect most thought I was wearing some GAA jersey from a corner of Ireland I’d struggle to pronounce – either way, they know now.
In Dublin, my new home, most fans of ‘soccer’ (forgive me Bully for I have sinned) follow Man United, Liverpool, Celtic or Arsenal. Outside of the Premier League, football doesn’t really get a look in. Cardiff v Wolves just about got a viewing on a city centre pub TV but the most dramatic of endings to a football match involving my team was set to the backdrop of a DJ shouting out the numbers to a bingo night – not the first time I’ve celebrated a goal with two fat ladies.
That night, I left the pub strolled down O’Connell Street to catch my bus, welling up thinking how we were on the brink of promotion. I dodged hen-dos and hen-don’ts and packs of Brazilian tourists and sat at my bus stop still rattling from the adrenaline of Junior Hoillet’s miss. It wasn’t the first time I’d sat drained with emotion while wearing a Wolves shirt and it won’t be the last but ultimately other than me and a select few Irish Wolves fans I’d had the fortune of watching the game with, no-one gave a s**t.
Fast forward weeks later and Neal Maupay’s late header against Fulham sends me sprinting through the Royal London to leap into the arms of my fellow Wolves fans, slow motion Hollywood romantic movie kind of stuff. The place erupted and the tears were back.
That weekend there was a buzz about Wolverhampton that hasn’t been around since 2003 (not even in 2009). A pack mentality, a crackle in the air, the look in each Wulfrunian’s eye of ‘going up ay we’. ‘Wack The Liquidator on again barman and keep the beer coming, Sagres all round’.
It’s difficult to explain that electricity to people outside of the city and even more complex to explain the apathy that plagues Wolverhampton. We’ve always punched above our weight, we’re smack centre in the middle of the country, we’re underfunded, consistently overlooked for investment and the less I say about those running the council the better.
The only thing that generates emotion in our city is our football club. It’s the one thing we feel we got right and is the very life blood of Wolverhampton.
If Manchester United went out of business, would the city of Manchester seize to exist? No. If the same fate fell on Liverpool, Aston Villa, Leeds United or Forest, would those cities be on their knees? Not a chance.
Now ask yourself the question about Wolverhampton. If you woke up tomorrow and there was no Wolves how does the city cope? To put it another way would I be remiss to say there’s no Wolverhampton without Wolverhampton Wanderers? I argue few more cities rely on their football club the way we do.
Those scenes prior to Sheffield Wednesday were just the start, the one image of the coach emerging along Waterloo Road through the smoke bombs and crowds is a picture that will in time be become iconic. It was an image that told the club the fans are ready, it was an image that told the Premier League we are ready.
But perhaps if ever the players and owners needed a reminder of the potential the club and city has it was those scenes at the parade.
We all knew it was going to be something special, not since 2003 had we seen anything like it and yet while the objective was achieved both times, what made Monday’s celebrations so different? For me 2003 was relief at ending almost 20 years outside of the top flight yet this promotion goes beyond ‘can we stay up?’ There’s a very real feeling that Wolves can be a force again. Let’s get this straight 100,000 greeted our champions, 100,000! To put it into context Wolverhampton has a population of 250,000.
You could see it on the faces of Barry Douglas, Will Norris, Ivan Cavaleiro and Helder Costa. A look of ‘what have we just done here?’ they were sailing on a sea of old gold and black.
I was watching this all unfold hundreds of miles away, glued to social media, grinning like a Conor Coady, it was biblical, would the Pope get a reception if he was paraded down Waterloo Road.
I’m looking at the wonder kid from Porto, the finest midfielder I’ve seen in a Wolves shirt, Ruben Neves, belting out his chant in the middle of Queen Square to his adorning public. This doesn’t happen in Wolverhampton, this is special.
I’m looking at Nuno, leading sing songs like a father off camping with the kids. We’ve finally a manager with the passion and excitement that we have for our club. Again this doesn’t happen in Wolverhampton, this is special.
Among all this will be Fosun looking on, perhaps fist bumping each other on the sly, they would have seen the numbers and the potential to have Wolves competing at the top table of English football, now before their eyes they’ve seen this club doesn’t just unlock the imagination of a fanbase, it unlocks the imagination of a city.
A city which lives, breathes and bleeds Wolves. Now let us dream.