There was something so graceful about Ivan Cavaleiro’s gallop towards the South Bank on Saturday eve.
Opening up his stride like a bloke chasing the last train to Wolverhampton from New Street, Ivan had the freedom of Molineux to give Asmir Begovic the eyes and roll the ball home. Job done. 2-0 Wolves – a third straight victory for our Old Gold and Black heroes.
To think a few weeks ago we felt like a club in crisis. To think some fans (and I emphasise some) were beginning to spout ‘Nuno out’. Look, don’t get me wrong, if you lose five out of six games questions do have to be asked but if there’s one thing the last three games have shown us under that beard of Nuno is a tough chin and one that hadn’t truly been tested until the past couple of months.
As Wolves fans go 18 months into a job for people to flap and glance at the price of bedsheets and spray paint isn’t bad going. But since Nuno strutted into Compton we have been blessed with arguably the most competent manager to take the reins at Molineux in generations.
What was so pleasing about Saturday’s result was not only the resolve of our defence but the potency of our attack to have Bournemouth panicked each time a pass was misplaced – Raul Jimenez’s goal a perfect example of this.
‘You’ll be s**t in the winter’ critics claimed. It was somewhat ironic that a team led by an Englishman and boasting so many English players looked the most uncomfortable in typical British December weather. Amid Storm Deirdre it was our own Mexican Jimenez causing the most damage. The Hidalgo-native looking at ease in freezing Black Country temperatures – his home town averages 24C this time of year to put it into perspective.
That attitude has defined Nuno’s time with Wolves. Belief in the team and their ability regardless of what the elements or circumstances are throw at them. The defining characteristic of our title-winning team was each time Wolves were met with a set-back we’d dust ourselves down and go again. With such resolve it was no surprise fans came into the Premier League with such confidence. Nuno had helped restore that belief which was supplemented with security that finances from Fosun were forthcoming.
We took our slap from Watford and understandably expected to bounce back against Brighton – after all it was our forte last season. Defeat at the Amex and all of a sudden Spurs are in town, another loss – there’s a hook to the temple. Then it’s Arsenal, we should have won that – a counter straight that glanced the glove. Surely Huddersfield will see us back on track or maybe Cardiff. No, it was defeat after defeat, a one-two and hook to the body. Now people were questioning Nuno, what answers does he have? The Wolf-like swagger of our club now had a slight limp and that expectation was weighing heaving around our necks.
THWACK! How’s that chin Nuno? He’s not on the ropes but the legs have stiffened.
But with that limp and added burden of pressure we continued our path. Forward. We believed in our course. Chelsea next – f**k!
One nil to them and the eyes glance down, not up nor forward. Still we stick to our plan, Jimenez 1-1, Jota makes it two. Victory against Chelsea our tails are up now. Newcastle in the last minute, ‘Matt Doherty, you beauty’ there’s life in this wolf don’t worry. Bournemouth, 2-0. ‘How’s my chin?’ says Nuno ‘doubt me now.’
It was important that Wolves’ resolve was tested. There will be far higher pressurised games in the future and you learn much more in defeat than in victory. Those losses against Watford, Huddersfield and Cardiff served to not only test Nuno’s ability to adapt but also manage the expectation of fans whose ego had been bloated from 18 months of compliments from opposition fans and pundits.
It’s not a criticism, it’s natural. I’ve always said it, if people thought Man City fans were insufferable after hitting the jackpot just wait until Wolves taste success. I’ve seen nothing to change my mind about this. But those defeats just brought us back down to Earth. Gary Neville had spoken earlier in the season he found it unusual for a newly promoted side to get frustrated their team wasn’t going for the throat of Tottenham. He’s right. Tottenham have done their rounds in the Premier League,
Huddersfield was the wake-up call and it made victories against fellow mid-table sides like Newcastle and Bournemouth sweeter as the lessons learned could be seen.
Now onto Jurgen Klopp’s Liverpool. The media darling, the man who is enjoying his own love-in with his fans. Friday night, under the lights of Molineux, days before Christmas two in-form teams going head-to-head – this is what being back in the Premier League is about.
Liverpool are yet to face defeat this season. Let’s see how their chin is!