‘If we aren’t going all out for the FA Cup and we’re not ready for Europe and even mentioning relegation is negative, what are we playing for?’
Sometimes someone catches you with a question that leaves your feet planted on the pavement. People dash past you, the sun rises and sets and a million and one Twitter feuds start and end.
All the time you’re stood their slack jawed, slacked neck even, staring into the space wondering how to reply – you can’t.
It was my mate who asked me that. Walking home from work ahead of last Monday’s cup tie with Liverpool we did the same thing we always do – make our game predictions, convince ourselves why it’s a legitimate prophecy then completely change our mind when we see Conor Coady puff up his chest in the tunnel.
‘What are we playing for? Consolidation in the Premier League. A top 10 finish.’ I tell him.
‘Is that it?’ he replied.
‘Baby steps’ I warned.
He did have a point had we lost against Liverpool would our season have run the risk of reclining into some sort of post Sunday lunch doze? Would Nuno be able to keep the team motivated until May?
Motivation was Nuno’s strength in securing promotion in his debut year in England. Those Saturday-Wednesday-Saturday-Wednesday battles require a frame of mind for only the toughest – it’s no surprise a man-motivator like Neil Warnock was able to keep Cardiff’s mind focused on the job in hand with such a prize so close.
Nuno’s ability to motivate has seen him keep players such as John Ruddy, Ruben Vinagre and Leander Dendoncker up for the fight, despite watching most of the season from the sidelines. All three played a pivotal role in Monday’s win over Liverpool – but lets not get into a debate about ‘weakened sides’.
Wolves are 11 points away from reaching the magic 40 points total that effectively secures Premier League survival. However, with Newcastle in 15th on 18 points, its suspected 34 points would be enough to avoid relegation. You’d back Wolves to achieve that in the coming months and there is that danger that a ‘job done’ mentality could creep into the squad before the clocks go forward (or is it back? I never remember).
This would be an unusual position for Wolves. For the past 30-odds years we have either been vying for promotion or battling against relegation. ‘We never do it the easy way’ didn’t come from comfortable top half finishes, and yet that is what we are playing for, a level of comfort you’d add a filter to and share on Instagram.
Top 10 in our first season back in the big time would only serve to show Wolves’ ambitions go beyond that of any newly promoted club. In reality, between 7th and 17th there’s no success but pride. The financial benefits of course, but there’s no European competitions or likely new editions in the trophy cabinets.
There is however the vanity of a top 10 finish and this, I feel, should be the target for Wolves. To simply see over the summer – and in the build-up to 2019/2020 – that Wolves were among the best 10 in the land would serve to not only keep this wave of optimism around the club but also enhance our chances of attracting players to get us to the next level.
Top 10 is just a target. It’s not life or death, it’s not relegation or promotion, it’s a pin in the map of waters we believe we can explore. But let’s say that top 10 is well within reach with many games ahead, what’s ruling going beyond that?
One debate we saw ignited again this week (thanks to an Aston Villa social media manager with too much time on their hands) was who is the ‘Pride of the Midlands’.
Now with Wolves the only West Midlands side in the Premier League it’s a one-horse race for that title, however one target that may wrangle with us Wolves fans is our highest Premier League finish.
For us a lowly 15th place in the Premier League in 2009/10 remains our highest finish since 1980 and we’ve no reason to believe that can’t be achieved. But for ‘them down the road in Sandwell’ they finished 8th with 49 points during 2012/13, now there’s something to chase.
Would this be out of reach for Wolves? It’s a target for sure and again one which may just rustle the feathers of few throstles – and who doesn’t take pleasure from their misery!
**Beep, Beep** I’ve left a Whatsapp conversation un-muted. It’s my mate, ‘Shrewsbury or Stoke? We’re 14/1 to lift the cup’.
How could I forget? The FA Cup. I get back to my point earlier, it has been habitual for Wolves to battle promotion or relegation for the best part of 40 years surely this season is a rare time where we have a clear path to put full focus into a cup competition.
If we take a club like Newcastle (who last won a major trophy in 1955) their fans look back at the times they prioritised a faltering league campaign over a run in a cup competition with anger. Now with the Magpies fighting to remain in the league, cup runs make for a distraction and it’s another year that great club goes without silverware.
With three Premier League clubs already out of the competition and a minimum of three others going out in the next round (due to all-league ties) then why can’t Wolves lift the prize? Wolves are ranked 6th favourites for the cup, the five above them all have European competitions to navigate.
If beating Spurs didn’t give Wolves a flavour of success of how good winning at Wembley feels, allow yourself to imagine the place with 40,000 in old gold and black belting out ‘Nuno had a dream’.
I’ve got goosebumps just thinking about that. We can do can’t we? Where’s Coady puffing out his chest in the tunnel when I need him?!
Ah f**k it we’re 14/1, I’m wacking a tenner on us!
Cry Wolf is sponsored by A3 Barbers in Chapel Ash, Wolverhampton. You can book online here and save the hassle of waiting: www.a3barbers.co.uk