It’s a funny old game, isn’t it? Going into the game we were 1/3 to win against second-bottom Sunderland. Now, Sunderland supporters are known for their loyalty and they brought a sizeable following to Molineux considering they’ve had nothing to shout about in, well, forever really. Chris Coleman made the questionable decision to leave his post as Wales manager to take the job at the Stadium of the Light, so he must have been convinced around the project and must believe that they can get out the mess that they’re in at the minute. Either that or he was that pissed off that they ballsed up qualifying for the World Cup and wanted another stab at club football. God only knows why he chose Sunderland, if he had left it a little bit longer he would have had a selection of jobs to take his pick from, ah well, he’s made his bed now, let’s just hope he finds it comfortable.
In case you’ve been living under a rock for the past week, the UK has been covered in snow which as usual, caused chaos all over the place. It was weird in Wolves as it would be snowing in one area of the city and yet ten minutes down the road, it would be bright blue sky, global warming my arse. It’s times like this when it makes me glad that I moved out of the UK as whilst there was a white blanket across WV1, I had to make do with thirty-degree sunshine. It’s a hard life.
There were rumblings that the game might have been called off due to the adverse weather, but Wolves issued a statement early on Saturday saying the game was going ahead and if it changed, they would let everyone know in due course. That’s all well and good but Wolves fans come from all over the country to get to Molineux on match day and then when you consider how far Sunderland fans have to travel as well, you’d of wanted a definitive answer, not one which leaves it open to doubt and speculation, in the end, the show did go on. I’d rather it didn’t have if I’m honest because we were poor.
Before I go into that, I just need to get something off my chest as it still really winds me up to this day. Similar situation to the Sunderland game, but it was rain, not snow that was the issue. It was back in 2003, it was our first season back in the top flight for nearly 20 years and Liverpool were the visitors to Molineux; my old man and I were sat in the Wanderer (RIP) which was next to the South Bank entrance before they knocked it down and it was a crisp winter’s afternoon, the sun was shining and the birds were singing but then it got to about 130pm and they decided to call it off. I can’t exactly remember how we got there, but we ended up getting into the ground and we had the secretary of the club showing us the state of the pitch. There was barely anything wrong with and it stunk to high hell of Gerard Houllier using his influence to get it called off because they had a shed load of injuries. Then again, it wouldn’t surprise me if our old chief executive Jez Moxey was involved and they agreed not to play it because it wouldn’t get that much attention without the likes of Gerrard and Owen playing. Moxey was that way inclined. That’s a story for another day and also the end of my conspiracy theories, for now.
Back on point now; the game kicked off with us attacking the North Bank as normal in the first half and it began as you would expect, we were keeping the ball whilst Sunderland held a relatively deep line. There has been a lot said along the lines that our ‘foreign imports’ wouldn’t be able to cope with the cold weather, so I think as a massive two fingers to everyone, Neves & co were all in short sleeves without gloves. If you haven’t had chance to watch Neves yet, please do. I know we paid over fifteen million for him and I am acutely aware that he should not be playing in the Championship, but, my word, he is unbelievable.
I’m typing this off memory and I’ve slept since the game finished so I may be wrong with a couple of points, but on the whole, it’ll be there or thereabouts. The game was not even five minutes old when Neves flicked it over someone’s head in the middle of the park and then laid the ball off to one of our front three. Was that a sign of things to come? Yes, but only for Neves. The Portuguese maestro misplaced the ball once in the first half I think, but guess who won the ball back? The man himself. He’s imperious, elegant and every other adjective within the English language, I could probably just write about him. In fact, I think I will at some point in the future. For now, we’ll carry on with the game.
One of the things that I couldn’t understand is the amount of room our midfield pairing of Saiss and Neves were afforded as its common knowledge that if you stop Neves, you normally stop Wolves but Coleman had other ideas. Evidently, his methods worked as well, which is probably why he’s the manager and I’m not. You’ll notice I haven’t really said much about what happened in the first half and that’s because not a lot did. We had a number of balls flashed across the face of Ruiter’s goal but our final ball was off by the finest margin and the best chance fell to Bonatini on the stroke of half time when Cavaleiro pulled it back, but instead of taking a touch, he wildly blazed high and wide of the Dutchman’s goal, which meant despite all the possession it was goalless at half time.
After the break it was more of the same, our defence would pick the ball up, pass it to Saiss who would, in turn, give it to the mercurial Neves who would look for the defence-splitting pass to set one of the front three free, or even one of the wing backs who let’s face it, weren’t having to do any defending. We’d get so far and then hit a wall of Sunderland players as we were having the same problem as the first half. It was attack versus defence and defence were comfortably winning.
One thing that had made me curious was the whereabouts of Lee Cattermole because I saw his name on the teamsheet but then didn’t see him at all in the first half, it was like he stopped in the changing room. Then there was a crunching tackle and a yellow card. Found him. I’m a big fan of Lee Cattermole, he’s a horrible little bastard on the pitch and you can’t doubt his commitment, however, you can always rely on him to get a booking after a late tackle or ten. He outdid himself this time around as he managed to get two bookings in the space of a minute as he tried to chop Jota in half and Sunderland were reduced to ten men. You couldn’t argue with either of the bookings and off he went for an early bath, however, ex-Man United player Darron Gibson, who resembled someone who was on day release, found a way to argue with it. Then our left back, Douglas, clattered their winger as they had rare activity in our half and Gibson was off on one again.
Douglas deservedly got a yellow card for his troubles and he was withdrawn ten minutes after for Helder Costa as Nuno decided it was time to chuck the kitchen sink at Sunderland as well. Credit where credit is due, Sunderland defended brilliantly. We were restricted to shots from outside the box and Neves forgot what sport he was playing as he continuously hit row Z; he scored a belter at Hull, but I think every one of his shots went wayward against Sunderland.
It got to about the 85th minute and the Sunderland keeper finally had to make a save, but it was more of a pass back as he collected it with ease. Minutes after, he had to make a proper save as Cavaleiro tried to beat him, it was a save for the cameras, but it was a decent save, all the same. And that was pretty much that. We were effectively playing a 2-0-8 yet we still couldn’t break Sunderland down as Coleman got exactly what he came for and fair play to him, maybe he won’t do so bad at Sunderland after all.
So there you have it. Sunderland were the first team to stop us from scoring at Molineux this season and Nuno commented on the Wolves fans after the game saying that they need to back the team the whole way. I’m not doing a direct quote, but it was basically that and he has hit the nail on the head. There is an air of expectation around Wolves now after our start to the season and rightly so because we are superb, but when there are moans and groans because Bennett plays backwards instead of forwards, people need to look at themselves in the mirror.
We are on the verge of something amazing but the players need the backing no matter what. I’m a big believer that the fans should inspire the players, not the other way round, so when there is an eerie silence for large parts of the game, it doesn’t help.
Next up, we travel to Hillsborough to face a Sheffield Wednesday side who are in a poor run of form. Normally when that’s the case we’ll fall short and give the opposing gaffer a lifeline, but this time around we have Nuno in charge and if I was a betting man and luckily I am, I’d be backing us to win @ 11/10 on Friday night.