Wolverhampton Wanderers 2017 – Part II – Cometh Nuno

Wolves Fans

To say it has been a year of contrast for us Wolves fans is a one hell of an understatement as we’ve gone from Paul ‘Did I tell you I played in Germany’ Lambert to Nuno Espirito Santo, Nouha Dicko to Diogo Jota and Dave Edwards to Ruben Neves to name just three changes which shows you how much has changed at Molineux in twelve months. In part of two of four, we will be looking at the second quarter of 2017 where we see our season fizzle out, Paul Lambert is finally got rid of and King Nuno enters the fray.

April

The penultimate month of the season saw us play EIGHT games, so that meant there were 24 points to play for, meaning that the playoffs could still happen. I mean it wasn’t likely, but if you can’t dream, then what can you do? Yes, I know it was all doom and gloom in March, well the first bit anyway, but that’s what being a Wolves fan is all about, it’s a rollercoaster ride. Please keep your arms and legs inside the vehicle at all times. Our first game of a busy month saw us reignite an old rivalry with Cardiff and Colin Wanker (which is an anagram for Neil Warnock for those that don’t know). There’s a real hatred in the air when we play Cardiff and it was one of the games that my old man wouldn’t take me to when I was a kid that I could never understand because it isn’t a local derby, but after you’ve travelled to Cardiff, you get it.

Skipper, Danny Batth, capitalised on some poor defending from the Bluebirds to head home inside ten minutes to keep our charge for the playoffs well and truly on, but then, the rollercoaster was in full force again as Zohore equalised just three minutes later after Andy Lonergan got caught in no man’s land. The thing with Lonergan that annoyed me the most is that he was robbing a living, he has Quavers for hands and has the intelligence of a rocking horse yet somehow, Lambert thought he was our first choice keeper, well done, again, Paul.

For some reason unknown to anyone, Danny Batth, who is a centre-half, got his second of the game and third of the season with another header as we had finally found a team that was worse than us at defending set pieces and it couldn’t happen to a nice bloke than Warnock. 2-1 at halftime. Cardiff had their chances in the second half to draw level and the pick of the bunch fell to their sub Craig Noone who hit the post when he really should have done better but they had their chance and missed it; after that it was the Costa show who scored a sublime individual goal where he made the Cardiff defence look like schoolkids. 3-1 and 16 points off the playoffs, surely not?

Our playoff hopes, that were never really there anyway, were dealt a humongous blow before our next game against Forest as Costa got injured during the warm-up. There’s not really much to expand on with that, Costa being injured means we’re bang in trouble, it was just fortunate that we had a good run in March. A second home game in three days gave us the opportunity to make it five league wins in a row and even without Costa, we managed to take advantage of Mark Warburton’s side wastefulness; their version of Costa, I suppose you could say, Assombalonga, nearly broke the deadlock early on but he was prevented by Lonergan and in the second half it was much the same with Forest piling on the pressure as we looked to have a lack of creativity without Costa.

The key moment in the second half was surreal, to say the least; Coady cleared off the line and 12 seconds later we were 1-0 up as Weimann put Dicko in a position where he couldn’t miss which gave him his first match-winner in the Championship in nearly two years. Forest had a lot more of the ball, but we made our chances count and it could have easily of been more than one-nil but by the same token, Forest could have won as well, so it was testament to the good work of the players, not Lambert, that we came away with the three points. Fifteen points off the playoffs with seven games left…

A trip to Ashton Gate beckoned for our playoff push, but we were going to be up against a Bristol City side who were fighting for their life, so it was never going to be easy. Well, it turned out it was easy. Not for us, though. This was a Bristol City side that lost 5-0 the same night we beat Forest so the smart money would have been on an away win, especially considering our decent run of form. Come halftime, Bristol City had hit the bar, scored twice and they should have been a lot further in front in what was a throwback to our February performances.

The only positive from a piss poor game in Bristol was that Morgan Gibbs-White got his first start but that was about that and within the first five minutes of the second half, Tammy Abraham scored his second of the game to take his total to over 20 for the season. At that point, every Wolves fan and his dog are questioning why we never went after him and there’s not really an answer that you can give which satisfies anyone, do you know what I mean? Our scouting network picked up Bodvarsson who is not a goalscorer and missed out on Abraham, ah well. Funnily enough, Bodvarsson did score a late consolation to make it 3-1 but we were never likely to make a comeback.

Even I was beginning to doubt our playoff credentials now as we needed to win every game and hope that the teams above us didn’t win any to stand a chance of finishing in the top six, maybe next year. Premier League-bound Brighton were the next visitors to the Black Country and there was still no sign of Helder Costa, so the conspiracy theories were well and truly in full flow as people were convinced he was going to be leaving us in the summer and he wasn’t playing to prevent himself from getting injured. I’ll be honest, I started to believe them after I read enough of them.

Anthony Knockaert was the difference between the two sides as his brace ensured that Brighton stayed stop of the Championship and left the gap between them and Newcastle at four points. Lonergan was up to his old tricks again as Brighton only had two shots on target and they both went in, reflecting back on it, I think we would have been better off playing with no keeper at times. His first, on the stroke of halftime, was a real sucker punch as you’d like to think that if we had gone into the changing rooms at the break at 0-0, then maybe Lambert could have delivered some rousing words to get the lads going. Hahaha, maybe not. He’s got the personality of a doorknob. Knockaert got his second with eight minutes left meaning that with five games left our (my) playoff dreams had finally been dashed.

Our Championship status was confirmed after our next game at long last! We went to Elland Road knowing that we weren’t really in danger anymore, but it’s always a much nicer feeling when it’s mathematically impossible to go down and plus if we got three points against Leeds, it would mean that we would mess up their playoff hopes as well and then everyone is happy, aren’t they, because let’s face it, nobody likes Leeds.

We started the game surprisingly well and clear-cut opportunities came our way early on, but in a team that was still missing Helder Costa, we failed to take them. Weimann should have done better with a one-on-one, Edwards forced another save from the Leeds keeper and then Dicko hit one wide when similar to Weimann, he should have done much better. However, moments later, Dicko made amends for his miss moments later as he gave us a deserved lead at Leeds with still seven minutes left in the first half. For some reason, which again, makes me question how Lambert was ever allowed to be a football manager, he decided to sit back and allow Leeds to attack us in the second half, which despite the game being eight months ago, I still have no idea why he would do that. We’ve got nothing at all to play for and he’s inviting Leeds to attack us. The fact that we beat them is irrelevant, although, it was a great feeling to dent Leeds playoff hopes, couldn’t happen to a nicer club.

On the back of our impressive win at Leeds, relegation-threatened Blackburn travelled to Molineux where there was quite a weird atmosphere in the air because the team that Blackburn were closest to was Birmingham and in case you’re not familiar with Wolves, we don’t like a lot of clubs but we reserve a special amount of hatred for those Bluenoses down the road. So, everyone in the ground wanted Blackburn to win because it would put Birmingham in the relegation zone and with the form they were showing, they would struggle to get back out of it, regardless of their game in hand.

Truth be told, it was a poor game. It was played out like your typical end of season game where neither team had anything to play for, despite Blackburn desperately needing the three points; we fell back into our old ways as we only had one shot on target and that came in second-half stoppage time. I’d like to say that we only had one shot on target because we were busy trying to gift Blackburn chances, but that simply wasn’t the case. Whilst they shaded a tad more of the possession with 51%, they only had two shots on target throughout the ninety minutes and you can only think, had it not been for our rich vein of form in March, we could have been down there with them.

As it went, it finished 0-0 and that would do no good for their hopes of staying up and our hopes of being a massive part of relegating Birmingham and in hindsight, our inability to beat their ten men at Molineux would prove more costly than we could have ever imagined at the time. We were in a bit of the season that no one particularly enjoys now as it was dead rubber after dead rubber for us and next on the fixture list was Huddersfield who couldn’t quite make automatic promotion, but they knew that a win at Molineux would guarantee a playoff with two games to spare. It was also our last game at home under the lights so you’d like to think that Lambert would put on a good show, right? Wrong.

A bit of good news as Lonergan suffered an injury in the warm-up meaning that he couldn’t play so I was relatively optimistic that maybe we would have a chance against a Huddersfield side who love a 1-0 win. Just after the half-hour mark saw ex-shit (Albion) player Izzy Brown put Huddersfield one-nil up with a curling effort outside the box which should have never of been allowed to happen, but we love not closing players down. Sometimes I think our players do it just for a laugh. Weimann troubled Danny Ward in the Huddersfield goal after the break and he did very well to keep out his effort and then Edwards dallied on the ball for a second too late and ended up hitting the post from the rebound.

After that it was chance, after chance, after chance for the ‘Terriers’ as they looked to add to their slender lead and believe me, we tried our best to hand them opportunities on a platter but they couldn’t convert any more than the Izzy Brown goal in the first half which in the end guaranteed their playoff position and made Paul Lambert even more of a hate figure in the stands. At this point I had my Paul Lambert voodoo doll set on fire, needles sticking out of it and all sorts, yet somehow, he still kept turning up every week. Bastard.

Our last game of the month and penultimate of the season saw us travel to Pride Park or the I-Pro or whatever its called nowadays and we decided to play in all gold which everyone can agree, looks dazzling. I might get married in the all gold kit, we’ll see how that goes down, mind. When the fixtures come out at the start of the season, you always look for the last away game of the season and hope it has got the potential for a good knees up and Derby is ok, it doesn’t set the pulses racing, but there are a few tidy boozers knocking about.

David Nugent put Derby up as we had yet again decided not to bother defending and that was inside the opening fifteen minutes, didn’t exactly bode well, did it? They kept up their rate of scoring every fifteen minutes as Bradley Johnson ghosted into the penalty area completely unattended and put it past Harry Burgoyne who didn’t have a chance, in fairness to him; the rate it was going, it would finish 6-0. Four minutes after the ‘Rams’ doubled their lead, Cavaleiro decided he had enough for the season as he dropped the nut on a Derby player and was given his marching orders. Wasn’t really an excuse for it, he must’ve been fed up with taking orders from Lambert and who can blame him?

Out of nowhere, Dicko did extremely well to keep hold of the ball as he drove into the area and he pulled the ball back to Ben Marshall who struck it into the top of the net, literally as the tannoy was telling the crowd there was going to be one minute of added time. Maybe there was hope after all. Then, I remembered who was in the dugout and woke up; Derby made their man advantage man count, although it wouldn’t have made much difference, as in similar circumstances to the second goal, Bryson ghosted in unmarked and put it past the helpless Burgoyne.

April had finished with a whimper and there was already talk that Lambert would be gotten rid of regardless of the result against Preston on the final day and I started to believe there was a God once more. April Position: 15th | Points from playoffs: 22 | Points from relegation zone: 7 | Overall points: 55.

May

Thankfully, in the month of May, we only had to suffer for one more game. I’m going to keep this short and sweet, much like a chocolate dwarf because I want to get what Lambert said after the game which just shows how much of a clown that bloke is. We won the game 1-0 with a goal in the first minute after a wicked delivery from Jordan Graham, who was making his first start in what seemed to be an eternity, was headed home by Danny Batth and after that, we could have scored more but Dicko was still a little bit rusty, nevertheless, it is always nice to finish the season with a win. To show how much of a shit season it had been, no one even went on the pitch at the end of the game which is a rarity in itself because we love a good pitch invasion and to indicate in another way how bad it was, there was barely anybody left when it came to the lap of honour, what they were honouring though, is anybody’s guess.

“I have been successful on a lot of fronts – as a player I was successful in Europe, I played in two European finals, I played in the World Cup and I won the biggest honour in club football (the Champions League with Borussia Dortmund), so I know what success is. I want the club to have success and to have a fighting chance that you have something to play for towards the end of the season. If we can get the consistency levels and get some lads in to help the current group then this could be an unbelievable club. If we can get that help then this club has a great chance and the work starts now to make this club the best it can be.” – He said that after our last game of the season which was a campaign, where, let’s be honest, we were lucky not to get relegated, so why Paul, you disillusioned sack of shit, would we want to know about your successes after we have just watched several months of your pish?

It’s no surprise that since he got sacked, which we will come to shortly, that he hasn’t had another job because he is useless. There are no two ways about it. The season finished on Sunday the 7th of May and a week had been and gone and Lambert was still in charge, my voodoo doll was mutilated terribly now, yet somehow, he still had his job, but, I had faith in Fosun to do the right thing, after all, why on earth would they want to keep someone of Lambert’s quality when they were initially targeting Julen Lopetegui who turned down the Spain job but because the purchase of the club took too long, he ended up taking the Spanish job, leaving us with back-up choice, Walter Zenga. Lambert couldn’t coach the Spanish under nines, let alone get anywhere near the full team so I knew that Jeff Shi would sort it.

After another week had gone by, it was pretty much common knowledge that Lambert was going to be got rid of, however, the one thing that was still not a certainty by any stretch of the imagination, was, who will be taking over from Lambert. One thing was for sure, it couldn’t get any worse, unless of course the unthinkable happened and Dean Saunders or Glenn Hoddle were reappointed, but surely something like that wouldn’t be happening at our great club. Well, you wouldn’t have thought so, but I then got a text saying that Roy Hodgson was rumoured for the job, if that had come off then i think I would have made a voodoo doll of myself.

The 30th of May was the day Wolves fans around the country had been waiting for as Lambert was finally got rid of after a ‘season review’ which I presume went something along the lines of “You’re shit Lambert, pack your bags” and that was the end of that chapter. There were also rumblings that Lambert and Jorge Mendes didn’t see eye to eye in terms of transfer targets and the Wolves board had sided with Mendes, but without trying to be funny, one of them brought in Helder Costa and the other brought in Ben Marshall, so there’s only really one winner there.

The last day of May was a momentous occasion and one that will hopefully go down as one of our most important days ever, in the history of Wolverhampton Wanderers Football Club as Nuno was unveiled as our new head coach on a three-year deal and he would bring with him a whole host of backroom staff. This was a management team that was managing in the Champions League in the 16/17 season taking over Wolves, it was like a dream, I needed waking up. When it was announced, I debated setting a flare off in the office, but I couldn’t be doing with that aggro again, it simply wasn’t worth it.

We also made our first signing of the summer, which had a lot of people, myself included, scratching their head as we signed Ryan Bennett on a free transfer from Norwich. One of the reasons why it was considered bizarre was that it was Lambert who took him to Carrow Road in the first place, but now, knowing what we know, Nuno’s signings all had a purpose. So, it took until the last but one day of the month, but finally Lambert was out of my club, only seven months too late. May Position: 15th | Points from playoffs: 22 | Points from relegation zone: 7 | Overall points: 58.

June

June is the shortest of the month when it comes to the yearly review, simply because it’s the month where not a lot happens. There was a bit of activity on the transfer front with players arriving and departing and the fixtures also come out, but that aside, not a great deal to tell you about, so we’ll take a brief look at the transfers.

The second player that joined the Nuno revolution was also another defender as you can imagine Nuno and his backroom team took one look over some of our shambolic defending from the season before and decided that it needs to change. Roderick Miranda arrived from Rio Ave for a fee reported to be around £2,500,000 and he was a player that Nuno had worked with before when he was in charge of the Portuguese club. So, so far, that was two centre-halves signed with the transfer committee still naturally establishing their main targets, after all, it was only June.

A week later, Phil Ofosu-Ayeh, who I am not sure is actually a real player considering I still haven’t seen him play, arrived from Eintracht Braunschweig on a free, it is thought that he is a right wing back with pace to burn. The only downside is that it does seem that he is made of glass, which is obviously a hazard when you’re a professional footballer. Two players signed in a week, I could get used to this.

A day after Ofosu-Ayeh joined, the fixtures were released and we were dealt a tough start as we would face two of the three relegated sides in our opening three games which sandwiched a trip to Derby where we had lost 3-1 on our final away day under Lambert. I was still counting my blessings he was gone, in all honesty. The season would climax with an away match with Sunderland which has got what everybody is looking for in a final game, a cracking city to have a cracking piss-up and if we have the league sewn up by then as well, it will be party time on Wearside.

We didn’t sign anyone else in the month of June but the departures did begin as Jed Wallace and George Saville both left to go to Millwall and Paul Gladon who is up there with one of the worst strikers to play at Molineux in the last few years went back to Heracles on loan. Not sure why he went on loan, he’s got no chance of playing for us ever again.

The rumour mill was in full flow as we entered July and you’ll have to read the next part of the review to find out how all the signings played out. I tell you what, I am looking forward to writing about it so much because the months of July and August were ones of such ecstasy, it was unreal. September wasn’t too bad, either.

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