Celebratory Scenes That Conjure Up Some More Distant Memories
THE NEW: Never before can there have been an orchestrated mass welcome at a home match like there was for Nuno’s team of champions this afternoon. Thousands lined Waterloo Road to greet the squad, who have become used to using a local hotel for pre-match preparation and then being brought in even for home games on the team coach. The letting-off of flares outside was another extraordinary sight and made for some stirring photos and footage around the Billy Wright Stand statue, although the practice is something the authorities presumably will no doubt keep an eye on.
THE NOT SO NEW: The guard of honour staged by Sheffield Wednesday’s players as Wolves’ team emerged from the tunnel was a throw-back to past decades. Manchester United’s side sportingly welcomed Stan Cullis’s men on to the Old Trafford pitch in similar fashion at the end of 1957-58 and Leicester’s line-up did likewise at Molineux when the title was retained the following year.
THE LOVE: Would fans from the 1950s or even the 1970s ever have envisaged what affection there now is in these parts for a club under Chinese ownership, with a Portuguese head coach and with a smattering of star players signed from Iberia and elsewhere on the Continent? The team who won the League Cup under Bill McGarry contained nine Englishmen, Scot Frank Munro and Ulsterman Derek Dougan. South African Eddie Stuart stood out among those in the glory years as a foreign voice in a dressing room dominated by Britons, with his countrymen Des Horne and Cliff Durandt contributing later in a smaller way.
THE SIMILARITY: Another set of South Yorkshire opponents proved durable opponents amid the celebrations in 2009. Then, Doncaster resisted for three-quarters of the game before being beaten by a Richard Stearman header when, like this time, the final home fixture was played two weekends after the winning of promotion.
THE PRESENTATION: Well done to the fans for staying off the pitch at the end of the draw with Wednesday and allowing the on-field presentation of the League Championship trophy to take place fairly quickly. Club officials had allowed seven minutes for the building of the platform on which the ceremony was carried out and hoped they wouldn’t have to delay that process because of the sort of invasions we saw, for example, in 2009 and 2014. Way back when, the silverware was presented to Billy Wright up in the Waterloo Road Stand.
THE NOVELTY: Uppermost in this section has to be the South Bank belting out a flag-waving rendition of Sweet Caroline while they waited for the re-emergence of the triumphant players. Ok, all other parts of the ground joined in but the Sir Jack Hayward Stand typically led the way. Hi Ho Silver Lining, Rockin’ All Over The World and Those Were The Days also went down well in the participation stakes.
THE LEAD FROM THE TOP: Nuno’s winding-up of the South Bank went down a storm. So, too, in both 1988 and 1989 did Graham Turner’s uncharacteristic ascent of some steps in the old Waterloo Road Stand so he could address the masses on the street below in unforgettable, animated terms. Not sure Cullis and Chung ever did that…..
THE STATISTICAL SIGNIFICANCE: Now promotion and the title have been won in great comfort, it is all about reaching 100 points. If Wolves win at Sunderland next weekend in their final game, they will finish the season with 102.
THE BOTTOM LINE: Wolves have scored more goals in 2017-18 than any other Championship club (89) and conceded fewer (36). They are the worthiest of champions.
THE NEVER-ENDING CELEBRATIONS: Wolves fans lapped it up when Brentford’s late equaliser at Fulham ensured their side were going up. The following afternoon, they savoured the home win over Birmingham, then came the title-clinching rout at Bolton. Yesterday was a magical occasion, if not a memorable contest, and there will be a fitting send-off at Sunderland in eight’ days time for those lucky enough to have tickets. Not a good time for clear heads.
THE OPEN-TOP BUS TOUR: May 7 is the day for the good people of Wolverhampton and well beyond to let their hair down once more. There will be shades of the late 1980s, when Turner’s squad twice went round the streets of the town as champions in the lower divisions. And the townspeople enjoyed similar scenes, of course, after the Cup-winning successes of 1949, 1960, 1974 and 1980, when a slow drive along the packed shopping area gave supporters the chance to show just how imaginative they could be in choosing a vantage point.
THE PREDICTION: This Wolves squad are good enough to finish in the middle third of next season’s Premier League, probably somewhere from eighth and 12th. If the summer recruitment is as good as last year, who knows where the ceiling is?