But Conor’s Molineux Lift-Off Was A Long Time Coming
No Wolves player for years has attracted more national exposure than Conor Coady in recent weeks – but it wasn’t always like this for the Liverpudlian.
I will always remember the 3-0 home victory over Huddersfield this month five years ago as the day I met the daughter of late former Wolves keeper John Oldfield at Molineux.
We also wrote in the following days about Walsall-born fan Shay Griffiths flying in from Norway and being present at the same game – his first match-day experience at the stadium for 44 long years.
What we didn’t go to print about was the forlorn figure standing near the visitors’ coach as it prepared to pull off into the evening.
This should have been a big afternoon for the Wolves no 16 – yes, he had that number right from the off. By way of a scene-setter, the match programme not only had his photo on the front but dedicated more than seven of its inside pages to him.
In a q&a with fans, he was asked how he celebrated his goals (honestly!), why he had left Huddersfield for Wolves, whether there was any lingering disappointment at not making it at his beloved Liverpool, even whether he preferred tea or coffee.
The big problem for him was that he wasn’t even named among the substitutes for the clash between his present and past clubs after serving a suspension for a sending-off against Brighton in the previous home game.
All of which reminds us that the increasingly-at-home England international and established Premier League defender didn’t always have it as good as he is having it now.
After being welcomed (along with Jed Wallace) by both chief executive Jez Moxey and manager Kenny Jackett in the programme for the pre-season friendly against Villa, the new signing was on the losing side six times in his first 11 competitive Wolves appearances.
The season as a whole was hardly a success for him or the club, either, with 39 outings in League and cups ending with an underwhelming 14th place in the Championship table, more than 30 points off automatic promotion.
And when he couldn’t find a way into Walter Zenga’s starting line-up for an utterly chaotic start to the Fosun era in the draw at Rotherham the following August, his star was still by no means high.
That 2016-17 campaign was another one of major Molineux letdown but at least Coady upped his game to play 45 times and even get on the score-sheet – against Crawley in the EFL Cup – for a team who trailed across the line in 15th place.
Then came Nuno Espirito Santo, a switch of roles and an entirely different story which, happily, is continuing to run and run.
Now, as well as being lauded as Wolves’ best captain in decades, he has scored for England, skippered England, earned huge acclaim from managers and pundits as an expert on-field organiser and generally performed brilliantly.
As if that’s not enough, he has been taken to the hearts of the nation for the enthusiastic way he plays the game and conducts his interviews, even making light of that ‘hand grenade’ of a question from Jamie Carragher the other night about him being a possible Liverpool signing in the future.
Those of us around Wolves knew it already and now the country has realised that this present-day Molineux hero is also an absolutely top bloke.