End Of A Glorious Era
Moving On – With Head Held Very High
So it’s adeus this weekend to those exaggerated fist pumps on the Molineux pitch in celebration of victories.
Adeus to those group huddles in front of the technical area whenever Wolves score.
And, most important of all, adeus to the exhilaration of watching Wolves rebuild, grow and prosper over the last four years. It has been quite a ride.
It’s easy to overlook the fact now that Wolves had just finished 15th in the Championship – the small matter of 23 points behind fifth-placed Huddersfield – when Nuno Espirito Santo was installed early in the summer of 2017.
Since then, the club have won the Championship by nine points, settled into the Premier League by finishing seventh, reached an FA Cup semi-final, defied the difficulties of playing 17 Europa League matches by achieving another seventh-placed finish and kept their heads well above water just below half-way this time. Not too shoddy a record, is it?
Okay, 2020-21 has been difficult and often a hard watch but there have been mitigating factors. The almost total absence of fans has made this a unique campaign – and one in which Wolves seemed to have been nursing a sizeable hangover from their extraordinary workload of last season.
They might still have muddled through and been closing in more entertainingly now towards a place in the top ten. But there have been other hardships.
Among considerable loss of form, the sale of star performers Diogo Jota and Matt Doherty and some management decision-making that even Nuno might admit hasn’t been of the highest clarity, the long-term absence of Raul Jimenez, Jonny Otto, Pedro Neto and others has chopped the legs from under a small squad.
Being deprived of the Mexican’s goals has seriously destabilised a squad who seemed to be drawing only upward curves on the graph.
Take away that ability to get ahead when the going is tight and games become much more difficult and progress more laboured. Even this misfiring Wolves side would have looked much better had they managed to secure another few half-time leads.
On the point of injuries, will we now ever learn whether Nuno and his staff had a magic formula with conditioning and training in the previous three years? Did they warm down, recover and prepare the players magnificently or did they get lucky? Whatever the real story, this season has certainly been in stark contrast to what went before.
He should leave with the warmest wishes and gratitude of everyone with Wolves’ best interests at heart – and what a pity there can’t be a full house to wave him off at the game against Manchester United on Sunday.
All that passing, all that patience, all that possession, all those points and all that progress……there has to be sadness at a decision we are told has been reached by mutual agreement.
Not even Stan Cullis left Wolves while they were sitting as high up the top flight as this but all good things come to an end; everything runs its course.
Four years is a substantial stretch by today’s standards and the club will have to move on purposefully and wisely without him. For those of us who hate the phrase ‘he has taken us as far as he could’, it’s more a case now of longing to see that they build on what, quite simply, have been their best achievements for well over 40 years.
And we have a big, bearded, genial former goalkeeper from São Tomé and Principe to thank for that.
*Nuno will just miss out on a personal milestone. Sunday’s game will be his 199th in the League or cups with Wolves and he has a healthy win-loss record to go with it.