Pressure On Board Following Parting Of Ways
Where next for Wolverhampton Wanderers? Replacing the man who did most to achieve successive finishes of first, seventh, seventh and 13th will be no easy task.
Most clubs seek a new manager or head coach because the ways of the previous incumbent have become flawed or outdated. So that often comes with a change of direction.
No-one is suggesting now, though, that the script for the last four years needs tearing up and rewriting. Nuno’s Wolves, despite the backward steps taken before and after huge pressure from supporters at large and the game’s governing bodies quickly shot down the notion of a European super league, have thrilled us all.
More of the same over the next four seasons would suit us very nicely. No-one with Wolves’ best interests at heart would mind another trip to a major cup semi-final and a lengthy European run, problematic though that latter sort of adventure can be.
With a 48 per cent win ratio in his four years in charge, Nuno has set the standard for others to follow. There can be no higher praise for him than to be told that he has given supporters their dizziest days in four and a half decades back to the Bill McGarry era.
The football betting odds never fail to keep us updated with the likely front-runners and it is easy to assume here that British applicants need not apply.
Iberia has to be the favoured hunting ground and all eyes will be on Molineux in the search for clues, with little time to lose.
Behind the scenes, there is ambition in abundance. Fosun have designs on recreating the days when Wolves were truly dominant in the game, namely the 1950s, so they need to get this appointment spot-on.
but, as much as the club owners may be tempted to go for a man with the same purist beliefs in patient possession football, they may find their thoughts being slightly swayed by events of 2020-21.
Ruben Neves, the golden boy of the title-winning Championship season that rang in the Nuno and Portuguese era in such style, is at something of a crossroads in his career. Can he kick on and become the superstar we hoped he would or has he found a level that makes him appear less cut out to be the natural long-term play-maker?
How much Wolves’ next head coach or manager could plan to build around him would be a key factor in playing style, especially now we have witnessed a significant drop-off in contribution, too, from the wonderful Joao Moutinho, who turns 35 early next season.
It could therefore be that a more direct style is adopted in the short term at least, depending on the incoming personnel.
Several others have come up short compared with previous seasons and some, inevitably, will be seen as Nuno men who his replacement does not hold in the same high regard.
So we are talking about a possible overhaul of the squad to offset any fears that the slide over the second half of this term could lead to problems at the wrong end of the Premier League table next spring.
Fosun have put themselves under pressure with a decision that we are now led by reliable sources to believe may not have been quite as mutual as initially indicated.
The high regard in which the club owners are held by supporters will demand that investment is both substantial and well-directed. Even with Raul Jimenez back at the start of 2021-22 and Pedro Neto presumably some time after that, the slump of this season suggests more than just fine-tuning is needed.
We have spent part of the last couple of summers wondering and even worrying whether Nuno would be seduced by a bigger club – or the thought of returning to Iberia. But the sudden parting of the ways guarantees that there will be no significant damage to the man’s truly outstanding legacy.
For what he has achieved on the field – and also off it with his magnificent mid-winter gesture to the city of Wolverhampton – he deserves all the plaudits that have gone his way.
He will now go and break the Molineux mould by getting another job in the top flight of a major European league. Not even Stan Cullis achieved that – he had to go downwards from Wolves to Second Division Birmingham when returning to the game.
And one more thing….a second Molineux spell for Nuno would not be the biggest surprise football has ever known.