Millwall. Stuck in a pub surrounded by them. Millwall this and Millwall that. ‘They’ are Millwall, ‘This’ is Millwall. Soon enough you stop hearing the word itself and start hearing ‘Meewuh’ and everything is getting hazy and confused and you are stuck within that vortex of Londonish vowel stretching and confused random elbows as they like to dance as they talk. You wonder why you picked this pub and you remember it’s because you’re a lunatic, this is what you do. Know thine enemy, but you look around and they are dressed like you, same worries, hopes, dreams. It’s all very well but…nothing like Wolves social media over the last few weeks. Edgy and tense, friendships destroyed, families ripped apart over a striker, the lack of one, the wrong one, the lost one, the never had one in the first place. And the pub becomes a little distant and the noise dies down and I daydream about Steve Bull again. Even now I can’t help breaking into a sweat when I see him pressing the flesh out and about. Where is the footballer that can galvanise a game like he did? Where among the smooth faced academy strikers is a diamond in the rough like Bully? But’s September 2017 not 1988 and I think people don’t want to be heroes any more. Am I talking about the Striker situation too much? I don’t know. Probably.
They say ‘I’m trying to be cool’ but I’m not. I’m a number that’s all, a supporter number with access to the internet. My hands shake as I walk down the subway most matches. I need those two pints to make some sense of it all, to dull the aches and the worries. All I’m doing is talking about it. Sharing the groove. Cool? The sweat is trickling down my back. Simon says ‘YamYamism’ and he’s right and that statement bleeds the moisture out of the subway walls. Distilled hope. Holy water in fact, but it’s slippy again. Fuck Adidas Gazelles.
I remember September. It’s that time you spend looking out of the window on a Saturday morning looking at the weather. It’s a bit dull in the sky and we expect Winter right now and we have the quasi Winter jacket out. The Autumnal jacket too thin for Winter but is it too much? Are we going to sweat in the pub? We don’t want to be cold, we don’t want to be hot. So we put the jacket on and stand in the garden for twenty minutes to see what it feels like. The Pigeon on the shed roof is looking at you funny and you say ‘You What Mate?!’ and he thinks ‘you’re gonna be too hot in that mate’.
Millwall. But Nuno has never played a back three before but again, attack is the best form of defense and I’m thinking of those team graphic tactical apps I keep seeing. Little shirts dotted here and there on your phone screen. Wingbacks, high pressing, false 9’s the Chellini gap. But the variables? Neves woke up in the night, Jota feels his calf a little tight, Bonatini wired up, stoked, feeling the gnarly need to score, Marshall wanting to get forward but told to hang back for twenty minutes. Insane variables which interlock together at 3 pm and mesh with the whiteboard madness of the Millwall team talk. More variables, more tactics and it’s a Mandlebrot set of chaos with the mathematical foundation of pure sweat. Boly is out that means Bennett? Batth? I can see Danny doing something good. ‘Hilda’ trained too, I can see him coming on but alas no.
Saville and Jed Wallace. Saville still runs like he’s treading on puppies. Wallace, well what can I say about him? Coming to Wolves he had a resume like his Mom wrote it. He came without colour, without the jazz. Another stoic footballer from last season when you would read his match rating in the Express and Star and you didn’t realise he had played. Nearly men. Of course they will be burned by their moves to wherever Millwall is in London. Thus they will probably score one each. This is as predictable as the fat away supporter in the Steve Bull flashing his disgusting gut or the 15 year old lad in the expensive clothes miming beating somebody in the Southbank up. Get your tits out for the lads? Please don’t.
The weeks previous were punctuated by the loss of Nouha and Dave to rivals too. Dave I wasn’t that fussed about. Rubik Cube type player. Twisting, turning constantly trying to get the combo right and more often than not chucking it at the wall or putting it away in a drawer. Sometimes you’d get one side right and then it would all go to shit again. I often think what would a footballer do as a job if they didn’t make it as a footy player. It gives me something to do. Dave would have been something to do with Housing administration. All the tenants love him….but they don’t actually know what he does. A Lava lamp of a player, great to stare at but it doesn’t really illuminate your life…sorry Dave I’ve called you a Lava Lamp and a Rubik Cube but nobody ever sang the Dave song as loud as me. Sorry we sent you to Reading. God Bless man. Saint Dave.
Nouha I was more aggravated about but again it was always the cusp of things, the potential not quite realised. Nouha was a firework called ‘Raging Inferno’ STAND BACK 5 METERS’ fucking hell, you’ve got visions of the shed on fire, the kids, the dog, next doors new fence and the missus on aflame, everything aflame!…and we watch as it fizzles and farts a few golden sparks into the dog shit at the top of the garden. Nouha my little puddin’ what went wrong? What happened to the fuse man? We stood in the cold as you fizzled away and finally a climactic splurt of flame like a wet dog fart and you fell over into the dog egg infested wastes of Hull. Fair thee well Brother may your visits to the Molineux always be wet dog farts of a match for you…a bit like the 5-0 drubbing your new team got last night
Fuck what the Pigeon thinks. The Autumnal jacket is a thing. The Southbank will be warm as I’m sure we’ve sold out. But the walk is weird and I’m trapped in a group of away fans again and the Police are pushing me this way and that then a punch is thrown at somebody and well, it is Millwall so I duck my head and steer my way through the madness of stale onion, Aquascutum coats and beer odours. But I love the walk past the University art block and amongst the madness it’s always good to look West and see the Clee Hills on the horizon, settles the mind a little, but the anger is palpable, the men today are simply men and the dynamic is violent and I see Nuno in the sky driving a great golden chariot, he’s got hair like a rock star and I can hear singing from the stadium and the metaphysical hallucinations are replaced by the physical, the empirical, the nuts and bolts. Score more than them. That’s all. Three points for us, intangible things you can never hold in your hand, ethereal addition that will mean either nothing as we are 12 points ahead at the top of the table come May or they mean the death of the Nuno experience, Our football the beautiful melodies played during the demented point gathering frenzy of championship football. But yeah the football.
Well Jed and Jimmy didn’t get much of a look in did they? Thank God. Saville again in that aimless discordant rhythm and Wallace still looking for….well I still don’t know what he’s looking for on that pitch. On the other hand we fucking smashed it right up. And here it was, the roots of the Nuno tree had taken root firmly within the grass of Molineux. The stem was still young and pliant, there were times when the blowhard football from Millwall bent the young stem, almost to the ground, well firmly to the ground as Jota got a two flipper challenge off the Millwall number 22 Aiden O’Brien. The same 22 who five minutes before was breathless and hands on hip resigned to the Brokeback Mountain love that Jota had been giving him for the previous minutes. Yes, he got bum loved purely and simply by that Jota dink here and dink there, more twists than a curly wurly this story and lo! In O’Brien goes with a two footed tango which in all honesty Jota had all week to prepare for it was that clumsy. Jota falls to the grass motionless, Saville pushes his face in, gets it pushed back out, Neves steams in, anger and hostility, it’s a soap opera all of a sudden and all I’m bothered about is Jota. My little cherub. How he had the Millwall back line in confused sweats. O’Brien again physical. But Jota gets up. He’s growing that dude. Growing good. It’s so early in the season too.
I think we had learned all we had to learn from the Cardiff game maybe. Our team didn’t have to learn much from the Colin Wanker playbook to approach this game, although not as violent as the Warnockian plague of the last home match it was still a bit snarky. Jota was a ghost through the Millwall defense, I half expected Derek Acora to start channeling his Spirit guide. I expected Yvette Fielding to start screaming on the touchline dropping her torch. Ghost Jota. He takes command of the ball deep infield and that’s it, he knows his path is set, he runs, he shifts the ball over, he duffs it in the net. One-Nil. What. A. Fucking. Strike. I’m beside myself, an errant elbow knocks my glasses off and they spiral into the air. I’m still screaming, the dude next to me is screaming, everybody is screaming. I stretch a hand up and catch my glasses in a smooth Jota like grab. All is saved. Jota you sensual thing. I believe in Diogo, where ya gone, you sexy thing
Of course we ran things in the first half. Doherty and Batth are sucking up football knowledge via osmosis. Our Portuguese brothers have infected Compton with football and the infection has infected. Danny Batth swapped the ball from his left foot to his right and he’s past a player. I shake my head. Danny? What? Last year that ball would have been described as a clearance. A hoofed toe bunt into another opposition attack. Blob ball. But Danny has always been better than that, he is a good soldier and has done what Kenny and Lamberto told him. Fuck it off back up the pitch. Ron Bastard style center back….what has happened? Nuno has quietly spoken golden honey like simple words into Dannys ear. ‘No Danny, love the ball, stroke the ball BE the ball’ and thus it was so. Apart from a few lapses into madness it was there, and he looked like a different player, they all did. Keeping possession, holding the ball, dictating the play, looking for openings, probing constantly.
The second half was a much dodgier event. It seemed as if we had watched Pink Floyd in the first half then the Latvian Pink Floyd came on in the second. It was nearly the same as the first half but something was wrong. The licks sounded yeah similar but there wasn’t that really slick comfortable groove we had in the first. Maybe the sending off had some effect, altered the flow maybe, something was wrong and some changes were in the offing. The wind changed a little in the second half too. Blowing in swirls across the stand, making the seagulls cry out.
Vinagre at one point spoke animatedly with Neves and the talk started. Millwall were deep and looked to hit on the break I supposed. But half an hour of the second half had me staring at Wallace and Saville, evil glances they were as this was the thing, the point at which we had seen every one goal lead turned into a one pointer, a draw, a sick end to nail biting constant plonks at Ruddy including one through a mass of legs that Ruddy did excellent to smother. Another Millwall gut flash, another ‘woman’ who looked like a dude. I watched the Millwall fans for a while and it was ok but the end of the match, the final twitching corpse of it still had those heart in mouth moments, that damp hand on the back of the neck and I noticed I was gripping the arm of the dude next to me but he didn’t care as he was busy chewing his finger off. We looked at each other, we had stood next to each other for five seasons and we didn’t need to talk, we had the last minute equaliser stare. Shell shock, the last round knock out.
‘Blow the whistle you horrible bald headed bastard’
We did it yeah. Three points, a result which will never remain as a memory of greatness and discussed over pints in dark pubs. That’s the nature of growth, the incessant division of component parts into a greater all. We probably did need a Striker on the pitch. I need a big flash Merc to drive around in but the falling apart van I have does the job at the moment.
Bright had some ‘Bright’ moments where he forgot he had the ball again and everybody wanted a pop at those twenty yard lets bop a fan in the face shots. N’Diaye came on, total unit first touches, a run where he had three players hanging off him but never broke stride. I like the look of him but even if I didn’t like him I wouldn’t say anything, he’s massive. But again it’s all so fucking new. It’s new for us seeing this madness unfold in front of our eyes. Excitement again. Dynamic movement, these are fresh green shoots of a revolution and those green shoots are susceptible to the frosts and winds of the Championship. There will be greater nights and days to come where this Portuguese madness, this reinvigorated Doherty and Batth will force their ways through the hard packed clay of the Warnockian Championship dystopia and reach the light above. And when those shoots do untangle themselves and unfold the green leaves of the Nuno revolution some poor bastards are going to get annihilated, and they will sit within the away dressing room at Molineux and weep at the beauty of it. But now, at this moment we should nurture and provide support to this fledgling project, a bit of love too as we bend an errant branch back into the required position.
Outside the ground three Chinese fellas stopped me to grab a light for their cigarette. They were laughing and were wearing brand new club shirts. New fans maybe, who knows, maybe a few years ago I would have been a little pissed off that the club was becoming a global beast attracting these fresh faced doughnuts who had never before stepped in Wolverhampton. But this time I didn’t care, I wasn’t bothered about them, or the moaning from various lollipops that walked past me. I wasn’t particularly bothered about the traditional Millwall post match street theater either, or the fact Adidas Gazelles had a sole as thin as the Refs hair. It was a good feeling, a confident comfortable feeling, and I let myself be oozed along the ring road back to the car. I was thinking about Bonsai trees.