‘Leeds are falling apart again’
It was a storm of sorts I think. The wind whipped around and coat choices were by the by really as those fingers peeled through the layers and it was Leeds. Memories of the Northbank whenever we play them. It was my first game back in 1972 when things were just becoming colour and we were leaving those black and white days behind. It was a spectacle then of course. A match was more than just a match in those days. It was indeed a spectacle, a dose of pure theatre on a Saturday afternoon. Loads of them have come tonight and the Steve Bull is filled with 1.75 Million Leeds fans who are oddly quiet…and at the end of this match will be quieter still. Bereft indeed. The abyss of their hate filled with my love for Wolves. The Savillian dogmas burn and flutter in the flames of Nunoism. They will return to that godforsaken wasteland of Yorkshire with this new covenant blaring within their ears and making their hearts heavy.
Things now are becoming clear at Molineux and the tides and sand are shifting and are still dangerous. Reading last week showed that Stam in all his Voldemorty creepiness could still change and tweak a tactic here and there to try and throw a spanner into the cogs of the Nuno Machine. What tactical nous it was well I can’t tell you really. I just know all of a sudden they were pressing a lot. Getting chances. Ruddy diving around, Coady getting his vocal on, Boly being the unstoppable force and immovable object in one. Was I entertained? No not really. It’s November. We would have (in another pre Nuno world) have lost that game for sure. A curling last minute free kick into the net. The roar of the home crowd and we would have run out of ideas fast. Ordinarily of course, in the past. It’s not entertainment no. We are the story and the characters, the plot lines and the fables. We are tangled and wrapped in the whole Nuno machine.
Nuno utilised the tools at his disposal surely, and he was ruthless with it too. At Reading I watched as the ideas were unleashed in many ways. The input Nuno had in retaining shape and intent when Reading changed tack a few minutes into the game was a Masterstroke. I was quite happy to hail the Nuno wizardry in full pelt again but it was much more than magic. It was a switch and a response made by the team that impressed me the most. In between swearing at an upside down head Reading fan yards away from me, they had angst, it was palpable and real. Every grimace and abusive comment from one of ‘them’ made me laugh all the louder.
Walking up to Molineux from the Bluebrick these thoughts occupied my mind. There’s a lot of Leeds fans here, at least one and a half million of them thronging the streets around the ground. I’ve never seen so much shit in one place. A thronging torrent of Yorkshires finest shit. I’m not apologetic about how much i don’t like Leeds. Not at all. They are resurgent tonight. A few wins maybe. Their intent as shiny as their angst I suppose. But Nuno? What are your thoughts?
We are starting to look like a total unit. The squad looks like a well oiled machine in longer and longer segments during a match. At the start of the season of course, we had bursts and glimpses of the whole glorious football. Now nearly half way through the season there is more control over games and that control can stretch to ten or fifteen minutes at a time before the opposition can react. Often that reaction is total offence. Many teams we have played this season have not been bad teams. They have reacted fast and with surefire intent as soon as they have sensed a moment of inaction from our team. We have also had reactions to this. At Reading we had a straight line of five men defending John Ruddy from an attack. Coady at the center is growing into his role the more games he has. Boly was not just an immense presence but has a sixth sense about sudden movement. His eye for this movement is clinical, the interface between what he sees and how he moves is slick and efficient. The sense of ease in which he switches his weight from foot to foot. Springing away on his left so his right is fast to the loose ball or a clearance. I’m happy to see Douglas and Doherty within the whole backline acting just as efficiently. I don’t remember us having a defensive unit like this for a long time. It’s poetry at times watching them all move as one. Spooky. I wonder what strange magic Nuno and his staff had to evoke for this.
The backroom staff. Dodging this awful traffic. Who are these men that wander around in the background? I’m not skilled enough to know who they are. The names unfamiliar and strange. But all highly motivated one thousand yard stares. Men you know are not going to be swayed by bullshit and excuse. I suppose the metaphysical essence of Nuno has to be balanced by the stoic empirical dogma of the bleep test and the heuristics of performance. Yin and Yang maybe. But Helda twisting and turning after his injury. He seems like a greater presence to me, a more complete player. The injury has been negated by the backroom staff. Can we even call them by that ‘anachronistic’ term any more. It smacks of black and white snotball. Surely with the global outlook we now employ as a club we may say something else? Maybe ‘Technical Support’ I don’t know. But I do see with my eyes that they have done a job on Helda. We may contrast this idea with what may have happened under the previous staff. Helda would be a cripple probably. The whole atmosphere within the club has had a holistic effect on the injury maybe…
Cavaleiro turns shoots on the edge of the box. There is none of that meat and two veg movement here. It’s a saffron tinged delight of a turn. Style and ease. It’s football as art really and why not? Creativity is a driving force in any artists and that’s why football will always be the greatest team sport in the world, we can create beauty and innocence through a twist of a Cavaleiro hip. Unload the vermillion joy of a well toe bunted ball into the net. The Douglas free kick. What is a Douglas? Who is he? Not an understudy for sure, to anybody. That international movement he has gleaned from his travels has done him good, extended his vision and provoked artistry like that free kick. I don’t see any difference between that goal and Fred Astaire gliding across a highly polished floor with a beautiful woman in a posh frock being thrown around while those twinkle toes do their thing. But twinkle toes is surely a Jota/Neves meme. The ‘Twinkle Toe brothers for sure.
Momentum…it’s become relentless now. In seasons past teams like Reading and Leeds would have steam rollered us with a nicked goal or some viable movement of the ball. Now they are crushed. You could see with ten minutes to go last night two Leeds players sitting down on the pitch. Fucked. Bereft. There was noting they could do except be a bystander to a flow so virile and strong it hurts to even think you can halt the flow of it. It was easy and steezy, all pleasey and feely. Boop, pass to Doherty, beep pass to Neves who collects, bonk, to Jota, boop to Neves again, Bonatini leaps, boop to Jota again, Cavaleiro collects, turns, shoots. Go again, ‘second verse, same as the first verse’ The Ramones sang.
But what is this constant struggle to win points and claw your way through the season? At first it was all that occupied my mind, especially at the start of the season and now that drudgery and madness is a distant memory nearly and we are now at the cusp of belief. Watching us slide and cajole that spherical object into the art it actually is was always the key I think. The nuts and bolts of this win against Leeds is empirically just another three points and we concrete our intentions fully into the pitch. Nuno pronounced that its the ‘How, the where and the when’ and when he speaks we all listen for at the end of the day he is our coach too, he galvanises us, the crowd, the fans and it’s ok for now to describe ‘the supporters’ the same way as you describe ‘the team’ and we can meld and amalgamate the dynamics of both team and fans as one. In the future we will look upon these times as the very best, when we all gather together with the same voice and love perhaps.
How? Assemble a squad of players who have the capacity to unleash their ideas on the pitch. Utilise the skills they have in abundance and channel those skills into instant reaction. Provoke ideas and artistic divine football. Instill your ideas on the pitch with aplomb and beauty, planning and an idea of its conclusion. Gather the support you have into an unstoppable force, make the whole club an idea.
Where? Here at Molineux and ‘there’ in the idea-less dysfunctional wastes of other grounds and other places. We gather every time we play and we sing the Nuno-esque ballads. The importance of the ethos of Molineux has been gathered into the arms of the Fosun-Nuno nexus. We take Molineux with us everywhere we go. The ghosts hover at our elbows and sing with us in those strange foreign pitches. We hold the ideas firmly within our hearts everywhere we go.
When? Now of course. We have suffered enough over the past few decades when the promises and skills of those who would hold control over our club fall to the ground and are mashed in the detritus of plastic beer bottles and slippy floors. Now is the time when the planets have aligned and it has become our time and our moment. We stand, all of us at the cusp of greatness and this moment should be treasured and kept safe from the platitudes of those who would wish us nothing but disaster.
I have another bump on my head from Dannys elbow, I fell over at one point in the match. My glasses are hanging on by one arm. My Adidas have a big muddy footprint on them. I’m standing in Queens square as people sing and stagger past me and the rain has knocked off and my coat is damp and the Xmas lights are shining and magical. I’m looking up at Prince Albert on his great bronze nag and for a moment as the wind moves the lights strung across the street I see a shadow move across Alberts face but it’s not Albert for a precious second, it’s Nuno and he is proud, gallant, and resolute and that sword is his idea and his legacy for this town. Onwards as ever and who knows what the future may hold and for once I don’t care what the future holds because right now I feel that pride in the place where I live and every foot step I take is light and free. ‘How, where and when’ Nuno has said, and we listen to every word he says. Fuck the future, the time and the beauty is now.