“This is where the greatest goalkeepers find their fertile ground, and this is where the summit of your ability will be climbed. Coady has done it, Doherty, Morgan Gibbs White is doing it, Benik has cast himself in front of his Master and has said ‘teach me’. Thus they have reaped the glory of their own climbs to the summit. Relax John Ruddy and open your mind, look into the spaces.” ‘Look into the Spaces John Ruddy’ – Southbank Resistance March 18th 2018
How? What do I say? I actually held my hands up to the sky and said to God.
‘Dude? Forget about the concept of victory and of rewards and look at our faces. Look at our hands and bodies scarred from this season. Look at our hopeful faces. For isn’t hope also love?’ I hoped he would look at us and think yeah. Fuck it. Let them have some love and some hope and maybe it is more important than football. Maybe it is a victory of good over evil. I suspect God may have thought also that here is a man in Nuno who’s thoughts also transcend the concept of football that his mind seeks and discovers new ways of loving the game and that these concepts are like Gods own thoughts and everything is good. Let that ball be saved by John Ruddy. Didn’t I love you when they all denigrated you? Yes John Ruddy have the courage and the intellectual almost telepathic ability to stroke that ball away. Oh my days. Look into the spaces John Ruddy. Feel the path of that ball before it is struck, use the power of the idea to see into the future and sweep your hand across the face of the goal, caress the ball past the post. His face is a picture and Coady is almost crying with relief that he was not to blame for an equaliser. But I would never blame you Conor, never. You stand here with me and I will be proud.
Is this the greatest of games? Can we say that it was a victory more important than sport and the concept of stylised combat? Warnockian bad vibes permeated all of it but more importantly and in my mind what changed the outcome was that Warnocks team had stopped believing in him. You could see it in their faces.. drawn, pale and tired. Bereft of belief. They were cattle driven over the edge of the cliff by the harsh ministrations of their leader. They fought in a fashion, they humped the ball like ping pong. Boingy bollocks. You could see their lack of passion exhibited in every errant hoof back up the pitch. Neves rarely had a tackle to make. He instead chose to take his second free kick. What was this goal? What was it seriously? I was a glide of passion held aloft in the air inch perfect. As graceful as a Russian ballet dancer. It was in the air for hours I thought. Time did indeed stand still as it floated across that green stage into the top corner. The Cardiff goalie got a fingertip to it and I bet you it burned his fingers. He seemed reticent to touch it, I suspect it was that beautiful a free kick that the Goalie was embarrassed to touch it, to put his unclean hands upon it. Bang, One fucking nil. I see our flag in the corner where the Wolves fans are and I look for my friends but I cant see anything through the tears. Oh Ruben you beauty. How you too have blessed us. I’ve never seen a player like you at this club. Holy you are and perhaps one day you too will look back and say these days were some of the best you had.
“Social media was awash with short bitter paragraphs about John Ruddy and they are within their rights of course to discuss errors and flaps. That’s the beauty of social media and it’s ugliness. Here we are all pundits, all safe in the afterglow, the hours after the game to wax our bars about members of the team or the way we play. Hours, that’s the keyword. John Ruddy works on split seconds, keeping track of the ball and three or four players barrelling into his ends. Are we not happy with John Ruddy? I am. I am quite happy with him and I’ll stand and say it, the same way I defended Helder and Benik when it seemed like all were about to storm the castle at Compton demanding action…” ‘Look into the Spaces John Ruddy’ – Southbank Resistance March 18th 2018
At Hull I watched John Ruddy make a save that was unbelievable and twisty, getting his arm around his back, underneath him to palm away a shot. I was yards away my friends and I had a little moment for sure. Last night John Ruddy gave us something I think. He definitely channelled that feeling that inescapable feeling and groove that perhaps yes, it was a time when the Gods looked down on us and smiled I suppose. But what else could the metaphysical universe do when faced with the charnel house football that Warnock gives us. Hope again I suppose, that yes ideas are the most important thing, and good ideas must trump bad ones, perhaps evil ones too. But the team.
I know Coady was popping a zit on the Cardiff players back when he went over in the penalty area. It was the softest of touches and the colour drained away from Coadys face as the whistle was blown for a penalty. But what say you Coady? Trust. That’s what I had. I know you well Conor Coady, at least the player you are. My heart broke at your pain brother but I knew you would pick yourself up and put your shoulder to the wall again. John Ruddy gets to his left and palms away the ball. I stand up forgetting I have one leg again and I fall onto the rug that is full of Bonio crumbs and half chewed pieces of rawhide bone. My face is in that carpet and I’m screaming into it in pain and in absolute fucking joy. It is what must happen. We can’t let these motherfuckers win. This is our time. How dare you Mike Dean you bald headed little freak. The ball is pinging around. It’s injury time plus surely and I’m trying to get back up but I cant and I’m stuck. I can feel the Bonio crumbs on my face and my leg is shooting pains right up to my hip. The ball comes in, it’s a scramble a fucking mosh pit of bodies. They should score yes? No they can’t the ball pings off to the left and one of their players goes down on the edge of the box. I don’t see any contact at all in the replay as I brush the crumbs off and try to stop the dogs from licking my eyes as I struggle to regain composure. The laptop is on the floor too. I’m stuck. Dog lick wet face second penalty. I don’t know what to think but I know now that this is not Warnocks time. There is only so much fucking rage voodoo you can use to ‘inspire’ your players Warnock. Only so much rage fuel you can use to instigate your team. But that fucking fuel is running low Warnock. The Cardiff body steps back. Shoots. hits the bar, they missed. I shout again. These words have no meaning except joy and I watch this with belief now. I’m not surprised by any of it. Boro showed me. Bristol away showed me.
I have a brief negative feeling that I’m not there but my battle was at Villa park. My season defined there in pain and rage. This is for my friends who travelled down and this is the very least they deserve. My heart swelled for them, those miles they have travelled up and down the country and for a moment their joy inside that stadium travelled through the ether and affected me as well. I was there, I knew what the feeling was, the joy, the madness and the limbs. I knew what was happening in their hearts and that was communicated to me like a glowing ray of golden light up the motorway off at the junction at Oldbury. Up the Birmingham new road, straight to me. Jesus Christ man. Horace rings me minutes after the game has finished and I can hear the emotion in his voice, he is close to weeping too but I’m being brave, I was insulated by distance but Horace has closed those miles between me and Cardiff and the emotion is raw and ‘there’ and we talk about the match. I want this for him and for everybody else. I want them to feel the joys and the pleasure of this victory.
Nuno is beating his chest and the badge in front of Wolves fans. Here is our warrior. I’ve said before you can transpose Nuno into any ancient warrior King and he would not lack anything. Whatever Nuno does in the future he will always remember this season. The letters to the EFL, the assaults on his players, the snide back biting from his supposed equals, the dodgy and bent Referees, the propaganda, the endless fume and castigation of his idea and of his team. He will remember this for sure and this season will give him hope for the future that good can transcend evil. The British coaches do lack many things. Ideas for sure, they mistake bitterness and violence for passion, they profess ideas too that whither away in the cold light of day. They provoke noting but embarrassment at the state of our homegrown managerial nous.
At the end of the game Nuno gives an interview that is loaded with an honest humility and the offer of an Olive branch to Pulis and Warnock. I salute this, in fact it makes me want to weep again and I’m sitting down now still rampant and adrenalin fuelled. Humility and beauty, that’s what Nuno showed. This man is greater than anything I have ever known. I suspect that maybe Nuno was brought to us as a gift not just an appointment. Now I would build a statue to him and I would put it right in front of the subway at the back of the Southbank. Nuno will be shielding his eyes as he looks towards the West and the setting of the sun. What honours has he brought us? Nothing yet of course in terms of trophies and trinkets, but he has brought us hope and has taught us the meaning of greatness, of ideas that are stronger than the opposition. A legacy too maybe, and a model that will be followed by others that come after him. He gives us hope that dark clouds do have a sun behind them, and that sun will peek out at one point and we can turn our faces to it and feel the warm rays touch us. Hope. Fucking hell how we have hoped. The ghosts of Molineux don’t wail any more for sure. Those ghosts shine for us now and light the paths ahead of us and the trials to come.
It was all emotional and I don’t really know what to say. Sometimes words are just senseless things that try to describe concepts that are far greater than could ever be described. This is one of those times I think. I sit here and see Nuno running onto the pitch to celebrate. Fucking hell, the passion of this man. How do you write about that? How do you describe his face? His technical staff glaring at Warnock? How do you describe Doherty grinning at Warnock? How do you describe the limbs in the corner of the ground? How can you describe Warnock telling everybody to fuck off?
We thought Boro would be a defining moment in our season, a game to end all games and yet we are presented with this too? How can we deal with it? I don’t know, I haven’t got a fucking clue. The way I do it is by knowing we will be playing ‘those’ big teams next year. There will be more moments of madness and more fume from other Managers. There will be pantomimes like we have never seen but we must also remember that the whole steel of the Wolves teams to come will be forged in games like this, hardened off and made strong in the crucibles of Warnock/Pulis bongoball. God bless Nuno, thank fuck we have him to hold our hands and lead us through this madness.
I wake up this morning and I still have Bonio crumbs in my hair after last nights contact with the living room rug. My leg hurts. But my heart is swollen with love and yes it does take away the pain a little, it does make the day seem brighter.