I couldn’t even watch the Fulham Brentford game. I sat in the garden and was in a state of suspended animation it felt like. The fucking sun had come out. I had forgotten what it looked like. The dogs were licking each others balls on the grass. My peg leg glowed. How many weeks has it been since the cold street outside that cursed Villa ground? The grass was sweet for sure. A bumblebee. I had asked my daughter to tell me the score when I went in and sat quiet. I couldn’t concentrate on anything other than just sitting and waiting. I knew it was going to come…it would arrive. She came in 20 minutes ago and told me and I wept. For me? For Wolves? I don’t know. But emotional doesn’t give any service to the feeling I had right there in the pit of my stomach…it’s a soul thing ay it. Snot and tears, years and fucking years. Glen fucking Hoddle. Dean fucking Saunders. How we have suffered. How we welcomed the Chinese men in Hugo Boss suits and the Italian shoes when years ago we would have turned our faces away. How they have transformed us with their ideas.
Little old Wolverhampton eh? The way people take the piss out of our accents, the way people come from villages on our outskirts instead of saying ‘Yeah I come from Wolverhampton’. Us, once the powerhouse of world industry, we made such beautiful things. Motorcycles, cars, the best tools in the world. We slaved in those dark places now ground down and lost. I suppose we lost something too. The decline of our town mirrored in the decline of our team. No more. This is important now and I feel different to previous promotion days. This is a lot fucking different. People around the world will soon know our name and what we stand for. This isn’t the place where we should bow our heads and be mindful of our place in the world. We are about to be a powerhouse beyond even my fevered imagination. My fucking town will overcome the castigations we have suffered for years. My Wulfrunian pride will not buckle under such scrutiny when it comes because I will point to my team and say ‘Look at them, how proud and fine they are, how brave and how magnificent. I will also point to the skyline of my city and say ‘This is where I live and I have always been proud despite the mockery and the laughter. This is Wolverhampton, and I have never know a place so entwined with it’s team. I heard a woman on the phone once. ‘Yes I come from a Village near Stafford called Bushbury’.
Before, after other promotions we would sidle up to the table where the rich men sit and beg for a point here, or a win there. They would throw down a few scraps for us and we would be content for a week or two before our slide down the Premier League leeched the life from us. We were further and further away from the table at times. Mocked, vilified and insulted. But this? This my friends is different. I feel something different. I feel that instead of pulling our forelocks at the tables of the great and good we have cast a chair out and sat heavily within it. I look around that table and I look at the faces of the great and good of this league and I hold the gaze of every one of those motherfucking big teams and say this ‘We are not afraid any more’. Thus we can kick up our legs and put our dirty war boots on their clean tablecloth and light that cigar. Because shit is going to change. It will change because we have a philosophy now. We have an understanding that things are different in the world, much different. This isn’t Mick buying a few crocked semi famous faces to grind our way through the season to come. This is us with a new idea and a new way. We look beyond this table of the English Premier League as a stepping stone to greater more lofty paths.
We are scarred for sure. Warnock, Holloway, Bruce. Jota rolling on the floor, Coady being sent off, Neves leaving the field of play after a ridiculous red card. The Referees we have endured, the ire of clubs PR machines planting stories in the press. The Leeds chairman vilifying us, sending letters to the EFL. Bruce, Dr fucking Xi or whatever his face is. Bristol away, Bennett. Cardiff, when they tried to crush us under the last minute penalties, the 40 yard throws, the evil ministrations of Colin Wanker. There have been times when the team were still learning and a defeat here and there klead to nervous breakdowns among a few. But I never stopped believing. You have to be honest and true to attain victory and we have done that even if they will accuse in the future. Nuno has done this. Humility in the face of crushing blackness, honesty in the face of lies, innocence under the judgement of liars and thieves. I am proud to have you representing our town. Nuno you are a treasure in the heart of our City.
We have come together as a fan base, we have believed too and we have fought as well as the team. Those journeys up and down motorways, trying to find a pub, strange roads and traffic systems, the cold always the fucking cold. But together we have fought other battles. Rumours on social media, the accusations shot down from the ether with facts and research, well defined answers and come backs, humour, art, and often brilliant new ways of restating our position in the world. It is no longer an abyss we step at the edge of. That experience is now Steve Bruces. He will look upon the bottomless pit and fucking forsake his very existence and that of his club. We will be at the foot of a great mountain and we will be fresh, ready to climb, and we are laughing. Top ten next season? Who would get ahead of themselves and think such a thing? Me I suppose. I see us as being unstoppable now. Fosun, Nuno, all the warrior like ideas now unleashed will be a hard storm to survive for many teams next year. May I think like this? Well I did at the beginning of this season. Something in the whole soul vibe of this club speaks to me. Tells me to fucking hang on because it’s going to be crazier than ever.
What do we do now? We plan. This is one great battle in a greater war. This is the way we and Nuno do things. Promotion is done and tonight I have some Jamaican Rum I want to get acquainted with while I plot. Because there will be battles to come. Nuno will know this. Hasn’t he said that he only thinks of the next match, the next battle? I will allow myself one drunken night tonight. Tomorrow another stepping stone, another thankless Championship team. Another idealess footballing side as opponents. By God we have some soul in this team don’t we? Who would have expected the magic of Neves/Jota/Cavaleiro/Costa/Saiss or N’Diaye/Doherty/Douglas/Bennett/Ruddy or that we would have a Captain like Connor Coady. I’m speechless. The art of Wolves, of Nuno writ large upon the desolate football grounds we have gone to. The shit beers, the awful facilities and now we have gone through the fires and come out forged much harder and tougher I’m sure. I know one man will. You Carl Ikeme, what say you? I want you here now with us and perhaps that chemo burn and fatigue will stop you but when we are Champions in my mind at least you will be there in the hearts of everyone who rejoices and I pray to God that the love we feel for you will give you strength and power.
But tonight this is for my team and my wafflings will not do justice to the beautiful edifice Nuno and the Wolves staff has built. Tonight I will raise my glass to them in thanks. This is for Shaky Jake who kicked his smack habit this season. This is for Gaz Mastic who struggles to pay for his season ticket but still manages every year. This is for Horace and everybody who has helped me through this intense season and you know who you are. Stepping stones brothers and sisters.