The sky was the colour of brass. Hot brass. I’ve worked in a foundry, I know what it’s like. That factory was in Walsall too. Outside the Bescot ‘Stadium’ I waited for people and just wandered around in four square yards of space smoking roll ups. The team coaches turn up nearly squashing your humble scribe. Wolves coach is a funky chrome and black air conditioned thing all tinted windows and curvy love. Ajax coach turns up and it’s a Happy Days coach. Poor bastards. All these Ajax players look fit and veiny, tanned. Avoiding the Ajax supporters waiting to see them. All four supporters. A couple of them shout ‘Ejjionkkedahzzuurt’ which I think is a name of one of their players. It sounds like they are having some kind of seizure. ‘Aya Hunkadinka’. I feel like a gonk waiting so close to the players entrance. They might think I want some sort of interaction with them. But what do you say to Cavaleiro or Jota? ‘Orite mate’ and that’s it. Hey Diogo, here’s my 50 squid new shirt. Here’s a permanent marker please scribble your unintelligible signature all over it please. There’s Marc Overmars signing stuff. He looks fit and well. I suck my belly in and wonder about my man tits. These Dutch players trims look like they’ve been moulded on with clay. I haven’t seen one smile yet. Walsall. Happy Days. Burning plastic smells. One of the Stewards has got a woolly hat on. Mate. Walsall.
Helder gets off the Coach. Fucking hell he looks hench. What has he been doing over the summer? Boinging those protein drinks down his neck, eating power foods? Found a Dragon Ball? I wonder if his extra muscle will slow him down. The sun is baking my head. Walsall. I don’t want to say too much about it but fucking hell. What a place that is. I’m feeling inclined to forgive Barnsley on a cold winters day. The whole ethos of Walsall is one lost on me. Their stadium makes me think of terrorising those old 4th division grounds in the 80’s. Funny. Lost in thought for a moment. Bonatini walks past. He doesn’t look happy for some reason. Somebody tells me they left two tickets for tonights Ajax v Walsall match on their dashboard in the car. Some bastard smashed the window and left two more. Bloody hell. Walsall could do with some Ajax and not the footballing variety
Let’s talk about the football. A friendly against Ajax. They have some history although I’m not interested what it is. They have brought about thirty fans over and they are dotted around me. I keep thinking they are being sick but it is them shouting a players name again. They are a loud bunch. A few are drunk too. A few very quiet. Why are they quiet? Ryan Giles is running down the wing again and I can feel his thunder though the ground. He jinks a ball off the edge of his foot and knows where the thing will end up. Away from the presence of the Dutch fella marking him. Dink. He’s off again our Gilesy. It’s the first time I’ve seen him play I think. But he’s a lovely player. The occasional fumble and loss of possession he has is purely initial ‘meshing’ with the team. We flick the ball around with aplomb. Cavaleiro making those diagonals into the box. The sure presence of Doherty. Jota thunders a header in. Our front three are still in first gear. Fair enough they sweat and they puff but it’s early and the subtle Nuno riffs are there right under the brassy sky twirling around the Ajax defence, muted perhaps. Waiting.
Gilesy thunders past again, hooks a leg around an Ajax tanned limb. The player shouts ‘Zrrty uurky zzzt’ at Giles and our young bloke hooks the ball out. 19 years old he is. He looks mature and assured. He doesn’t give a shit. I like that. He’s off again down the wing. Coady is shouting at him about some defensive duty but our Giles doesn’t really listen too much. He can’t be a body in defence all the time. There is a point when he unleashes the combative, running into space with the ball element. That’s good, that’s positive. Nuno is shouting too. Everybody is shouting. These Dutch lads are playing a Champions league game next week. Giles turns his man again and is off. I like him. I think we will see more of his madness this season and I am looking forward to it.
They have attacks. Their bloke has five minutes in our box and bungs a header in. 1-0 to them. Yay! ‘Guurgazzrt oplong zrt’ the Dutch fans shout. Horace tells me this scorer is off to Barcelona. That’s nice. Bye. I’m fixing into this fan friendly thing. I want to throw them down the stairs these Dutch fellas. But no. It’s a friendly. Stop it Mikey.
Boly blocks another foray into our box. Mr Boly is a poetic beautiful thing in defence. Bravery and vision. His foot will appear in mid morning lucid dreams for those Dutch blokes tomorrow. I don’t think he is too bothered about Dutch passy the bally quick and easy stuff. Ajax play some sexy balls around. Neves understands it totally and pings the ball to feet. Poetic like Boly just poems about different things I suppose. Boly has milliseconds to decide. Ruben has two or three. It’s a different quality to one we watched last season in the hellhole of the Championship…Fulham aside of course. It’s enjoyable and artisanal football played by craftsmen who respect each others trade. So there are moments of brilliance. Coady delivering that beautiful pass from the edge of his own box to the feet of a Wolves player 30 yards away. Bonk. Right on the foot. Who is it? Giles again. Boom down the wing he goes again. Neves wants it. A pass here and there between our Gibbs White experience and Neves. Curling between the Ajax midfield threatening. Jota prevalent and alive to any ball. Cavaleiro wanting it. Cav isn’t vocal but his intent is sure and real. Into the box he goes, he shoots. Blocked. The Ajax player grimaces. Flesh slapped Cavaleiro love. Pure and simple. But coming into the ground earlier we pay for parking and give the money to a dude in a reflective coat who looks the fucking spit of Cavaleiro. Helder fends off a lunk of Dutch funk. Physical Helder. He is away and yes. There is a push and Helder lets that push become a deliberate shove and he tumbles to the ground in the penalty area. Peno to us. Ruben steps up and scores. 1-1.
It’s still early days of course. There are new bodies to assimilate. Patricio in the stands wondering what’s going on. He was in Russia the other week getting his World Cup gimp on. Now he’s at Bescot and the hot sun, the eyes stinging from the fumes that roll off the M6 yards away. Nuno demanding action from the touchline. I don’t think the environment even bothers Nuno. It could be an all singing all dancing European super stadium for him, or a gentle park kick about. But his idea is paramount. To play his way. To play the way he wishes. And among the pretty players and the super quick touches of the ball Wolves press. Always pressing. And in defence, poised. Ready again to move, pass, to delight and probe. Still. It’s a friendly and the groove is refined and passion restrained.
There are that many subs I forget who’s come on and gone off. There are players in our new shirts I’ve never seen before. Strange names. It’s all preliminary this stuff. The season is a long way away really and already we look highly dangerous. This momentum from last season shows no real signs of abating. The team still looks hungry. They look focused too. You could see the hunger on Leos face as he sits and watches the game. He wants to be on there, playing, fighting. Rafa Mir makes a run into the final third and for a minute I am seeing Steve Bull running. Fucking hell Mir is fast. He thunders a header too. That Steve Bull-Rafa Mir dichotomy is strong for me. I like him, not because he reminds me of Bully in the way he plays and runs but his intent. This lad will explode this season I think, if Nuno can get him more angry of course. You see Mir has also put on some muscle. I see some close season stochastic fiddling, some long hours in a dark room poring over possible teams we will face. I suspect Nuno and his staff have built up some idea of how we will play against every team already.
Everything is tanned and hot summer happy. Your eyes gently get back to normal away from Walsall and the M6. Your new shirts look beautiful, the football looks beautiful, our players handsome and debonair, confident and eager. Are we confident? Ar. Warming up ay we. As we drove around the back of the stand to get away I saw a bloke having a shit in a corner. Fucking hell.