Photo (AMA/Sam Bagnall)
Where did you come from, baby?
How did you know I needed you?
How did you know I needed you so badly?
How did you know I’d give my heart gladly?
Yesterday I was one of the lonely people
Now you’re lying close to me, making love to me
Hot Chocolate ‘You Sexy Thing’
It was a turgid day, match day. I don’t think the weather could be bothered to weather. Instead it was ‘temperate’ I suppose and kind of instilled a greyness into the day that was lacking to be honest. I had gone over on my ankle before the FC Pubic game and every step I made was sending bolts of pain up my bad leg and into my hip and the grin was plastered on to be honest. But football day eh? It was what got my fat arse off the chair and upstairs to clean up, get my whack trim in some sort of semblance of normality as I was in the ‘Posh end’ the Billy Quiet and I don’t think they would groove to my gyppo hair. We had given our season tickets to a couple who wanted to experience the flavours of a Wolves V Manchester United mash up from the Southbank. So I was in Albion Shauns seat as he was off to France for a Holiday for this match. The Billy Quiet stand is weird but there are many beautiful and friendly people ready to say hello and chat about my books. I love this to be honest, not for egos sake but it’s nice that the books have found some ground for people to just say hello and chat about Wolves a little as we get jostled out of the way.
Same team out and I’m right on top of the madness as they line up. I’m only looking at Wolves at first. They warm up in their cow print tops which are horrible to be honest. I am reminded of someone I know who bought a Gucci top with a cow print, he paid £400 for it. The first time he wore it everybody called him ‘Moo’ and he never wore it again. I am giggling to myself as I remember it. Cutrone is shaping his warm up into delicious half hearted steezy shoulder juggling. This kind of tells me the lad has been told he is a cameo only job tonight. Same with Gibbs-White, Saiss and Vinagre who tip the ball at each other in a game of keepy up that is hypnotising me a little. It’s old school night so we have the squad out. Doherty looks pale…paler than he normally does. Traore looks like his normal bulging vein mode. I watch Coady for a bit warming up. He looks relaxed and cool, same as Boly, Bennet looks a bit stressed out though. It’s a big game having United down here again after lashing the skin off them numerous times last season. I watch 80 Million quid slab head warming up in front of the Northbank. He doesn’t move half as well as Boly. I’m surprised nobody has come in for Willy in the close season to be honest. The rest of United kind of blur into sulking faces, they don’t look happy at all but I can hear Coady and Moutinho laughing about something. It’s good being this close.
In the depths of Heredfordshire one gloomy Winter I stood beating apiece of red hot metal on an anvil made out of two welded pieces of railway track. Around me were bits of vehicles and the detritus of scrap metal, bits of pipe, tyres, cable. In the ‘shed’ was a forge my mate Alex had built years ago when he first started making swords and knives. The shed was made of Pallets and tarpaulin, some brickwork, old wood, it was full of crap.
I had watched a lot of his videos on Youtube between the UFO videos I was wont to gaze at for hours. Watching sword and knife making videos can get you into trouble. Sometimes you fancy having a crack yourself. So I sent him an email and he invited me down to have a go by myself. It’s tough. My arm felt like falling off chucking a three lb Lump Hammer around for a few hours. My face was burning after looking in the fires of the forge looking for the right colour on the steel. Then Alex would pull it out and I would continue to whack the steel as he moved it this way and that. It was a case of ‘whack it there…no, right there, no…it’s cooled…back in the forge roll a fag, it’s ready’, take it out and whack it for another ten minutes. I was tired and the novelty of making something for yourself had worn off. My cup of tea had black flakes of carbonised steel floating on top and I didn’t care, slurp, whack. I kept trying to channel Joe Mallen and failing.
Just as I was ready to jack the whole thing in, all of a sudden the pain in my arm and hand had gone and there was a certain placidity around me and Alex. I was tapping the anvil three times, then the steel. I don’t know whether this made any sense of metaphysical difference to the act of forging but there it was. A knife was taking shape and the steel in the tongs was like butter and every blow was the correct blow and there was something that resembled a knife there, now the hammer was kissing the steel.
Sorry I went off on one a bit, but you will understand in a minute why it was in my mind. The first half of this game was just that. Endless hammering that made my ears buzz like the Southbank was doing. They were loud for sure. What a beautiful stand it is. I was proud to just stand back and listen to them. Everytime we had a taste of the ball there was a United player waxing knobbly lyrics in whoevers face. Moutinho has the ball and he controls, looks up and there is a figure or two in red getting all leggy in his face. The ball, released is knee height at Jota who struggles, the ball is in the air and it’s heading time. Brought down the ball is a Red one and they press high and hard, quick. Rashford is miserable in his play and it’s fast but hasn’t got any purpose at all. Martial is throwing himself into gaps and yes, this is a new United from last season but the team look like they would rather be somewhere else. Their signing Daniel James is a laugh riot. He goes flying through the air after a ‘challenge’ and the Ref books him for simulation. I laugh to as it was right in front of me and no way was there any contact. It was comical. So for me any intent United had disspipated away in the humid air of Molineux. Thankfully despite James and his play acting the United team kind of carried on the narrative of pressing and finangling the ball so that we were having difficulty pinning down any semblance of a typical Wolves game. Perhaps this was the tactic Olly had penned on his whiteboard pre game. I know Wolves tend to start games half stoneed and chilled out while they gather steam and the rythyms become real concrete things on the pitch again. Now Wolves weren’t being given that opportunity. Instead we were chasing the ball at times, at others while in possession we were given no quarter, no time to impinge our game on the evening. It was tough. Neves was spending time tracking back, Boly was throwing himself at everything. Coady running, spacing out the attack, pushing off into neutral space. Doherty wasn’t going anywhere, as soon as he had the ball then he had two United players nibbling away on him. There was no space to run everything was 100mph. This dude in front of me was trying to look after three little kids who kept running around and wanting a piss or a pie. Wolves looked like him, wondering what the fuck was going on. As it was Martial booted one in. Lovely goal to be honest. I would love to have the skills to describe what was going on in Wolves defence but I’ve drawn a blank. I would happily say it was just Manchester United doing the Manchester United thing. They are a quality team that just lack any idea of why they are doing what they are doing. I think you could tell this by the fact they spent ten minutes after the goal man loving each other in front of their fans while the Wolves players discussed the relative merits of Aldi V Lidl Cinnamon swirls.
Pogba stamps on Moutinhos leg in a nasty display of Pogbaness. Joao grimaces and rubs the sore appendage, stays down for a bit. He doesn’t do this kind of football our Little Wizard and I’m shitting bricks for a few seconds until Joao is back up. Jota is staring at Pogba with ‘that’ look. I think if Jesus or Saiss was on the pitch our Poggy baby would be wearing his arse ring for a headband at some point. Boly has a stud print on his head. It’s a bit niggly out there I think. United are being twats.
The first half was gone and they were one goal up and I was annoyed…not by the result but some fucking fruit loop in front of me that thought it was funny to draw metaphysical VAR screens with his none too clean fingers every fucking five minutes. Jesus Christ…I mean Bully came on to give a fan some prize or something during the half time chill out. I stared at the sky for a while then waved to Horace who was sat at the top of the New Stand…er John Ireland…er Steve Bull stand. I’m sure he was flicking the V’s back.
But Mr Volt jogs onto the pitch for a warm up. He’s got his kit on ready. Adama ‘Juice’ Traore Ladies and Gentleman. I can feel the ground rumble as he jogs up and down, jumping around warming up. Vinagre is removed from a huddle of Wolves subs playing juggling and told to whack the ball at Adama for a while get him ready.
Now United are fucked to be honest. That high pressing thing has taken the wind out of them especially Luke Shaw who I can hear breathing heavily thirty yards away from me. Rashford is sulking about something. Lingard is running around without any real purpose and Slabhead is giving me a headache just looking at his mishapen head. Within the first ten minutes of the restart Old Slabhead and Traore are not getting on at all and Slabheads new lyrics are falling on Adamas deaf ears. Luke Shaw gets involved too and is waxing eloquent bars that Adama is not listening to as Adama starts tearing holes through the Manchester United defence again and a fucking gain. This is Adama Traore in the Nuno mold. Passing the ball back, laying it off, watching and waiting for things to open up. Spaces where he can visualise his run turning Shaw inside out again making Slabheads attempts to close him down an abstract attempt where only Slabheads experience stops a chance or a half chance. But Adama is sticking in a few crosses and shapes for sure. He’s electric this lad now, moving into spaces of his own violition instead of standing waiting with his hands on his hips waiting for the standard ball to come to him…it’s not like that now. Nuno has juiced him up and thrown him out there with Nuno bars rattling around his head. Stay there, wait, move, collect a space opens up and he is gone through United like a Tramp through a bag of chips.
A chance for Jimmy, header, it kisses the inside of the gaol post and safe, but we are moving and seem to be free of that shackling high press and our shape hardly changes to be honest. It’s the same relentless shaping of the midfield, the defence, the attack into something breath taking and sexy. We move fluidly through them at times it seems easy, then United gather themselves for another short period of attacking intent before again we gather and press back moving upfield towards the Southbank who raise their volume with every move. Will it come? Of course it will.
Our shapes press and we get a corner. United are deep, too deep. This is respect of course because we have packed the box with talent, scary talent apart form one personality of course. Not far from where that magical goal against Derby was born into the fires of Molineux what seems like years ago. But Ruben Neves is waiting and the Wolves team know where he is even if Manchester United are unaware. At the time I haven’t a clue who gets him the ball because all of a sudden time has stopped again. I’m getting goosebumps writing this now as I remember. The Southbank have stopped what they are doing and time is rolling backwards slowly to that night when magic spilled across the pitch. Ruben Neves adjusts his position, he collects the ball. There is a Red wall in front of him like a Rugby scrum bearing down on him. They will be there in a split second. Perhaps their own hearts were racing as mine was still between beats. Ruben adjusts the position of the ball with his right foot and ping. Ruben Neves puts ‘memory’ into that ball. Now it’s ‘Neves time’ when everything is slow and everything becomes magical slow motion, hands slowly rising and from the depths of every persons solar plexus the first beginnings of something that will be loud. That’s why you have to prepare your body to emit this Nevesian noise. It will rip eardrums and we have to prepare because even if that ball is hanging above the United players in the Manchester United Box and even if they are gawking at it like it’s some sort of alien artefact…we have to prepare. I think if we didn’t then one day 30 thousand odd Wolves fans would just explode in a red mist flecked with Balti pies and half digested beer.
Neves time mate. David de Gea is alive to it and aware but it an itch he will not scratch, not today anyway. Because it’s a Nevesian ball and doesn’t quite follow the Newtonian Laws of motion. De Gea stretches and the ball nestles in the top right hand corner, a forensic shot like you rarely see twice and yet every time this lad anoints the ball with his foot in this position we are ensconced in a luxury of velvety football we are ill prepared for. I had to sit down. There was a VAR thing again but I knew in my heart the Gods would not allow this Satanic technobollocks to mar and spoil this. We cheer again as the Ref allows the goal to stand. It will be a point for sure. As when Pogba dramatically tumbles over our Captains foot I’m secure in the knowledge that at least justice will be done and Rui Patricio will erupt on that goal line and clear the penalty awarded to United. They argue of course that Rashford should have taken it but the outcome would have been the same of course because Rui is probably the greatest goalkeeper in Europe. He stretches out a hand and scratches the itch de Gea could not and the ball is headed away after his stop and the game rolls towards the ultimate end.
Now the analogy of the knife making time that was in my mind earlier can be explained a little. I was wondering as I limped away from the game holding onto little DeeDee why I was thinking about forges and hammers. Of course we kept hammering away regardless of how the opposition played. Some periods felt like we were under the cosh for sure, other times we looked like the greater team. At times when we are under attack like this it seems everything is going wrong but deeper insights tell us everything was going right regardless of possession. Because even something hard and tempered like this Manchester side will buckle eventually under the endless rythym of the hammer and that is exactly what happened. United did become more malleable in the second half. They had thrown all their tricks at us and it took an errant tumble in the penalty area to give them a chance to pull a win out of a game they did not really deserve to win. We remain of course a thorn in their side when it comes to playing each other and I hope this continues. As the United fans made their way to their homes around the West Midlands they should think themselves lucky they have seen Neves and company in action and that they saw the start of something that could well dominate the world in the next few years.