The Art Of Adama Traore


‘Traore’ 40″ x 25″ Acrylic, Resin and ink on hardboard

I’ve lost count of the amount of times I’ve walked out of Molineux after a win, dizzy with the victory, tears in your eyes, shaking a little at the joy of the whole spectacle. But I’ve also had a little hollow space in my heart, tiny yes, but still there. A little hole that needed filling with something a little special and maybe even a little insane. I think all of us were searching for someone to join our team, someone who we can say truly reflects our madness I suppose. A player that would make us turn inside out with excitement even through the fog of a few pints pre match. I suspect we have found that player now. Adama Traore. His football is like being punched in the face with an Icecream. Sometimes a knuckle, often a delicious gob full of ice cream. Mr Whippy Traore is…a cool Mr Whippy with Reggae chimes. 

Adama I think, was trapped by his football before he came to Wolves. I suspect it may have weighed heavily on his mind and that transferred to his feet. What we saw initially was a player struggling to integrate ability with a new footballing roadmap instigated by Nuno Espirito Santos and the University of Compton. That struggle is documented in the early days of his Wolves career when the Flakies on Social Media denigrated him endlessly. All you have to do to find out my thoughts is read the blog, maybe chat to a few people who I talk football with to define my opinion. He was at the rough end. New team, new Manager, new grooves to learn. As with all new skills it takes time to ascertain a new rythym, a new approach. The same substrate was there of course. The speed, the agility, the chaos of an early run. But now that rawness was being tempered in the forge of Compton. There were new ways of doing things. New views on what the player should do in given situations. How does Nuno do it really? I think for a start he has to have a player who will listen and understand what he says. I suspect this ability to ascertain which prospective player has any eagerness to learn is a part of the whole recruitment madness and why some players with obvious ability explode and self destruct in a shrapnel like atmosphere of burst balloons and false eyelashes. They didn’t listen, but I suspect Adama listens with a razor sharp intellect. Many call Adama a ‘Beast’ and nothing could be further from the truth.

Gradually I have again come to view the trails and tribulations of Adama as a major part of the human experience, a shared desire for love, happiness and fucking great football. Maybe its the Kwan again. The thread that connects everything together and binds us all to a final event, a moment when we can grab onto the rail in front of us in the Southbank and say ‘Well yes, that is pure football’. The lines that Adama runs in a football match often tangle, come undone, unravel perhaps and eventually rejoin until the tapestry of his physicality is complete in all it’s glory. Regardless of his background and his skills, his lifestyle and his football that thread I think runs straight to us and makes us feel a part of his journey. I think Adama plays football like we would play football. That raw epiphany as we watched him develop game after game consoles us that perhaps there is some hope in pure unadulterated football coming back for a short while and gives us joy that those threads also make us involved too. Perhaps it was even destined that he should come to us and learn such is the love I have for Traore. He makes my heart beat a little faster when he gets the ball, when he ghosts past someone I grab onto the arm of whoever is next to me. I wish he would shoot more but he is generous and human and I think the delight he has in an assist is the same delight as if he scored a goal. I truly think that.

For a moment while there is a break in play Adama Traore puts his hands on his hips and looks around him. He narrows his eyes as Molineux is bright and noisy. He takes a few deep breaths and the muscles hung to that frame quiver and twitch because his brain is still screaming at him to possess the ball again, to guide the ball through the madness of the opposition defence and to smash through these layers of footballers, to inch the perfect weighted ball onto the feet of Raul or Jota. But for a minute he just looks at the sky and smiles to himself…

Adama defies the normal storyline. In other alternate worlds he would have crumbled under the pressure and slid down the muddy grass to incompleteness…to inhabit the world now surrounding Bright Enkobahare or Jordan Graham. Now as much as I can write about the physicallity of Adama it is not the whole story of course. For overmuscled football players are ten a penny. Fast players also available. Those Wolves shirts that adorn the Traore back are stretched as tight as a drum over him…but mind is everything of course. The control centere that propells Traore across the Molineux turf is driven by Philosophy again. Nuno has dropped knowledge upon the head of Adama. To run here, not there, to watch him and not ignore him. To move into this space and that space until the canvas has been cleared and it is time for Adama to make his art and entwine that thread around us, the fans, tighter and tighter until of course eventually the thread is cut and Adama expands his skills into new arenas and new players. But we were here first of course. We watched the birth of Adama Traore the footballer right here at Molineux regardless of where he had played before. 

There is of course much more to say about the Traore narrative and some of the early puzzling play we watched from Adama but I would rather concentrate on the concept of Traore and maybe even look at the concept (perhaps) that Adama has made us in some way feel a wholeness about our relationship with our team. You see most of what we know about football is by talking to people about the past, the matches we watched before and that ‘they’ watched. We watch reruns of great Wolves matches on YouTube and many other platforms. We remember ‘this’ and ‘that’ and wax eloquently often on the football we have watched and that football doesn’t even have to be Wolves football because the thread that ties us to Adama also entwines around all other teams (apart from Villa and Sandwell). But that vision and memory of those past matches are never really clear even seconds after they have happened. They become blurry with emotion and the madness of thirty thousand triumphant voices. Sometimes the memory we have of past players glories are exaggerated and become fantasies that also become entwined with the memories of events. 

It would be fantastic of course if we could watch Adama grow as a person and as a Footballer from his earliest years until he decides to close the (playing) footballing chapter of his career. What will be his destiny in the next few years? I hope it is fulfilment of his dreams and ours entwined together and only God knows which way that particular story will grow and develop. For now of course we live in the knowledge that we have within our team of brilliant professionals possibly one of the most exciting football players I have ever watched and he has inspired this art above. 

In this art is a few hidden things. What looks like random slashes and daubs of paint are intricate codes that explain many of the empirical aspects of Adama Traores football. I think perhaps that if you apply colour with nothing in your mind except the two hours of YouTube Traore videos then your subconscious takes over and all the madness of his football linked with the empricial and quantitative data of his performance will entwine…just like that thread that binds us to Traore (together) into a piece of art that makes perfect sense even if it screams abstraction. In the bottom right and upper left you will see what seems to be random slashes and scribble. This is Adama Traore on the pitch during several of our winning games. I watch him closely on the screen and I move my paintbrush exactly where he goes. The rest of it I suppose I will leave for others to decode. But please enjoy it in these insane times. 


The Art of João Moutinho


Joao Moutinho. I once waxed some lyrical madness about Moutinho having the same tenacious urge for the ball as former Wolves madman Keith Downing. After I waxed then the laughter started, I laughed too, at the people that were laughing at me. Perhaps it was the way I wrote it, anyway. He has the same tenacious need to get the ball back into his possession, the same as ‘Psycho’ did but that is where the similarity ends isn’t it? Where Psycho tended to kick you in the balls with his football Moutinho tends to tickle them.

João can unroll his scroll of Honours with the various clubs he played for, Porto, Sporting Lisbon, Monaco…the scrollage is long, especially when you add in the European honours he won with his country. You can read about those elsewhere, what he did and how he did it but that’s empirical again and rarely means anything. I’m a firm believer in a person reflecting the place they were born. In João’s case Portimão in the Portuguese Algarve. It’s a beautiful little town and is picturesque, and it’s ice cream colours and blue skies hide a thing, a synchronous relationship with what they once were, a Carthaginian stronghold. It has two castles. A history of hard fought conquests by the Moors and a forced entry into what would become the Portuguese Kingdom. One famous Carthaginian you may have heard of is Hannibal. Not the lunatic played by Anthony Hopkins. The one which terrorised the Roman Empire for a good many years. When I found this out I laughed. João is Hannibal.

When João first signed for Wolves I was a bit nervous. All of a sudden these beautiful young Portuguese and Spanish players we were used to seeing roll in (and out) of the club had this 30 odd year old roll in. I had barely registered what Moutinho was about to be honest. I was thinking about the Jack Hayward years and the endless queue of ‘former Premier League’ players with ‘experience’ who fancied having a quick gobble at the Hayward tit while they forced their shattered limbs around Molineux for one last payday. This mixture of pissheads and cripples made me quiver a bit.

So he turns up, moves Ruben Neves back into a more defensive roll, takes control of the midfield and starts to wax the lyrical football we know and love. The times I have stood on the Southbank and been absolutely astounded by Moutinho, well I’ve lost count. Now I just don’t even look around me, I just try to force down the little Butterflies that flutter around in my belly when he steezes another pass, another interception, plonks a corner in. When he waves at the Southbank thousands of grown men wave back. Love mate.

What can you write about a player like João? Volumes I suspect. His vision, his lifestyle, his Philosophy about Football. I could start to write pages and go game by game layering the text with metaphors and aphromisms. So it all becomes a confusing mess of words and we become like the players who have to play against Joao. It will all end in us falling over and eating grass, thumping the 5G Pitch, looking at the Referee. Is he the best player ever to wear the Gold and Black? I would say yes. It’s all relative of course. I never watched Hancocks and Wright play but I have watched every Wolves team since the days of Derek Dougan, Bailey, Richards et al. Moutinho is the best I have watched.

When my mind wanders during a game and ‘They’ have the ball, Moutinho reminds me of a kid who while enjoyimg a solitary kick about in the park is approached by a group of much bigger scrotes who take his ball off him. But it’s Joãos ball. He wants it back and he wants it back right now. There is a rage within him that is controlled perfectly and transformed into pure footballing beauty. There is a Hannibal within him for sure. Some of that Moorish/African Stoicism…some of that resistance that Portimão showed when a Greater Portugal annexed the town maybe? I’m quite happy to luxuriate in the thought that if Hannibal of the Carthaginians  was told to put a kit on and get out there to play football then he would be Joao Moutinho. 

In the games against Tottenham last season he smashed great slashes through the Spurs midfield with alacrity and seemingly at will. Here was quality that put Spurs multi million quid bunch of inebriates and doughnuts in some Hannibalian shade. With no answer most the time. Riddles for sure. Football they couldn’t and will never really understand. João threw question after question onto the Molineux turf. Every syllable of those riddles was punctuated by movement and grace that I am struggling to describe. Moutinhos movement was at times obtuse, angular, then erupted in great curves in order to manipulate four or five Spurs players to react to him. This allowed Joao to bring in other players, other movements and he actually conducted the pattern of play for huge periods of the game. The result of this was petulance on behalf of many of the Spurs team which unfolded into pitch thumping, ankle grabbing theatrics as well as the odd elbow or ankle tapping challenge. I remember turning around to Horace early in one game after another Spurs dramatic interlude and telling him Spurs were done for. If you do that kind of crap this early in a game then you have lost it. And they did. 

Here in Moutinho is a man that has learned how to keep a firm lid on his own rage. He has conquered himself. Made his height a plus, a weapon in his armoury. Instead of petulance at meeting someone who played better than him he learned, he watched and he played ‘better’ than them. His passing is beautiful, looping, curved, a placid geometry that beggars belief sometimes. You have to remember I’m just a normal bloke like everybody else. I’ve worked in factories and building sites, school was something to be survived and not enjoyed. I stand on the Southbank watching this magical madness from Joao and often I feel like crying great gushing tears at the absolute joy this man brings to me and when he decides to hang up his boots to enjoy the fruits of his skills on some beautiful beachfront restaurant sipping wine pressed between the breasts of Aphrodite herself…well mate, there will always be a sunny patch on that Molineux pitch that belongs just to him.

So we have it. A footballer that good, that inspiring that platitudes written on this cold day in Wednesfield on a lap top that doesn’t even belong to me. What can I say? Nothing of course. I read my books on it all sometimes and I’m fucking horrified how I haven’t been able to capture the Nunogeist, the excellence of it all. I think of Coady and Saiss, Boly, Traore, Jonny, Neto, Vinagre, Raul, Jota, Neves, Patricio all of them and had an idle thought maybe I could paint what it was all about. Maybe colour and form would describe the indescribable. So I sat down and painted and it took me a week to do. It’s Moutinho that photo up there at the top. 20″ by 20″ of acrylic and ink on canvas. Each line and lick of paint is an emotion I had when watching João Moutinho. Every arc of paint is a pass or a move. Every mark, every addition of line or circle is Moutinho and the spirit of his football pinging out like a radar and whacking you right in your soul as you get another elbow in the head, another hug off your mates, the odd sly punch in the head too. Goals, football madness. Fucking brilliant.

I’m going to do all the team. This isn’t those funky framed computer generated things where the players are carefully pencilled and washed with slashes of colour, its not that. This isn’t anything that can be monetised. It’s not something anybody would appreciate on their wall. It’s innocent of all that shit. It’s just about how everything this team does makes us feel. I hope you enjoy it anyway.