It’s strange thinking of this game against Sheffield United and the Campaign in General as being some sort of ‘Start’. When did we finish to start? I’m not going to be mawkish and sentimental about the lack of fans at these weird abstract games played in empty stadiums, already there has been much moaning about it and for Gods sake I’ve been one of them and it’s boring now. It’s time to batten down the hatches and squat down in your chair with that vacant stupid expression people have when they are concentrating on audio. You know the one.
No Pre-season…well we never really had a post season. Will it effect us in any way? I doubt it. For one it wouldn’t surprise me if Nuno and the team have direct links to their players houses via webcam. You get Fridges now that you can access on your phone to see if you have any milk left. I can imaging Traore going in the fridge for some Ben and Jerrys ice cream (or if he goes to Aldi, Len and Barrys) and Nunos face appearing in the LCD display going “Hey what you doing? Put it back!”. Traore doesn’t shop at Aldi does he? He’s a Tesco man gotta be, or Sainsbury. Neto probably shops at Nett….I’ll shut up. Fabio Silva is on the bench looking beautiful like a Caravaggio Cherub on an Italian Church wall. Nah don’t put him on yet. Sheffield United are a bit footy and shinny if I’m honest. Despite their position in the Premier League and their finish they still have a bit of lower league darkness about them for sure. You can tell that by the weird war trims they sport. Wilder for all his waxamisations and lubricating football talk has a bit of the Warnockian about him. I might be wrong but that’s just the impression I have. Marcal is on the pitch too and you know…he looks quite refined and quiet for now but underneath that calm exterior is a cauldron of intent waiting to pop up. It will too.
But settling myself down I was quite prepared for the usual 40 minutes of the opposition giving us a bit of a mauling to be honest. Same as last season. We tend to start slow, took some time to get moving and remember why we were there or spending large parts of the match watching the Seagulls flying over the John Ireland stand flicking off the bits of fingernail Horace had spit out onto my shoulders. Remember football matches? But instead of that languid almost acoustic play we get some full fat Wolves lunacy that usually appears at around 55 minutes on the clock. I hadn’t even finished my kick off roll up and Jimmy has poked one in with the grace of a dancer to be sure. An effortless thing it looked like. Poor old Chris Wilder the Sheffield Coach looked like someone had nicked his jetwasher or the bin men hadn’t emptied his purple bin…again. That confused look that morphed between anger, confusion, bemusement and horror. He folded his arms and threw some grump faces at all and sundry. Nuno looked that happy, I mean that happy face he pulls like he’s half stabbed someone to death…an enemy or something. It’s DanPod of course that gets things moving for Raul. He’s a dark horse this one for sure. At least his legs have arrived from Greece where last season I suspect they got lost in the post. Man legged down that left wing having a few jinkys on the way. Legs were a blur and he pokes it over and under a bit into the box where Raul is trying to be quiet and not wake the United defence up who were flailing around in their sleep having bad dreams about DanPod and Neto. But DanPod is finding his feet here I think and probably enjoying himself at last. Sometimes it does take a bit of familiarisation to bump knees properly or in the way Nuno wants.
So to my addled mind it seems like DanPod and Neto are buzzing around Raul up front and early doors they have give me a headache already by switching around and prowling about. Even though they are slight fellows by any standards they have something very bloody tricky about them, they make up for large physical presence not by being physical themselves but by avoiding physical contact full stop. When they have the ball the opposition are just obstacles. Not obstacles you have to try and demolish with your own head but obstacles to be run around and avoided all together. Evolution again from Nuno. Make your ideas stronger than theirs but constantly evolve those ideas. Look at the bench. Neves, Fabio, Vitinha. Quality and the difference between Sheffield and us. The bench is solution, options, possible advantage and opportunity. Selection of Neto and DanPod are the result of intelligence reports and work. Looking at the United team to see where they will be beaten, where they will feel pressure and who will crack under that pressure. The United defence is physical, tall, old school and we are new, vibrant, fast, nimble. When me and Horace went to a few Wolves V Liverpool games last season and before that we noticed how Klopper could dash on a few substitutes that were game changers, quality players. No more can we see the Wolves bench as blokes that perhaps had a few beers the week before and were a bit fragile so they were given a day off. We have grown and developed the squad, there is a Premier League and European mindset now to fill every available player slot with quality and a correct razor sharp mental condition.
In midfield we have Donk and the Wizard Moutinho. Donk there to chase down the opposition and never give them a moments peace. He didn’t either to be honest. Moutinho looked like he could have played well into the early hours. You could hear him giving out shork barking exclamations and orders. If he tells you to move you move. If Coady is the Captain and leader then Joao is definitely the Shaman of the team. There is wizardry there for certain, elements and a detail with his football and aspects of it that are as confusing and as amazing as watching a kid complete a Rubik cube in three seconds flat. Watch his pass to DanPod before the Raul goal. I nearly threw the laptop out of the window and jumped into me Rose bush. I’m not fucking worthy mate. So already I’m thinking about pulling my own eyes out a few minutes into the game.
But you know Shaman Moutinho…a little story. When I was at Uni we went to one of these Freshers balls. Full of dickheads from sixth form and now free to run wild without teachers or Mom and Dads. Man, there were cheap shots, beers, free mugs and tat. All the Ex Factory lads like me and a few others wouldn’t pass up the opportunity to go to these events and get arseholed for cheapness and get a free mug of course. One or a few of these sixth form girls had put body glitter all over herself and in the sweat and youthful madness of the DISCO sorry…DJ Whogivesafuck, this body glitter covered everything. I was in me bath that many times trying to scrub it off I was red raw…where was I? Oh yeah. Moutinho is inspirational footballings equivalent of body glitter. I suspect all the Wolves team get inspired by his shapes. Covered in them. Neto bloody did. He stuck one of those trademark Moutinho type corners straight onto the head of Saiss who practically flew up and stuck his nut bang on the money mate. Me and my bludskins are very fond of Saiss and even if other members of the team get more of the plaudits sometimes we like to turn around to one another and say “Saissy eh” when he amazes us with something or dishes out a little justice. Always watch out for the quiet ones. 2-0 to us. Only six minutes gone.
Sheffield United don’t know what the fuck is going on in the first half. They look like the dudes checking their receipt in the shop doorway while you are trying to get in. That confused concentration and inability to articulate any response other than flailing around with 100% energy and 0% idea. So Raul is getting these balls to feet from DanPod and company and every single time he does the United defence go into this mad ‘someone turns the kitchen light on and the Cockroaches scurry around looking for a dark crack’. That’s unfair to Sheffield and I apologise but that’s how it felt.
Sheffield of course are not doughnuts and I suppose being generous they are not really a Warnockian mental asylum either. Of course they have a pop. Marcal is solid as a rock, he’s breaking things up down his end. Traore has a bit of a maddun and someone gets behind him. They are having a pop back. They have to, it’s the first day of school and already you are getting bullied. Neto comes off at some point, fair enough. Two goals in the groove lets think about changing the shape a bit and Oscar Burr comes on. Bit more defencey, bit more stoical. Change the shape and idea a little. Burr is quality, a player with a big Nuno stamp on his forehead. Burr does Nuno things how Nuno wants. Brilliant sub at the right time. So Traore can get up now and start to terrorise people up front for a bit. So Mr T busts some runs, shakes things up, scares and titillates makes Sheffield have one eye on getting back into the game and one eye on the Sonicio the Hedgehog. Saiss likes a taste too and you can tell things are quiter now becuase he keeps popping up the box trying to wrangle his forehead around a few headers making himself known, putting his name down, Lovely. We have cameos later on for Vitinha and Neves is given a few minutes but you know the game is done for. Wilder knows it, he’s now that sad with his arms crossed he looks like he found a pound coin in a trolley and lost a twenty squid note. Jesus Christ eh? Football.
This squad has evolved in the short time between the end of last season and this. It’s not additions and signings. I think they have evolved because they have caught up with (if not) the tactical longevity and establishment mentality of the top six definitely the ability to not bring one idea to the game but a selection. Not a luxury of being able to select a quality player from the bench but to change the shape instantly on the pitch with players who understand exactly what Nuno and the staff want. Less a case now of making your ideas stronger but making your ideas ductile and adaptable.
The game for me was less about the three points although seeing Sandwell United down the nether regions of the League table after one game a joyful experience. What excites me is that when we get to Wembley this season and win a Cup. I reckon the FA Cup to be honest. This team isn’t the same team as ‘that game we don’t mention and I can hardly remember’, it’s different for sure. Early days Brothers and Sisters. Early days, but exciting ones.