Wolves have been the Championship’s big spenders so far this season – and so far their investment is paying off!
They have so far brought in 11 players, with the pick of the bunch midfielder Ruben Neves from Porto for a Championship record fee of more than £15m.
Neves became the youngest captain in Champions League history when he led Porto in a tie against Maccabi Tel Aviv at the age of 18 in 2015.
The other signings have been goalkeepers John Ruddy and Will Norris, defenders Ryan Bennett, Roderick Miranda, Willy Boly (loan), Phil Ofosu-Ayeh, Ruben Vinagre (loan) and Barry Douglas and the other Jota – Diogo (loan) – in midfield
Fans have responded with 16,000 season tickets – the best toal for five years.
WHO’S IN CHARGE
Nuno Espirito Santo was appointed as Wolves’ latest manager over the summer.
As a player he represented Deportivo La Coruna, Porto (two spells), Dynamo Moscow and Aves, while he also managed Porto, after spells in charge of Rio Ave and Valencia.
He replaced Paul Lambert in the Molineux hotseat.
What are the expectations for Wolves this season given the summer spending?
In all my time doing this job I’ve personally never gone into a season of covering one of the clubs on this patch with less of a clear idea of how they are likely to be perform. Yes, they’ve spent a lot of money, but the Championship has chewed up plenty of big spenders in the past – Wolves among them. I appreciate also that when I casually say “a lot of money”, that doesn’t really do justice to the amounts they’ve flung around in the last 12 months, but football inflation being as rampant as it is, you do wonder how much point there is in comparing numbers any more. (For example, is the £15 million Wolves reportedly spent on Ruben Neves more, or less, in context of what everyone else is spending at the same moment, than the £6.5 million they reportedly spent on Steven Fletcher in 2010? But I digress.) I thought you could make a case for them winning the league, but also a case for them struggling just as badly as last season. But my expectations are irrelevant. The expectations of many fans – most, probably, and virtually all of them who call radio stations or use social media – are stratospheric, and even more so given their strong start. Never mind the play-offs, the club are aiming for promotion; the owners are demanding it; an increasing number of fans are starting to expect it.
From what you have seen so far, how good is Ruben Neves?
I haven’t seen all of the games so far, but clearly he is highly talented. The key for Neves – and probably some others – is not whether he has the ability to be good enough to play in the Championship, but whether he will be able to bring that ability to bear in a division with such a reputation for physical football, in which more delicate flowers sometimes fail to bloom. Probably this reputation is to some degree outdated – there aren’t as many awkward squads around as there used to be, although by all accounts Cardiff did their strongarm-number on Wolves last weekend. In the pre-season friendly against Leicester seven days before the Championship started, Neves showed he can consistently land a 50-yard pass on a 1 Euro coin. Will he be able to do that on the proverbial “wet and cold night in Grimsby*”? (* – Readers should replace with your own choice of awkward away trip to taste… every club has a favourite one of those!)
What is the general feeling about Wolves’ summer recruitment?
Most fans love it. It’s the age we live in – more than ever before, there’s nothing that the vast majority of fans like more than their team spending a lot of money. The naysayers – and they have gone very quiet over the last month – pointed out that bringing in a bus-load of unproven continental players last season was largely a failure. Many of them made next to no impact – Helder Costa had the purplest of purple patches up until his mega-money transfer, but then faded and is now injured; Ivan Cavaleiro was at best inconsistent, although has made a much better start this season; most of the others were quickly discarded. This summer’s intake seems to be, on the whole, of a higher calibre, but it’s still early days. Some fans were concerned about the influence of the so-called “super-agent” Jorge Mendes, who has links with the club’s Chinese owners, Fosun. Last season, when Wolves were struggling in the bottom half of the table, the concerned voices were louder; they are hard to hear at the moment. The bottom line is simply this: if Wolves are promoted – and they really could be – not many fans will be spending too much time worrying about where the players came from, who chose them and how much money they cost.
How has Nuno Espirito Santo settled into the club – how many changes has he made?
His actions are speaking rather more loudly than the man himself. There have been plenty of changes – a host of new players and an entirely fresh coaching staff. Some of the fixtures of the team in recent years, notably the captain Danny Batth and opinion-dividing senior midfielder Dave Edwards, have struggled to get much time on the field, for example. Nuno has very quickly established a playing style – Wolves have been set up 3-4-3 so far and seem to be happy playing that way. In every regard the changes appear to have been significant, and the results to date suggest that when both the new arrivals and the longer-serving players have told us that they are enjoying working with the new manager, they are telling the truth. Nuno himself appears to be settling in happily enough, although he chooses – for the time being – to speak in fairly guarded terms. He is probably wise to do that.
Who are you going to watch out for in the Brentford side?
I’ve been sorry to see that Rico Henry has been out injured again recently – I enjoyed seeing both Henry and Romaine Sawyers play at Walsall and I’d like to see them make further progress. Jota is clearly a good player too – it doesn’t surprise me that he’s in demand.
Wolves did the double over Brentford last season, after we had won both matches against them in the previous campaign.
Joao Teixeira put Wolves ahead just after half-time in our September meeting at Molineux with his first goal for the club and added a second 10 minutes later.
Sullay Kaikai replied with his first goal for the Bees but Ivan Cavaleiro secured a 3-1 victory for the hosts in injury-time.
Brentford looked set for victory at Griffin Park on a Tuesday night in the middle of March after Maxime Colin gave us a first half lead. But two goals in the last four minutes by Matt Doherty and Helder Costa earned all three points for the visitors with a 2-1 win.
PUBS IN BRENTFORD
For Wolves fans coming down, you are probably aware there plenty of pub options pre-match and all are most welcoming.
Last season, there were now only three pubs around the ground, following the closure of the Royal Oak.
The Griffin is closest to the away end (like 30 secs walk) and is very popular with away fans – but also very, very busy. The New Inn is on the other side and is also popular with away fans. The Princess Royal is the other option.
But at last month’s friendly with Celta Vigo, a pop-up version of the Royal Oak was set up outside the now closed boozer to bring back the “four corners” feature again.
Other pubs slightly further afield for the more creative amongst you include (and this is by no means a definitive list) …. The Globe (Windmill Rd) is the Beesotted pre-match pub. This boozer & The Lord Nelson (Enfield Rd) are both incredibly friendly and cosy away-friendly pubs and about 1 min walk from each other .. frequented by ‘away fans in the know’.
The Plough (Northfields Ave) in Northfields is a decent stop-off if you are coming by tube to Northfields (it’s a much better pub crawl route getting off at Northfields than South Ealing) before making your way down to the ground (normally stopping off at The Globe and Lord Nelson en route).
There is also a pub right by Brentford station always referred to as … the Pub by Brentford station.
For ale head to the Magpie and Crown pub on Brentford High Street. The Royal Horseguardsman can probably hold 15 of you at a push. The Brewery Tap is a cosy boozer by the river. And if you are super adventurous, get off at Kew Bridge and visit the brand new boozer One Over the Ait right on the river – beside the bridge. There are loads more too.
A quick Google search and you’ll find them all. There are many many more too if you have a look around.
Parking is pretty easy away from the ground going up towards and over the A4 Great West Road (ie. North) via Ealing Road or Windmill Road.
You can check out details of how the tube is running on Transport for London’s website here.
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