So, just how horrific was our Hallowe’en? The absence of Nelson Oliveira and the late withdrawal of Yanic Wildschut for personal reasons did not help to blow away any cobwebs left over from Derby, that’s for sure.
The ghost of Jacob Marley Watkins flicking a header fractionally the wrong side of the post was enough to give us the creeps.
The spectre of failure to deal with set pieces returned to haunt us twice on All Hallows Eve, and members of Upper Barclay D Block had a heated half-time discussion about whether zonal marking should be permanently exorcised from Colney. That Willy Boly and Leo Bonatini simply had too much space for a brace of clinical finishes was something we all agreed on.
The sight of John Ruddy and Ryan Bennett as revenants resplendent in their Wolves kits (doubtless complete with bulging wallets) was eerie. However it must be said neither were over-employed. Bennett looked good in a back three and something very spooky appears to have happened to Ruddy since he left us: he seems to have lost a couple of kilos and his kicking, both place and from hand, was immaculate.
A tired and depleted squad were always going to be in a bit of bother against one of the – if not the – richest sides in the Championship.
But enough already. Let’s admit that we lost to a bloody good side. And they were. Wolves broke with pace and intent, often forcing Timm Klose and Grant Hanley too far apart for my liking. Nuno Espirito Santo and his boys are the best outfit I have seen this season by a country mile and even at this early stage I will say that they will be promoted, presuming they do not implode.
Much has been made elsewhere about the difference in financial resources between the two clubs. They paid £16 million for their 20-year-old midfielder – Ruben Neves; about seven times more than we paid for James Maddison. Who is the better player? Only time will tell. But if our James continues to develop along the lines he is currently, he will be sold when the price is right. That’s how it is for us these days.
We all acknowledge we are a work in progress and with our sensible hats on, I believe very few of us expect promotion at the end of this season. There are better sides than us in the Championship and we saw one of those on Tuesday night.
One thing that does concern me is a lack of pace in the squad. Yes, Josh is quick, Yanic can be powerful and direct and when Ivo Pinto bombs on he does so with alacrity. But that’s it. The way Wolves bore down on us, mob handed at times, and occasionally through the middle, was something we can only dream of replicating.
We can look back to Darren Eadie, Ruel Fox, Efan Ekoku and the mighty Hucks as genuine speed merchants who scared the living out of opposition defences. Apart from what I perceive to be an underperforming Josh Murphy we have no-one of that ilk any more. And as for the “fox in the box” he must have gone to earth because I’ve seen no sign of him for a few seasons now.
But Stuart Webber said it would take a few transfer windows to get to where he wants us to be, so I guess patience remains the key.
I’m not reading too much into the recent announcement of a £2.7million loss last season. I’m no expert, but that figure is a little bit less than I actually expected. An awful lot of severance money has been spent (interesting that Alex Neil’s compensatory figure remains “confidential”) so I’m not too dismayed.
And nor am I distressed about being beaten by a better side. I couldn’t fault the effort, unlike last season.
There are many miles left in this journey and I feel the quicker the Alexes (Pritchard and Tettey) return, the easier it will become. Sorting Nelson out is also a priority as I am sure Daniel Farke is well aware.
I guess the Wolves reality check should be taken as one of those things that go bump in the night when you’re an evolving squad.
Never say MFW doesn’t pay its debts. It was a pleasure buy Don Harold a pint at the Bell and to meet him and his friends before the game. Cheers for your help, Don.