Every Wolves Player Who Made An Appearance in 2017/18 Ranked By Contribution On The Pitch

Actually, to clarify the point, ranked by my personal opinion about their contribution on the pitch. I’ve tried to mesh that together with appearance stats and some other info to give it more credibility.

#33 Harry Burgoyne – Handed a solitary token appearance at Sunderland after the game was already lost.

#32 Michal Zyro – One start in the League Cup and that was that for the big Polish striker. Got a few goals for Charlton.

#31 Sylvain Deslandes  1 sub appearance in the league and 2 starts in the League Cup before leaving for Pompey on loan.

#30 Jordan Graham – Same appearance stats as Deslandes and couldn’t get a game at Fulham or on his return to the club in January.

#29 Dave Edwards – Another with 1 sub appearance in the league and 2 starts in the League Cup before ending his near decade-long association with the club.

#28 Rafa Mir – Just 1 start in the FA Cup and 3 sub appearances for the striker since arriving in January. No goals and no real chance to make an impact after the arrival of Afobe.

#27 Donovan Wilson – Came off the bench at Southampton in the cup and scored his first goal for the club. A memorable moment in a morale boosting win early doors.

#26 Oskar Buur – Played for 20 minutes in the league and netted a crucial equaliser against Hull. What was he even doing up there? More importantly, who cares? Also got a start in the League Cup.

#25 Connor Ronan – Got a look-in for a short time but once the squad was beefed out, struggled for minutes. Like a few others, impressed against Man City and left with De Bruyne’s shirt before heading to Portsmouth on loan.

#24 Kortney Hause – Not a single league start for Kortney and just 4 appearances in total, which must be a source of immense frustration. Somewhat surprised he was given a contract extension, but at 22 there’s still significant room for development.

#23 Jack Price – 5 appearances off the bench in the league and some game time in the League Cup. Played very well at The Etihad before bringing the curtain down on his Wolves career.

#22 Ben Marshall – Soon became obvious he was down the pecking order so no surprise he eventually left to get some games. Did manage one league start in his 5 appearances before impressing at Millwall.

#21 Nouha Dicko – Scored what proved to be the winning goal against Hull (ironically) so must rank higher than all the other also-rans. Also got one in the cup before being shipped out.

#20 Morgan Gibbs-White – Came into fashion after Christmas and was regularly involved. But only 1 league start and 3 in total from his 15 appearances. Still just 18 though and everyone at the club seems to think he’s going to the very top.

#19 Will Norris – Didn’t concede a goal in his League Cup campaign and was solid enough against Swansea in the FA Cup, but had a game to forget in his only league start at Sunderland.

#18 Ruben Vinagre – Had Douglas not been so effective, Vinagre would have made a lot more than the 13 appearances he mustered because whenever he did play, he looked motivated and capable. Scored a great goal at Burton.

#17 Bright Enobakhare – 26 appearances in total but just 2 goals and 1 assist for Bright. If he can beef up those numbers, he’ll be a Premier League player. You don’t make 26 appearances in a side this good if you’re not up to scratch.

#16 Roderick Miranda – Much like Danny Batth, looked pretty decent in the early games. I particularly liked his touch-tight, Italian-esque defending. Lost rhythm once Boly and Bennett became the preferred duo flanking Coady and looked vulnerable in subsequent cameos.

#15 Danny Batth – Started the season well enough, but once he lost his place to Bennett, he struggled on the rare occasions he was called upon. 21 appearances in total and an important headed equaliser against Bristol City for his only goal.

#14 Benik Afobe – Just 7 starts for Benik and a further 9 appearances from the bench. 6 goals was a decent return, but if I’m being hypercritical all his strikes came in games I felt we’d have won anyway.

#13 Alfred N’Diaye – Essential squad player. Only 17 starts but 20 more appearances from the bench. 3 goals and 2 assists. His physicality came in handy on several occasions.

#12 Helder Costa – 39 appearances in total but only 24 starts. Took him a long time to get up to speed. In fact it was only really down the home stretch he looked anything like the player we’ve come to know and love. 5 goals and 6 assists is still a decent contribution.

#11 Ryan Bennett – It didn’t look like he’d get a sniff at the start of the season, but ended up a key performer. 33 appearances in total and one special goal at Ashton Gate. That was his moment to savour, but overall he can feel very pleased with his efforts.

#10 Leo Bonatini – 47 appearances in total (31 starts) but it felt like he checked out at Christmas. Couldn’t muster a goal in 2018, but the 12 he registered early doors really helped get us up and running. 5 assists too for the Brazilian.

#9 John Ruddy – Would have been an ever-present in the league had Nuno not rested him on the final day. Won the Golden Glove for most shut-outs in the division but that owes as much to the defence in front of him. Made some big saves, most notably at Cardiff, but also let in a few soft goals and occasionally juggled crosses. Solid rather than spectacular.

#8 Romain Saiss – Major unsung hero. Immediately struck up a good understanding with Neves and connected the dots between defence and attack. 44 appearances in total and 4 important goals.

#7 Willy Boly – The centre-half of my dreams. Missed 10 games with injury and that’s the only reason he isn’t higher up the list. 3 goals and 2 assists to go with countless blocks, interceptions and carefree jaunts downfield.

#6 Ivan Cavaleiro – Rarely grabbed the headlines, but one of the big heroes of the campaign. 32 starts and 46 appearances in total. 9 goals and 12 assists.

#5 Matt Doherty

Only missed one league game all season and that was after getting sent off at Middlesbroguh. 47 appearances in total, 4 goals and 4 assists. A high ranking for sheer consistency. Not as explosive going forward as some previous seasons, but then again, he didn’t need to be.

#4 Barry Douglas

39 starts and 42 appearances in total. 5 goals scored and 14 assists. Yes, 14 assists. Nobody in the entire league managed more. Effective from open play but spectacular from dead ball situations.

#3 Diogo Jota

Quickly identified as the league’s most dangerous attacker and subsequently targeted for heavy treatment. 43 starts and 46 appearances in total is an incredible achievement. He was brought in to score and create and with 18 goals and 5 assists it was definitely mission accomplished.

#2 Conor Coady

Can count himself unfortunate not to be sitting at the top of the pile. 48 appearances in all competitions and barely a single mistake all season. A revelation. Factor in his character, his leadership and all those diagonal cross field passes and you’ve got one hell of a season. Made playing three at the back possible, which was essential to Nuno’s ‘idea’.

#1 Ruben Neves

42 appearances, 6 screamers and the best passer of a football we’ve ever had – certainly in my lifetime. Mick McCarthy was flabagasted Wolves spent £15 million on a ‘holding midfielder’ back in August. I suspect even he’s got on board by now. I wanted to give the number 1 slot to Coady, I really did, but I can probably count on one hand the number of seasons where we’ve actually had a midfield and this guy is like nothing I’ve ever seen.

Disagree with my list? I’ll paste the names into a comment below if anyone fancies having a crack themselves.

EXCLUSIVE Wolves Blog Meet Kevin Thelwell

In something of a coup for Wolves Blog, we were able to meet Sporting Director Kevin Thelwell recently for a chat about his role at the club, the part he’s played in this season’s unprecedented Championship success and the lofty ambitions of our owners.

Thelwell has always been something of an enigmatic figure at Molineux, going largely unnoticed when things are going well, but a target when the bad times cast a shadow. It was great to get his first-hand insights on the past, present and future of Wolves to make some of our own assessments on his tenure.

In a thorough, two-hour interview, the headline news is that he strongly believes Ruben Neves, along with his fellow match-winning stars, will still be here next season. Moreover he reiterated the ambitions of FOSUN, stating that they want to ‘win things’ and challenge the Premier League pecking order.

If Benik Afobe does sign permanently in the summer, then it shouldn’t surprise anyone either. While neither confirming or denying this, his ‘watch this space’ answer and subsequent smile suggested that this might well be a bit of business to take place.

It’s also clear that Thelwell himself played a much bigger role in recruitment than many might appreciate, with the Jorge Mendes link simply being leaned on when required to help get a foot in the door. Yes, the connection to the super agent helped facilitate meetings, but any accusation that he was dictating the transfer policy of the club is wide of the mark.

Tellingly, any other clubs interested in Neves and Jota last summer could have made an approach, but nobody came in for them! In fact, of our major recruits, only Willy Boly was courted – and those were Championship suitors. With hindsight, it appears that Wolves had a tremendous advantage when in fact they were simply the only ones brave enough to gamble on some of these talents, with the likes of Jota playing only 45mins of football in the entire 2017 under-21s championship in Poland and going largely under the radar.

I will split our interview into two blogs. Please see part one below, which concentrates on player recruitment and plans for the future. Part two will arrive in due course, looking at Thelwell’s role in more depth, and what a typical day in the life looks like for the sporting director.

Player retention

WB: Will our star players – including Ruben Neves – be with the club next season? The worst-case scenario for us would be starting the Premier League season with a worse squad than we have now. Because they have performed so well, it makes us fear that someone could pick them up before we have had the chance to see what even this team could do in the Premier League. Is that a valid concern?

KT: “It is an interesting concern. I would hope that would not be the case. The reason I say that is because FOSUN are very ambitious. Uber ambitious. This club is in a very different space. I think FOSUN want to see the club become a very strong Premier League team and, on that basis, you don’t become a very strong Premier League team if you lose your best players.

“They are not in it for generating money off some transfers. It is all about being a successful Premier League team and winning things – over time.

“You can never say never because you don’t know what the landscape will look like going forward, but my hope is that we will build on what we have done so far.”

Specifically, Ruben Neves’ future

WB: But are we going to see another side of what people have referred to as the Mendes merry-go-round and we are sent new players from his stable as Ruben Neves leaves? Is that a valid concern?

KT: “It is not a concern that is on my radar. If I look at it logically and rationally, I would think it would do him (Neves) the world of good to do what he has done this season in the Premier League. If he went to Man Utd right now (for example), would he be a starter? Wolves fans would of course say yes, as we have seen him play and have a lot of belief in him, but actually, it does him no favours to leave Wolverhampton Wanderers before he’s had an opportunity to play for us in the Premier League.

“And FOSUN certainly wouldn’t want to lose him. No way in the world would they want to lose him. Of course, in the future at some stage he is going to want to move on. Football is a transient business and there are very few who have stayed for 10 or 15 years and played at that top level. The point is that you have got to be ready to replace him when that time comes, but I am hopeful that won’t be for a long time.

Jota, Boly, Neves, Cavaleiro and Costa

WB: Do you see this nucleus of this team being largely the same in the Premier League? Basically, Jota, Boly, Neves, Cavaleiro, Costa…would you expect in all likelihood that they will be here next season?

KT: Are we going to lose them? I would like to think that the answer is no. In fact, I am certain that the answer is no. FOSUN want to be challenging Spurs.

Benik Afobe

WB: So Afobe…can we expect that he will sign permanently?

KT: Wait and see.

Getting it wrong last season?

WB: Has this season proved that you got it wrong last season when you said in a past Fans’ Parliament meeting that the best mix for Championship success is roughly a 70/30 split between domestic players and foreign players?

KT: “We’ve got a nice blend now. We’ve got British and European players, some of them have been here for a year already and have settled which has paved the way for others to come in.
The bit you mention about percentages (roughly 70% to 30% UK and foreign players) was correct in the past, but the league is changing massively. It is the sixth biggest league in the world, so why can’t it change? There are some great footballing teams in there as well, such as Fulham and Brentford. We have shown that the league can evolve.

Nuno and you

WB: Did you feel compromised when Nuno came in?

KT: “Did I feel compromised? The sporting director is not the rainmaker in my opinion. It is very much oil and glue really. When thing get sticky, you have to oil those wheels and get things moving again. If there are problems you have to stick things together and patch things up to get everyone together. It is not that role where you have one guy that makes all the decisions about football and recruitment. It just doesn’t work that way and I wouldn’t want it to work that way. Certainly not here. It is a collaborative approach.

Conclusion

The meeting was extremely uplifting and gave more reason to believe that we’re not in it to make up the numbers in the Premier League. Moreover, we can look forward to a brave new world in the top flight with this season’s star players in place. Thelwell is ‘certain’ of this. Of course, he did caveat this with the reminder that nobody knows what the future holds. But to hear so many bold replies to this line of questioning was extremely reassuring.

For part two of our interview, we will relay the answers to questions about Thelwell’s role, Nuno’s brilliance and other topics. We’ll also touch upon what I felt was a really interesting line about this season’s Championship success…

…More than the title, the clean sheets, the win ratio and everything else, Nuno and the club have been passionate about leaving a genuine Championship legacy that can be held as a beacon for future teams who participate in it. In short, they wanted to reinvent the way football is played in what is the sixth biggest league in the world. It doesn’t have to be kick and rush and blood and thunder, laden with domestic players with ‘Championship experience.’ There is a more beautiful way to succeed, and the club are proud to have been able to prove that.

More of that for another blog soon, but in the meantime, thanks so much for Kevin and Max Fitzgerald for sparing the time and allowing us in, it was massively appreciated.

Up the Wolves!

Note of thanks from Houston

Now that the euphoria of Nunohampton Wanderers marvelous season has faded, and before the transfer window opens, bringing every player on the planet to our doors, allegedly, I would like to say a huge thank you.

To all of you.

Every last one of you on our wonderful blog.

You all know of the devastation we suffered here in Houston, caused by Hurricane Harvey, and subsequent trials and tribulations we had to endure, but in the last year we also lost a grandson and Marla’s sister.

It is one hell of a coincidence that our misfortunes took place at the same time as the best footballing season seen at The Molineux in a generation, and this is a large part of what has kept me going.

That, and the brilliant support, comments, fund raising and piss taking by you lot.

I know there are some out there who have other problems and issues, for which you have my undying sympathy, and I can only speak for myself, but I would not wish this last year of mine on anyone, not even someone from Sandwell.

So a humungous thank you to every one of you, our title winning team’s liquid football and your superb camaraderie and love.

To misquote Tiny Tim….

Dog bless you one and all.

Clive and Marla from Houston