Cathartic experiences aren’t part of the sales package when you buy a ticket for the Molineux…
…But if they were, most of us were getting stuck in to the special offer, courtesy of 93 minutes which repaired, refreshed and generally reset our season’s balance.
Remembrance before kick-off, as a lone bugle cried into the cold air, and reflection on everything that is right about Wolverhampton Wanderers at full time – Hey Jude a much warmer soundtrack for Nuno’s restorative three cheers.
Any win against Aston Villa will raise a smile, but this could have been any fixture against anyone and we’d have surely felt the same, such was the reviving manner of it.
For the first half at least, we dominated possession in ways we remember so fondly back in the day, in a 3-4-3 formation that once redefined a division. Our full backs such a persuasive force up the pitch and our back three so cool on the ball (minus the colossal Boly here). Dendoncker, in particular, looked the smoothest of operators.
Ruben Neves was back at the levels which made us pinch ourselves every weekend and scored a goal synonymous with his breakthrough year. And going forward, we looked so unplayable that I shuddered at the thought of facing Jota, Traore and Jimenez at full tilt. The Villa defence were doing likewise, literally, it seemed.
In mentioning the past, maybe we went back there to shape the future. This was back to Plan A, without compromise, and a performance laced with the same individual brilliance that took the championship by storm where many of us still reflect most fondly.
And in Adama Traore, redemption is complete. The same player who drew scoffs and scowls from the Villa faithful once (and some of our own) was drawing gasps and gulps from the very same mouths as he absolutely dazzled in old gold. It was the 45th anniversary of the Rumble in the Jungle a few weeks ago and our number 37 was a throwback to that historic night in Zaire.
After inducing twisted claret blood in the first half, Traore tuned it down for a large chunk of the second, suggesting at one point he might even be carrying a knock. Then, in one moment of rope-a-dope magic, he’d gone to another level, featuring a mesmerising flurry and a crushing knock-out blow via the boot of Jimenez, to disbelieving opponents. It was so beautiful precisely because it was so calculated, with a knowing nod to the bench from beneath his teammates arms and limbs during celebrations.
It was back to our counter attacking brilliance after a half of total domination, reminding us all that if we do get that first goal in games, we’re a hellish team to play against thereafter.
The only regret, if we can call it such, was a missed opportunity to rack up more goals in a unique season which has delivered already, featuring nine from Leicester at Southampton and eight for City against Watford. In our case, we should have scored six, laid down a marker and created a red-letter result for us all to revisit in the years to come.
But to labour the point would be unfair on a team that has reminded us why we’re in the Premier League – and what got us here in the first place.
It was a day to remember.