Maybe the heavens knew something we didn’t when the news burst through the clouds.
Did you ever feel the pain, as it soaked you to the bone?
Nuno was meant to live forever, not fade away in a throwaway tweet on a smartphone.
‘This Sunday will be Nuno Espírito Santo’s final game in charge of Wolves’ were words that cut me to the core. Nuno was a light that would never go out, wasn’t he? Not by mutual agreement. Not yet.
The stars always aligned when it came to Nuno, who was never a rock and roll star in my eyes, but more a Modfather of Molineux. He didn’t just allow us to dream, but demanded we did, before whisking us away on a journey that transcended the here and now.
It was some ride, wasn’t it? Another space and time, between the cracks in the pavement and the constellations in the sky. Where Ruben Neves’ volley still shimmers; amid the floodlights and psychedelia as Jota muscled his way past Shaw. All of the lights!
Mine and Dad’s usual spots in the Billy Wright Stand were more like seats on the Starship Enterprise, and we strapped ourselves in for lift off. That those same seats gather dust these days – with big red crosses slapped across them – is a picture too poignant for words.
Statistically, Nuno’s win percentage was the most successful of any manager in our history, but the results came secondary to the lustre that seemed to envelop him.
The way he’d emasculate an uninformed reporter with those dark, dismissive eyes, or serenade us with his piston-fist pumps beneath those swirling Molineux skies.
My first memory at Pride Park was so clear, when I realised that all that Championship bindweed we’d been knotted up in for so long was about to be cut away by a head coach with razor sharp tactics.
It was an otherworldly experience for three glorious years, until a virus from a dystopian world sucked all the goodness away.
By the end, I’m not sure I was looking at the same manager, who was the shell of the man who caused carnage in a Bristol City directors box and induced an old foe to blood spitting fury in Cardiff. Nuno could barely summon up the energy to kick a water bottle in anger at times, muttering up at the heavens instead after another on-field calamity. Resignation had set in, it seemed.
In the final fixtures, his team was trolling its former self, failing to score in the first half of 30 Premier League games in a damning statistic and generally blighting the Premier League with a tedious style of play that looked no better whatever he tried to do with it. Maybe it was the right time to part on good terms like these, because a bitter ending would have been too depressing to contemplate.
Maybe he was saddled with players he didn’t want? Or we sold the ones he did? Or ‘The Project’ is now a pipe dream?
There’s so many questions that will occupy our minds for now, rather than the fireworks, light shows and that beautiful paradigm we’ve left behind. Better to have burnt out than fade away.
“When I came here it was to build something and create an idea and a philosophy, to build an identity. It’s more than a football pitch – it’s a club, it’s a city…it goes beyond prizes,” he once said.
If history measures Nuno on anything, then I hope it’s this quote and not those feeble set pieces at Goodison, or the conceded kilometres at home to Burnley the other week. Hadn’t we run to stand still?
It mattered little in the grand scheme of things, because Nuno didn’t just build something like he promised, but he constructed it in a galaxy far away – via Belfast, Braga and Barcelona; When streams were ripe and swelled with rain and dreaming was for free.
If we ever revisit that cosmos then I’d be amazed, but that’s not really the point anymore.
Better instead to take each game at a time when the new season gets here, just like the great man always told us to. By which time, the autumn winds will blow chilly and cold.
A love once new has now grown old.