Up until recently, the only blessing I could take from this tortuous season was the fact that whoever printed three incongruous words on the inside of our replica shirts did so where nobody could see them.
Better never stops.
Until Julen Lopetegui oversaw his first game on Boxing Day, a half-arsed squad of no hopers hadn’t bothered to get started. Twenty-seven points later, featuring three consecutive home wins and we’re positively racing towards safety.
These three priceless points were testament to a team who never stopped from the first minute to the last against an extremely impressive Crystal Palace side who had us on the ropes for long periods. That they didn’t blow the house down after lengthy spells of pressure was down to our own huffing and puffing in an admirable team effort that was barely recognisable a matter of months ago.
A far cry from Jonny and Neves playing centre backs at West Ham or the reverse fixture against Palace, when players couldn’t be bothered to track back or even mark their men. This win shows how far we’ve come under a manager who has worked miracles, whilst simultaneously reminding us that timing is everything.
Were it not for the gift of an unprecedented winter World Cup break, the chance to bang some heads together and the opportunity to recruit some new ones, we would surely have been cut adrift by this stage of the season. Fixtures against a beleaguered Frank Lampard (Everton) and a bereft Nathan Jones (Southampton) would also be taken like medicine. But neither of those wins, nor this one against Palace, would have been possible without some good old fashioned hard yakka.
It was more Big Mick shift than precision-peak Nuno and we were all the better for it against an Eagles side that never stopped attacking. Some crucial blocks, interceptions and a couple of fine Jose Sa saves kept Palace at bay, with one brilliant tip over the bar at the North Bank end evoking Darren Pitcher flashbacks, as the ball arrowed towards the same space where a stanchion used to perch.
Twenty-eight years since that FA Cup replay and there would be no repeat of that scoreline, even if this modern-day Palace side impressed me more than Chris Armstrong and company.
Tonight belonged to the good guys, with admirable levels of perspiration from every player worth its weight in gold, typified by Diego Costa’s tireless running from the front and Craig Dawson’s understated ruthlessness at the back. In between them, the best player to pull on a Wolves shirt since the days of Graham Taylor shone in ways reserved only for him. In slamming home the injury time penalty, torrents of adoration poured from the South Bank like waves, as if we knew it might be the last time we could tell him.
As the ball hit the South Bank net, redemption for this maligned squad would be complete.
Better late than never.