Wolves comment: "These are the days we live for"
These are the days that everyone in the game – fans, players, managers, yes even media – live for.
A sea of gold greeted their heroes and Molineux had one big party that the grand old place will never forget, writes Wolves correspondent Tim Spiers.
It’s the kind of day that, for most clubs, is a rare thing indeed. Some won’t have had a day like this for a generation.
But in Wolverhampton the sincere hope and the increasing belief among an exultant fanbase is that this is just the first of many – and with Fosun and Nuno Espirito Santo on board, who would bet against that being the case?
The day began early...too early for some who will have been nursing hangovers from Saturday night’s immediate promotion party.
But by midday Molineux was rocking to the tune of Nuno’s beat.
Fans had earlier gathered outside the stadium entrance in their hundreds to welcome the players off the team bus.
The excitement in the air was palpable, as was the adoring and unequivocal love those supporters have for this team.
Wolves have had some great teams over the years and some fine managers.
But not since Graham Turner, Steve Bull, Andy Thompson et al dragged a club on its knees to successive promotions in the late 1980s has the bond between pitch and terrace been so strong.
They trust the players, they trust Nuno and they trust Fosun. Without exception.
More often than not in recent years the ‘Wolves way’ has been a byword for underachievement, a phrase to use in that self deprecating manner Black Country folk need little excuse to adopt.
Ten years of spending big and going nowhere in the 1990s? Blowing an 11-point lead to them lot down the road in 2002? Wasting their big shot at the Premier League in 2003/04? Apathy and mediocrity under Glenn Hoddle? Successive humiliating relegations to League One?
That was more akin to the Wolves way for supporters aged 30-odd and younger.
Sure there were great times under Mick McCarthy and Steve Morgan who delivered an exciting young team, some indelible memories and three years of Premier League football.
But for a club of Wolves’ size, tradition, history, fanbase and facilities it wasn’t enough. Four seasons in the top flight in 34 years isn’t enough.
Well now there is tangible hope that this great club can become something truly special again.
The Wolves way is starting to mean something completely different.
The city, the club, the fans, they have a team to be fiercely proud of – and boy are they going to make the most of it.
The trust is indisputable.
Take yesterday for example. Wolves could have taken their eye off the ball – they’d been celebrating on Saturday night, had a quick turnaround for the midday kick-off and there was a party in the stands to distract them.
But whatever the game, whatever the circumstances, Nuno’s Wolves win and keep a clean sheet. That’s just what they do.
And while they were far from perfect, they kept their heads (despite plenty of provocation from a physical Blues team) and got the job done in a professional manner.
Not only did they put on the show they wanted to in what was a big local derby at a packed house in front of the watching nation, but they earned the three points that mean they’re effectively champions and moved closer to the 100-point mark that the players will crave.
They have a 12-point lead over Cardiff and the Bluebirds have four games remaining plus an inferior goal difference. That will have to wait for next weekend though when the party will continue into Bolton.
The performance was littered with some of the characteristics that have defined this most fabulous of seasons – 50-yard rakes from Conor Coady, sublime passing from Ruben Neves, great overlaps from Matt Doherty and a goal for top scorer Diogo Jota.
Then Benik Afobe finished it all off with a sumptuous finish, his fifth goal in recent weeks.
The scenes at full-time were magnificent. Molineux rose to acclaim their victorious soon-to-be champions, Nuno went wild and even the appeals for no pitch invasion worked (bar three idiots).
We saw a different side to Nuno, certainly in the post-match press conference where he – after nine months of refusing to talk about points, or results, or promotion, or targets – finally spoke of his desire to reach 100 points – and of course lift the title.
He even let his players have a beer in the dressing room.
And of course they’re having the time of their lives too. A number – Neves, Coady and Jota in particularly – have announced themselves on a national and European stage.
They all have big futures in the game ahead of them and Wolves will hope it’s at Molineux.
They danced, they sprayed champagne, they did a lap of the pitch, they played to the crowd, it was magical to witness.
And then, with the fans having departed and the players and staff drifting away from the stadium to celebrate with their loved ones, the club captain produced the day’s most emotional and pertinent moment of all, via a simple tweet.
“Wish you could be with us,” Batth said. “The bravest, strongest, most inspirational man I have ever met.”
He was of course talking about Carl Ikeme, who is never far from anyone’s thoughts.
It was all for you, Carl.