Sky Sports' Johnny Phillips: Be excited – but the real Wolves judgment day’s a way off

By Johnny Phillips | Wolves | Published:

For Wolves supporters today is the end and the beginning.

Nuno Espirito Santo faces a tough opening game against Everton today (Photo: AMA/Sam Bagnall)

An interminably long hiatus – two months in reality but longer in the head - draws to a close. Those times when blank weekends required filling.

When the canvas was empty but you weren’t quite sure what to put on it.

What to do and where to go now? A domestic chore, a bit of work or a weekend away, catching up with old friends and family. It all lacked direction, free of structure and routine.

Navigating the close season is easier when there is nothing to look forward to. No hope or anticipation. But this has been a golden summer filled with expectation. It has been one long tease.

The new kit, the new fixture list, the new players. The sun-baked months have been pointing towards August 11th for a long time. The close season is over. No more waiting.

The familiarity of life by a fixture list calms the storm clouds in the mind. Well-trodden paths are walked once more. Routine acquaintances are greeted again with a smile of relief. A lift in the car, a seat on the train and a pint down the local.

Even the saturated fats rising up from the burger vans will bring a comforting smell of recognition in their putrid mist. The turnstiles are just around the corner. No need to bother with other worldy chat. Time to talk tactics and plot the season that stretches out in front.

What a final week of preparation it has been. Head coach Nuno Espirito Santo taking Conor Coady and Ruben Neves along to the Premier League launch in Manchester, rubbing shoulders with Pep Guardiola and his City slickers.


Record signings, the closing of the transfer window and the return of the weekly preview shows on television and radio beckoning supporters to wrap themselves in football.

Like letting primary school children loose with a shovel in a pick’n’ mix sweet shop, fans have been whipped into a frenzy all week. And the match doesn’t even kick-off until half past five this evening. It might be too much for some.

Supporters are in thrall to the Wolves of 2018/19 like no other team that has gone before them. There was always going to be an air of positivity taken into the Premier League after the extraordinary events of last season, but the summer activity has been phenomenal.

Joao Moutinho’s capture from AS Monaco was the pick of the business but to have the likes of Rui Patricio, Adama Traore, Leander Dendoncker and Jonny on board too shows just how much the club intends to compete.


Wolves have broken their transfer record yet again with the recruitment of Adama Traore – and anticipation of the season is at an all-time high (Photo: Wolves)

It is a blessed relief for all clubs that the deadline day piffle is over before the season begins. Now everyone can concentrate on actual football. It’s what we’re all in it for, after all.

Wolves know what they are armed with going into today’s early evening opener against Everton. The Merseysiders, too, have seen so many changes this summer. Both sets of fans have their eyes wide open, ready to embrace the newness of it all.

Two Portuguese managers will stand opposite each other in the dug-out. Marco Silva’s attractive brand of football is what got him the job at the School of Science. He and Nuno want to make their mark in the top division.

The Wolves boss has the highest respect for his opponents. During Tuesday’s launch at the Manchester Convention Centre he quietly and assertively spoke of the team’s mind set when asked about the challenge.

“Highly motivated, each and every one at the club has been waiting for this,” he explained.

“We’re conscious and humble to recognise we are going to be amongst the best, but we’re ready. We wanted the base of the squad to be the same as last season. We have a very good group of players, we felt there were gaps and we tried to increase the quality with the players we brought in. We will try to do the same things knowing that we will face better players.”

Senses will be heightened but emotions should not be peaking just yet. Whatever the result today, it should be taken in the context of an elite test over a 10-month period that concludes in May against another team from Liverpool.

Nothing will be decided by the time the sun goes down tonight. There is a temptation after the opening fixture to counter all the build-up with a similar amount of post-match analysis. It will be fun dissecting what goes on in the 90 minutes at Molineux but nothing should be read too deeply into those events.

Evertonians of a certain vintage will tell you that. On August 15, 1984, they were thrashed 4-1 at home to Tottenham Hotspur. Fans trudged away from Goodison Park in despair.

14 years had passed since their last league title and neighbours Liverpool had completed a League, European Cup and League Cup treble just a few months earlier.

What followed was the most glorious season in the club’s history as Howard Kendall’s wonderful team marched to the league title, lifted the European Cup Winners’ Cup alongside it and only narrowly lost the FA Cup Final in a treble bid of their own.

The 1984/85 Everton team was their greatest ever, but even that illustrious bunch flunked their opening lines. Enjoy this first day of the Premier League dawn while remembering it is just one game.

There are 37 more before judgement can be passed.

Johnny Phillips

By Johnny Phillips

Sky Sports Soccer Saturday pundit, giving his thoughts on football across the country.


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