Saint Nuno

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Preston. What is a Preston? Parking the motor in a post industrial landscape I looked around. We were parked on another ‘Tile’ warehouse showroom thing. Everywhere around us were the dystopic builders merchants, flooring companies and home improvement shops and yet there was no evidence of any improvement to the area since I last came here. The area reflected perfectly the names of their players. Robert Scrotenugget, Brian Gruntworth, Neil Shudderflange…the list went on and they are coached by Alex Neil a man that tight he’s in danger of collapsing in on himself and forming a Black Hole which sucks the joy out of anything that comes within his envious and bitter gravity. I’m having a cigarette outside the Moorhouse real ale pub and watching the detectives. The locals mill around with that patina I have seen before in Barnsley. Unironed shirts, front hair flicked up with lard, they have a layer of dust on them from the filth that flows around their stadium. The Cops have been told to rein in their aggression today and be nice. People are happy with that, there is a lot of love for Preston old bill. I stand and take no notice. But I’m thinking of kicking off to be honest.

We knew it was going to be one of those matches didn’t we? We expected it. Preston sit high at the table of horribleness. The tackles and the aggression, the anti football, the pulls on the shirt all testament to the lack of real ideas they had. They were good don’t get me wrong. In the first half they wanged the ball around like pros. Good football peppered with flannelly late tackles and aggravations but it’s what we expected, what we knew would happen. But it’s still shit. I never know why these teams have two ideas and two ideas only. It’s a game of football. Play it properly and with a modicum of skill and you will reap the benefits of a decent points haul and maybe even a pop at the play offs.

This ‘football’ is great because we can only play well against teams that actually play football. Of course when we do start to get some passes flowing along the grass the second idea comes to the fore. We saw it with Cardiff and Barnsley, to an extent with other teams as well. The dragging foot. The shitty pulls on the arm and the shirt. I forgot how many times Cavaleiro burst into action having two Preston players hanging off him like a shit shirt. Helder too, little Helder darting between two Preston defenders got a whack across the face from a directed flailing hand. Jota goes down after a tackle from behind (again) that rakes the back of his knees. He shouts out in pain. The referee waves play on…

The Ref was an awful thing. Pumped up on Soy protein that made his arse look like a Moms smoking a fag outside school in her Primark leggings. His soy titties bounced while he ran, It was all about him. He was the star of this show. He will video it so he can show some disinterested woman he has enticed into his Travelodge room. ‘Look that’s when I showed that overpriced Portuguese bastard who was the Boss’ and she’s not looking really, she pours another Prossecco and gulps half of the glass down to deaden the next few seconds of him humping her and grunting like a pig before she slides out of the room and gets a taxi home to expunge the memory from her mind under the needle sharp hot shower.

To the left of us the Preston Doughnut squad. The scruffiest load of fooligans I have ever set eyes on. When they score some prong throws his shoes on the pitch. He’ll be in the clothing recycling skip later looking for a new pair. They are angry but pointless, grey faced, the only tan they get is from the Ultra Violet fly killer lamp in the local chip shop. The dust doesn’t allow them to get their vitamin D from the sun. The only vitamins they leach is from the Doner Kebab and the dirt burger cuisine.

I knew we were going to score. It was obvious what kind of game was being played. The ball goes out of play and the ball boy holds onto it while their goalie ‘Fudd’ runs over to collect it wasting precious seconds. In the pub I collect a pint of beer from the crushed bar and some of it drips onto the head of a Preston fan and he looks around as if he’s about to say something and then decides not to. Good choice mate. So the Ball boys have been coached to hold onto the ball so they get their point. What a fucking disgrace that is. It means some adult has got them together at some point and said ‘Lads. don’t give the ball back quickly, hold onto it’ and these poor little half starved bastards looking for direction and inspiration in life are given the hardest lesson of all. No wonder the dystopia is in their hearts as well as their ends.

Neves has three players around him every time he gets the ball. But still he manages the odd crisp pass and slide. He plays well even if he is concerned about a booking. I don’t want to lose him for one single game thank you. Preston however can’t even get close to him to stick a foot in his ankle. Holy Spirit he is. He’s there and you don’t always see him until he has something to say..

Cavaleiro knocks past the encumbered and static Preston players and sets Helder up. Bang, goal. I run down to the hoardings to celebrate much to the humour of Horace who says I ran like a Rat up a drain pipe. I was happy for Helder. I have sat and stood most of the season listening to people slate him. Now he is ascendant. He is Helder of course, always has been but now? Maybe he has something else. He has traversed the negative slopes of the mountain to gain a hand hold in the next route upwards. He is my Helder. Of course he was going to make his way back. Knowledge not belief. Cavaleiro is busier than a one legged firewalker. Busting extreme football shapes here, then over there, then he pops up again and throws down another dinky pass, another sublime shuffle of the footballing latin jazz he espouses. We are drawing the game and they have shut up shop but it’s still beautiful to watch. This my friends is the greatest entertainment I have ever witnessed. It’s lovely to watch. We are entertained. I suspect the venom of Preston fans to the alleged play acting of our players is just jealousy and bitterness. They will never have this, they will never watch a team like this again this season. Alex Neil is threatening to implode on the touchline, his little weedy arms going like a wind up monkey with a pair of cymbals. It’s obvious he has given his players the Dunkirk speech at half time. He has filled their hearts with darkness instead of inspiration. He has dragged them to the cusp of half hidden violence. The footballing abyss where Colin Wanker makes his home. They are filled with belief from his anger, but that anger is void and hollow.

Cavaliero goes down again from a fateful errant leg raking his ankle. He falls and crunches himself up in pain. I watch his face and it’s real pain but he centers himself, uses his powers to shuffle that pain off and he’s back on his feet in seconds. Preston fans think he is play acting but I know better. Cavaleiro wants the ball back so he can have his revenge, not in a reprisal tackle but in a perfectly weighted pass, or a swivel of those Elvis hips as he glides past the anathema ball of Prestonite hollowness.

Saiss is on. His hair looks weird. I guess he’s toning it down now into some sort of ashen grey madness. Certainly mad, he gives the ball away twice on the trot but that’s ok too. He’s been out of the side. He’s trying to get on the Waltzers while they whizz around disco music blaring, lights flashing on and off. It will take a few minutes for him to center himself and get into the groove again.

Nuno wasn’t happy when he came onto the pitch to applaud the travelling fans. You could see he had the furrowed brow, a hypothesis about a lost opportunity to extend our lead, to make the idea more concrete and palpable. Of course Nuno in his absolute gentlemanly way he conducts himself will never denigrate the opposition, never lay bare the cables and conduits of these teams inability to play against us. I may be wrong I suppose, perhaps I see this team we have as one of the greatest teams I have ever seen and to be honest I cannot be forensic enough when caught in the moments that have slathered their way across my mind over the past season. Of course beauty deserves to rise unhindered by ugliness but I know too that beauty is often marred by a scar here or there or an errant stray hair across a beautiful face. I’m aware of that. Perhaps I can give this to Preston and Barnsley and all those other towns and cities we have traveled to, perhaps their ugliness has made our football at times a little too beautiful and makes us want to entwine and blind ourselves with it so we only see other teams offensive blartball in contrast to out own ineffable ideas…maybe. But Nuno is both angry and Saintly in equal doses and I am reminded of St Augustus.. ‘for when I was angered thou would never pull thy thoughts from me but let that anger be formless and vapid and mean nothing’.

After the match myself and Horace sauntered around the ground and we found ourselves by the players entrance and a small crowd of autograph hunters waiting for them. We stood talking to three young lads from County Cork who had flown over to England to watch Preston and a few of their Irish players. They were young and fresh faced, I was amazed that they had traveled so far to watch something they loved and I had an epiphany of sorts. Beauty is in the eye of the beholder I suppose. They see their teams beauty and I see mine. I’m standing there swaying slightly as Conor Coady comes out to sign some autographs. I want a photo with my hero too. I’m 53 years old in May and I still get the shakes when I meet my heroes. I mean heroes in the fullest sense of the word. Conor is lovely and polite, you can see he has that humour and scalliness of his ends. I get my photo and we walk back to the pub through the long featureless streets of little boxy terrace houses where people sit and engorge themselves on idiotic TV. We pass a few lamp posts and cars with lovely Southbank Resistance stickers on them. Gold and Black. Nuno is always centered on the next match. He doesn’t want to pontificate on how we draw matches or even on how we win them. It’s gone and dusted. How many points? Just the one. Two points lost. These points he will not ruminate about at all and that’s good. He has a Zen about him. The realisation that this season is indeed a struggle, not in terms of physicality and snot but in idea and foundation building and these two tenets of Nunoism are the cornerstones of his philosophy. The points are the mortar between those blocks surely?

We walk back to the pub and find ourselves among twenty or so grey faced scruffy Preston Hooligans but it’s ok because nobody can touch us, nobody can dent the shellac of success we have already coated ourselves with ready to unveil the real madness we are holding within ourselves. There are no furrowed brows here, no fumbling quick bitten fingers and no tallying of possible points hauls. This is our time and our place. The Fooligans part as we walk straight through them. Like our team really. We’ve stopped believing and started knowing.

I Know You Know But Don’t Say Anything Yet

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I do like Holloway. There I’ve said it. His little turns on camera where he ladled out these superlatives were funny…but they are funny at a distance. When you have YouTube cranked up and feel like a warm giggle. But earlier this season Horace made me have my photo took with the QPR Mascot and I thought that was funny too, until we watched the match and were trooping out with faces like we’d just snorted somebodies eczema dust. Now I wish I’d have set the Lion or Tiger whatever it was on fire.

Holloway. He’s got a face like hes been sucking goat piss through a tramps sock while he’s being beaten with nettles. Like he’d forgot to finish his shit. Like the dude on the stag do that quietly packs away the blow up doll ‘for later’. A bloke that has all the Managerial football nous of a canal walk in Darlo. But I still like him, but I want him on that coach back to Shepherds Bush sitting there in the dim orange light of the overhead lamp crying that much strings of snot are leaking from his little peanut sized Gollum head. He’s got a flat cap on. ‘You’re just a shit Peaky Blinder’…your actually a shit Ian Holloway to be honest. And I don’t even watch Peaky Blinders because the accent makes me feel violent and angry.

We need revenge for sure. I had a lovely day down at QPR apart from the football, where Holloway used his one football idea to stick the knife in a Wolves Team that were squashed by the horror of that ground. Fair enough we were just getting to know each other then, our team. And somebody has to have a crack sometimes. Somebody had to throw caution to the wind and have a poke, and they did. Although it wasn’t quite football as we knew it. The same old tackles on Jota and the odd thrown elbow to the throat. But we have learned a lot since then and our idea box is full of jangly fangled sexy things that Nuno can pull out. Now we have an Afobe. But we also have a Neves and a Big Alf. I hope he plays today. I hope we show Cider Gollum what we have learned since we last played his team.

You see this is the beginning of the end now. The season will be speeding up both in our minds and on the football pitch. This morning was sunny and I opened the curtains and it was like memories of summer (apart from the odd snowflake). The birds were noshing from their feeders in the garden getting fat ready to make baby birds. I hope they are a success as this food costs 3 quid a bag and they are noshing a bag a week. But yeah speed. Momentum of ideas has certainly pushed our team up the table to the heady heights and the top spot. More importantly than that it’s woken up some right trolls in the media and social media. Radio phone ins are now stuffed with prongs from Albion and Villa who sit around in their piss stained joggers all day waiting to phone Radio Birmingham with their latest rant about Wolves. I love it. I want their anger to blow a blood vessel in their head. Live too, that would be good. And all you would hear is a dull thud halfway through ‘yeah well Wolves will blah blah blah’ and through the radio you will hear a tinkling and a crash as they fall through the safety glass on their ‘DONG’ coffee table from Ikea. Radio Birmingham my arse. I can’t wait for Villa and I may even tune into whatever show it is that has these prongs on so I can laugh my balls off when we destroy them. Aston Villa, Jesus Christ.

It will spoil a lot of football fans Summers for sure if we get promoted as Champions and this should be our target. We have big matches coming up and now that momentum should not take us that fast that our legs fall from underneath us and we go crashing on our face. Now is the time for Nunos ideas to shine as Spring starts to raise its pretty little head through the winter mush. Now is the time to take that slice of early morning sun and utilise it to galvanise and inspire our last few steps to glory and the madness of a promotion piss up where we will tell tales of Swansea away and Barnsley, all those insipid horrible shit holes we trekked through to watch our team. This is our time too you see, this is where we get to slap each other on the back too before we have to scrimp and save, sell our belongings and maybe even do away with a holiday this year to watch our team play some Premier league football. But it’s not here yet. We have some more work to do and Holloway, his team, and that defeat he subjected us to will be banished forever and that little Gollum head will wax bitter missives while we laugh and dance a little.

Fucking London. The thing is…it was bound to happen wasn’t it? Of course the hangover from Manchester was a pumper, one of those bone deep hurting ones and it was accompanied by that Cider Gollum of the West Country Ian Holloway himself, a man that epitomises the tight knot in your shoelaces you can’t tease apart. It hurts your fingernails, frustration, complication, exasperation. The train screams and squeaks to a halt at Shepherds Bush tube station and I imagine for a moment that’s exactly what the toilet in the Holloway household sounds like when he’s having a shit.

But it’s that weather again. Coat choices. This morning is cold I know but it’s time to sweat a little or freeze a bit due to the wrong choice. That’s why Nuno is a Philosopher Coach. He has a myriad of choices to make for his team and here’s me wondering what coat to put on. I would like Big Alf to play, I think he has given us some much needed Yin to Neves Yang. Everything looks more balanced and more dynamic. I love Saiss but maybe he needed some time off, a few games to recenter his groove. That blonde hair do is a thing. He’s been shit since he had it done. It’s affected him those toxins from the hair dye probably. Made him a bit addled. There’s a few addled souls in the pub too.

Match wise I’m totally loving the Morgan Gibbs White thing. How secure is he? I don’t know if secure is the right word but he harried the QPR midfield like a Don splashing out a few angelic balls to feet. Moving around well, shutting down players, moving players away from danger areas with his movement. I like him. Especially as he looks like Nuno has grown him in a little soil and watered him with Nuno skills and now he unleashes him. The stamp of Nuno is on everybody in this team. Eloquent and civilised reactions to every situation in that first half. Two beautiful goals. Holloway was getting angsty on the touchline and you could feel his comedic malevolence threatening to boil over a few times.

Nuno reacts to Holloways touchline antics with a few of his own enraged shapes. It was like a dance off at some points, but it’s that time of the year isn’t it. February is a funny old month for football. We are starting to see other teams going for the ugly sister instead of thrashing out the moves for the sexier more lush football we see from our team. QPR banged it about. Their fat striker who’s name I forget was a bit of a handful at times. They are a team in the Holloway mold for sure. They have a good pop. Like Uncle Nobby at the disco, he doesn’t quite get the ‘agadoo’ song and it’s moves but he has a go….while people laugh. So weird darting runs at our defense are met with confusion most of the time by our back three, or four, or five. They move well these QPR’s but blah. What can I say about them? At Loftus road I watched them play the same game which at the time was quite effective for them at least . They won. We trotted off back to the tube with big sad faces. But here’s the bit I don’t understand. QPR played the same game as the previous meeting with us this season. Kerplunk football. While we were a completely different looking team to that day last year. We had progression and they had…oh look…that big fella is coming on. Now we were in for some ping pong football as Holloway dusts off his one tactic again. He goes in the cupboard and there at the back it’s right where he left it. Bit of dust on it. Nothing that a squirt of Pledge and a duster wont shift. So Big Neck comes on the second half I think. I notice him because at one point he’s standing next to Jota and he towers over Little Wolf. Not that little Wolf cares. Jota gets a punch in the face off one of QPRs defenders later on and to be honest Jota doesn’t give a shit. Neither does the linesman who has obviously seen it but ignores it. What a shower of shite these ‘officials’ are.

Of course the last twenty minutes is an Afobe cameo really. It will come Benik trust me. I’m right most of the time. I can feel your desire in the middle of the Southbank as you moved towards goal, a chance, header but it’s over or past whatever…I can feel the energy you have and it will come Brother. Your day in the sun at Molineux will bear fruit. It will bear waves of love too because nobody wants you to score as much as us. Our goal is getting battered. It’s now route 666 to our box as balls get lumped in. Willy Boly really doesn’t care about their strategies. He knows it’s defunct. Boly has an intellectual basis to his play and moves with a certain grace that belies his size. His temper too is level and controlled. He’s been booted and pulled around everytime he goes up the pitch for a corner. He has some beef with their defender, a unit, but not as ‘Unitty’ as Boly. At one point Boly is pulled from behind and he trails the defender along with him like tissue paper stuck up a beer monsters arse crack. They’ve scored a goal. Oooooh you’re hard. Ruddy has problems with those kind of crosses. Always from that side too but hey, it was an onslaught. Captain Coady is kicked in the face, there’s a goal line clearance from him or Bennett I couldn’t see, I was hiding like a coward in my seat biting somebodies fingernails.

Walking back up to town I’ve got to  the pub without any real idea how I got there as when I’m walking by meself I go off into a kind of trance state where I’m fitting together what happened. All those incidents and goals into some sore of coherent narrative again. It’s building up this whole idea. You can feel it like electricity through the crowds as they move around outside the ground. It’s a tangible thing this static electricity of possibilities for the future. What is it going to hold? Dare we even think about what the fuck is going to happen during the Summer? I’m trying to juggle the expectations of us all with some sort of inner peace. I want to wave flags and let off smoke bombs now. We’ve been waiting too fucking long for this. Cider Gollum will be back down the M6 waxing his Holloway Lyrics to anybody that will listen. They are funny, like your dopey flat cap but jokes don’t win things Mr Holloway, neither does ‘belief’. A bus nearly runs me over outside the art gallery and some dude grabs my arm and pulls me out of the way. ‘Cheers ahk’ I say and he just smiles and winks. He knows that I know and I know that he knows what we all know but nobody wants to say it yet. But we know don’t we? We know. But we can’t talk about it now we just have to look at each other over the empty pint glasses in noisy pubs, when the conversation gets a bit quiet, there’s a lull. We catch each others eye and just wink or have a little half smile. The thing we don’t want to talk about is coming. The thing we have been dreaming about for years is coming. The thing is about to explode onto this town like a gold and black nuclear explosion. The thing we don’t want to talk about is coming.

All Hero No Zero

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I was in Stoke and knee deep in mud trying to lug big plaster boards across the building site into a row of 350,000 quid houses and some Albion doughnut stopped me. The wind was trying to pluck these heavy boards out of my hands and into the mud. He shouted something about two players his club had just sold us. 

‘We always sell you our shit’ he shouted as he went on his way back to his transit van. What the fuck. It was years before Twitter and the internet. Had to wait to get the Express and Star later. Find out who these Albion bastards were. Things weren’t good at Wolves. It wasn’t depressing but it was depressed. I carried on. The mud sucked one of my boots off and the next step was into the icy mud. Jesus fucking Christ.

The Stranglers famously asked in one of their songs ‘Whatever happened to the heroes…’ Well for fans of Wolverhampton Wanderers Football Club a generation of them had one, a bonafide hero in a certain Stephen George Bull – The Tipton Terrier. ‘Bully’ joined the club from a local rival in the Sandwell area of Birmingham; he was accompanied by fullback Andy Thompson as part of the deal in November 1986 for a combined fee of £65,000. He joined at a time of uncertainty; back-to-back relegation’s had seen Wolves languishing in the bottom tier of the professional football pyramid.

I wasn’t at Chorley..I was one of the nine Wolves fans who didn’t go. I was on ten quid a day and had just been sacked from a cushy job doing security on building sites for a company owned by an Ex Cop. I didn’t like him. He didn’t like me. He didn’t like me selling bricks and sand to some Travelers who would pop by at 3am in the morning. That’s what you get for paying £10 for a 12 hour shift. Creativity you bent bastard.

Financial mismanagement had taken the club to the brink of the abyss and going out of existence was a distinct reality. Only the intervention of the local council in August 1986 stopped the club from folding when they purchased Molineux and the surrounding land; Part of the deal included some redevelopment by a supermarket who wanted a presence in the city. Molineux, once capable of holding in excess of 60,000 supporters, was in a sorry state and a pale shadow of its former self. Regulations brought in following the Bradford City tragedy at Valley Parade in 1985 resulted in only 2 sides of the ground being open to supporters – the leviathan South Bank terrace and the recently erected John Ireland stand. The latter was of a contemporary design and construction, but because it had been built behind the former Molineux Street stand resulting in it being yards away from the pitch, this undoubtedly impacted on the atmosphere at the ground.

We stood there most Saturdays. Us. Bent by the cold winds that used to blow through the stand. The ground looked like it had given up. The team definitely had. Defeat after defeat. Still we paid our £1.50 and went. We sought out the disconsolate groups of other fans on the Southbank. Huddled together. Steve fucking Bull. He looked rangey and fit. Fast. Strong too. He was still one of them. Me and my mate Bod talked about him a bit. The wind whipping the words out of our mouths. Everything echoed. Even the ghosts stayed away.

The 1986/87 season saw the start of something phenomenal at Wolves, in the nascent days of Graham Turner’s tenure. As the club was being reorganised at an executive level under the auspices of Dick Homden and Jack Harris, on the pitch the phoenix was also rising from the ashes, and one man epitomised this more than any other: Steve Bull. Bully hit 15 league goals in 30 appearances and his wholehearted approach and relentless effort quickly endeared him to the Molineux faithful. The season was ultimately to end on an anti-climax missing out on automatic promotion to Southend by 1 point, and losing the two-legged playoff final to underdogs Aldershot Town. The next two seasons saw a tornado of goals from the Wanderers centre forward – over 100 in all competitions.

There was a queue to get in. The soggy turnstile gates had rotted at the bottom and pieces of it were underfoot. Everything had a glaze of green mould on it. Everything looked dirty. Things were getting louder in there. People were coming back. Songs that were stolen by he wind became louder. There were new songs too. New beliefs. 

The 1987/88 season culminated with Wolves winning the Fourth division title and also winning the Football League Trophy at a packed out Wembley Stadium against Burnley. Bully’s star was certainly in the ascendancy and his record breaking goal-scoring exploits didn’t go unnoticed. He received a call up to the England under 21’s in 1989 and scored 3 goals in 5 games for them. He was then given the opportunity to play for the England B team. All of his appearances were closely monitored by Bobby Robson the then England manager who had turned a provincial Ipswich Town side into FA cup and UEFA cup winners and took them to within a hairs breadth of the league title. Robson for many was the best English manager since the World Cup winning Alf Ramsey, and a fine judge of footballing talent. Bully was given his senior call up opportunity as a substitute in a game at Hampden Park against Scotland in May 1989.

At Kings Cross in London before the Sherpa Van trophy final we fought a few running battles with some Chelsea who had stormed the pub we were in. Half hearted stuff. Madness really. I had a Bully T shirt on and it had my blood on it. The next day ready for the match I lost my voice about 11am from singing and shouting. I hadn’t slept a wink in the back of the car in some desolate industrial estate close to the ground. I was cold but hot. Bully would do something. There was something in the air for sure. What it was we didn’t know. Didn’t want to look too close in case our forensic eye made it all some weird dream. Collapsing the waveforms. Don’t think about it too much.

Technically Bully was still a third division player as he hadn’t actually played in the old Second Division at that point. He came on for the ineffective John Fashanu, and he did what he’d been doing for Wolves over the last 2 seasons, he scored! For many Bully cemented his place in the England World Cup squad for Italia 90 with his performance against Czechoslovakia at Wembley in April 1990, scoring 2 goals, crafted by the sublime talent of Paul Gascoigne. A significant proportion of the crowd in the ground that night were of the Old Gold & Black persuasion, there to watch the Black Country boy made good. Some pundits often commented that his first touch wasn’t good enough, but when the second one rattled the back of the net it was an invalid argument. Other denigrators of the player were quick to remark that he never achieved it in the top flight; international football trumps Division One/Premier League on every level as the ultimate recognition of a player’s ability. Bully’s international career was prematurely ended by Graham Taylor who would later go on to manage Wolves. Anyone who was lucky enough to witness Wolves playing in the late 1980s will tell you that it was a special time, in the post-Bhatti era the club was forging a new path. Steve Bull was the cornerstone of that on the pitch, his connection with supporters was tangible.

We saw Bully in town. ‘Orite lads’ he said as he passed. He had a bag of shopping. There was fruit in it and a loaf of bread on top. He skipped as he walked. But I don’t think his feet were touching the ground. I watched him disappear down Dudley street. I was awestruck. I bumped into somebody.

He was one of us, spoke like us, and went for a beer or two like us. There were never any airs and graces with Bully – what you saw was what you got. Many young boys dream of playing and scoring for their favourite professional club but thousands end up having to live out their aspirations on a Sunday morning on a local park with imbibed teammates doing their best. Bully came a long way from humble beginnings at Tipton Town thus his exploits in the Old Gold and Black allowed thousands of fans to live their dreams vicariously. The City of Wolverhampton’s motto is ‘Out of Darkness Cometh Light’ and in the aftermath of the Bhatti Brothers’ debacle, Bully shone like a beacon for Wolves fans – He saved me from being a complete nihilist! It’s the reason why his name is still sung more than 15 years after he played his last game for Wolverhampton Wanderers. To answer Hugh Cornwell et al – Some heroes are still around, and they will live long in our hearts and memories…

The Darkness isn’t anything to do with light. It’s to do with hope. That darkness was heavy in those days. It clung to your hair and lungs, skin, clothes. It gathered in dark places in the town and in parts of the ground. You could smell it sometimes too. It smelled of surrender and of fear. We didn’t know what to do. We had run out of ideas. Run out of hope. Other greater men than us grabbed hold of our club and made it what it is and in some way we were bit part players. Who were we that humped plaster boards across building sites? Cleaned buckets out in icy water from the bosh that made our hands go so blue and cold you could hardy hold your sandwich? I suppose Bully was that interface between the club and the supporters. He made us believe again, he was the metaphysical link between the rebirth of the club and us. I know clubs have Heroes and Zeroes but I think Bully was much more than this. I still can’t talk to him even though I have met him a few times. I stay quiet and let others talk to him while I stand there with my tongue still and my body vibrating with anxiety. Everybody has a Steve Bull autograph except me I think. I never had the courage to ask him. Heroes don’t give you hope but Gods do. You see, you can talk to heroes but you can never speak to Gods. 

This post is a mash up between Bloxwich Bill and me. I’m still quite reticent to talk about Bully. It’s not time yet. I still haven’t got over him retiring.

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The Holy Trinity

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I’ve tried my best to explain yesterday in words, I don’t know whether I have done a good enough job. It kind of describes the game, it kind of nibbles around the edges of it but is it a real thing? I don’t know. I did me best.

How do you write about that? How do you sit down with a cup of tea and try to put this four dimensional football onto a two dimensional medium like a web page? Standing behind the Wheatsheaf pub after the game I was struggling to understand anything about it. I was standing up straighter I know that and we were all louder than normal. The sounds of our laughter bouncing off the walls around us. I had another sip of beer and actually felt like sobbing. Why? It was an emotional game. No ghosts, no departed souls in mind but the beauty of what I had just witnessed drove me to the edge. My normal miserable view of the world had been shattered by that football. Now the world had turned into a weird blend of 60 yard passes, of Neves, of Jota, of Cavaleiro, of Coady, Boly and Bennett. The whole drama was running like a film in my head now. It was cold and my fingers were numb. The night was dark but…I don’t know man.

But four dimensional? Sweet football. It transformed from the edgy sometimes clumsy ‘getting to know you’ vibe of some of the last few matches into a feast of effortless and transmutated football that inspired me and also left me speechless. All I could think about as we talked about what had happened was ‘what the fuck am I going to say about that?’. I’m fucked. It has destroyed me. Can one man be so filled with awe at what he just watched that all he can do is sit and stare at a screen and all he sees is that pass from Coady to Cavaleiro, the sublime manipulation of the ball to Neves and my heart stops, Neves looks up for a split second and then he puts the ball into the air. I see it floating and the time had stopped, relativity my friends. That ball took at least twenty seconds in my mind, until it hit the inside of the post and went in. I didn’t even shout as the Molineux exploded into a noise I had not heard for a long time. Was this the point in which our voices unleashed that anger and passion we had been holding back? I’m not sure. But I turned to Horace and we both just stared at each other in absolute magnificent respect for that absolute pearler of a goal. It transgressed the idea of ‘goal’, it twisted and turned the definition of the word and I can’t say ‘wonder goal’ because it wasn’t that either. Relativity I suppose. Some people saw an excellent goal, perhaps it was ‘fantastic’ maybe even ‘sublime’. I don’t know. But I have to be a good loser here and say in all honesty that I cannot truly find words to describe it. Lets just say it was 1-0 to us and Sheffield United were already fucked.

Deane and Agana eh? Those battles we used to have in the lower divisions when we were battling for top spot and promotion. They were always a noisy lot these Yorkshire bastards. But today. Nothing. Their ideas were unforged and lacklustre. They stunk. Lee Evans boots the ball into the family enclosure. The petulant little bastard. He’s put on weight, he looked slow, he was a pondering kind of player for us. He lacked quality here even under the tutelage of a decent Coach in Jackett. But now his career is sliding back into the abyss with his cohort Leon Clarke. We all knew that Leons time as a goal scorer of worth would end. We saw that yesterday evening as he threw himself at Coady and Boly time and time again with no result. His runs were short and aimless. There was nothing the United midfield could give him. At one point he held Jota by the throat and Jota just laughed at him. Don’t fuck with the Little Wolf Leon, he’ll bite your fucking hand off.

This Sheffield United thing. They too had lacked any real focus pinging balls at each other on the rare occasions they had possession. It seemed like nobody wanted the ball. Big Alf did. Rumbling across the pitch. If Jota is the Little Wolf then Alf is the Big Bad Wolf. Slathering passes, holding the ball, getting into that twenty yard space in their half and blowing the fucking door off the little piggies house and eating him in one bite. Beautiful. Coady again massive. I told you he would be England Captain one day and he will. Effortless defense, vision and thought. Here is the class that this lad shows, here on the pitch in front of us. The whole edifice of the Nunoist philosophy is built upon the foundation of the Boly and Coady nexus. Of that rock solid partnership. They understand each other because they have the intellectual nous to be a companion to their physicality. This is Nuno, this is what he has built here and again watching them I am fraught with fear. Am I a good enough fan and supporter to appreciate this? Am I able to understand it? Am I worthy of watching it? I’m not sure. I can’t look sometimes during the game and I shout abuse at the Sheffield fans instead for something to do. I can’t stand the utter beauty of it. I am ignorant and ugly, my language is course and gutter ridden, my boots are stained with mud, I have nicotine stained fingers and bad teeth, my hair looks shit. I am shit. I really am not worthy to watch this.

The Holy Trinity of Jota, Cavaleiro and Costa. Helder, I knew you would stop ‘believing’ and start ‘doing’. How happy I was to see the movements you presented to us. How many times was another Sheffield player left tackling empty space? Loads. Every time you did it I laughed. This wasn’t entertainment, this was art in it’s purest form. The play smashing the whole abstract ideas of football into a coherent and tangible beauty. You Helder, you little treasure. I told you it would come, he skips past two United defenders who might as well have just seen the Holy Ghost wafting between them It was like he wasn’t really there as his movements are ethereal and unreal. A dip of the shoulder and a twist of the hips, accelerate, move, pass, collect the ball back, twist and he’s gone again. I never stopped believing in you Costa.

Cavaleiro. What can I say about you? Again, words fail me. They aren’t sufficient a medium for you, there is a famine of superlatives for your play. I think a piece of music or maybe a big canvas would. Darting between players he swapped places again and again. Appearing here, then there, then again over there until it seemed as if there were two Cavaleiros playing. Sheffield United were dizzy now and their Kwan was non existent. Their fans were stunned into a silence that is typical of many opposition fans we have seen this season. They are quiet because they are sad. They will never have this. For as long as we watch this passion from this Holy Trinity we will see again and again the sad long faces of the sticky headed opposition fan bobbling in disbelief. Watching Lee Evans comedy football and then looking at Neves. Lee Evans is the Austin Allegro compared to the sleek Maserati of Neves. Even Evans haircut looked like it had been done by gerbils gnawing on his head, his whole countenance lacked anything of value. What a disgrace he is.

Their Goalkeeper tries to decapitate Jota. He is sent off. This is their reply to us. Violence and physical reaction to things they will never understand. Cavaleiro takes the freekick and a deflection, a bobble, their sub keeper disconsolately picks the ball out of the net. His first touch of that ball and the ball was probably still vibrating with excitement and intent. It was 2-0 now and I honestly thought the Referee might as well blow the whistle and save Sheffield United blushes. Things will go two ways with that Sheffield Team now. They will be sitting in their cars outside the training ground silent. Staring out of the window of their slick luxurious cars, just looking at the sky maybe. The radio is off. They grip the steering wheels tight as they replay what had just happened. Afobe comes on for Cavaleiro and the whole stadium erupts. Healing. We have ripped off the bandages and see pure flesh, unmarked and unsullied. The ghosts of Morgan and Moxey are silent in their tombs with just the gentle tinkle of a chain as the wind that Nuno has wrought blows the doors of their tombs. He came close too. He was a handful. We know that just being in this place will give Benik another half a yard of speed. Another phase to his game. Benik Afobes back home and it is actually magic, the whole crazy thing is esoteric and spiritual. This feeling that we are bound for glory is tangible and real now. Benik slaps the badge on his chest and my heart skips a beat or two and I fill up again. What is wrong with me?

This isn’t a match report. Jotas goal was beautifully taken. The whole aspect of the game for me was metaphysical. In the pub before the game I was with people I love, in the ground I love watching the team I love. What madness this whole season is. Nuno smiling on the touchline, Cavaleiro grinning, Coady slapping somebody on the head again. Beer thrown in the air, singing in the subway. Me searching out people like Stan who I have known for years, asking him…’What are we watching Stan?’ and him replying ‘I don’t know’. I don’t think we will come to terms with this season until we are sitting in the garden one day in the summer, watching the Bees fly around the plants. We will be wondering whether to have a can of beer maybe then it will hit us like a delayed reaction and we will fall face first onto the lawn in shock. A mouthful of grass as we suddenly understand it all. And this is just the start of the whole fucking show. This is just the beginning my friends. And if this is the beginning what will the end look like?