And, breathe. As the season looks to draw in a lungful of air before a final blowout that decides the winners, the losers, the tears of joy and the tears of devastation, I felt it was time to put another of the Wolves contingent under the spotlight.
We’re sitting pretty, aren’t we? It may be that the wobble has departed for good and the question is no longer ‘if’ we get promoted, but ‘when’. As with any season nearing its end, talk has also turned to the individuals who have played their part in getting us into this position.
On the last episode of Wolves Fancast, I was asked who my top 3 nominees were for Player of the Season. This award can be viewed through a number of prisms, but I prefer to see it as a chance to reward over-achievement, going beyond expectation and rewarding those who transcend the field of play. Matt Doherty and Ivan Cavaleiro can both lay claim to being worthy winners of the award, but my third choice is a man who has taken on the mantle of on-pitch leader of the Wolves revolution.
Conor Coady is regularly the butt of jokes on Wolves’ official social media channels. We’ve all seen ‘The Question Tankard’ videos of teammates castigating him for his annoying nature, his motormouth and his seemingly omnipresent positivity. But ask them this question – where would we be without him?
Coady hasn’t always been this figure of course. A workmanlike midfielder. A stop-gap right back. But never an integral part of the team. Wolves managers of the past have always been proponents of the ‘Square Peg to Round Hole’ theory, but this was different. Nuno’s genius was to rip up the script when it came to Coady. No doubt Coady would’ve carved out a fairly successful, if limited career as a midfielder, but Nuno saw the mannequin that he could adorn with all of his most wondrous garments.
That’s not to say Coady is unable to decorate a game himself of course. His radar has been as wide-ranging as any player bar Ruben Neves, evidence of his schooling at an elite level in a more congested area of the field. If Neves don’t get you, Coady will – who would’ve seen that sentence at the beginning of the season – and Douglas and Matt Doherty have been ever-grateful recipients of his laser-guided ‘diags’ from the centre of defence all season long. This also takes the expansive passing burden away from Neves, meaning he isn’t under constant pressure to deliver a meaningful pass with everything he does.
Going back to Coady’s famous propensity to speak, it’s telling that when Molineux falls into a lull, concentrated and focussed on the football on display, it’s Coady’s voice that echoes around, reminding us all that football is a game based on communication. It’s not always easy to make out what’s being said in that Scouse twang of his, but I imagine there’s a Sunday League simplicity to it that we can all relate to. A ‘We’ve gone quiet, lads!’ or a ‘Box them in!’. ‘It’s still 0-0!’ or ‘Wolves head on this lads!’ We have a tendency to over-complicate football but there are some basic tenets that all good sides need to do well, communication being one of them. For all of the YouTube jibes about Conor, Willy Boly has professed himself the need for Coady to keep him switched on and perhaps this is where his greatest value lies, how he keeps all eyes on the prize, a disdain for complacency and an understated will to win.
He manages all of this without an overbearing sense of aggression as well. In this country we’re used to the idea of the captain being the sharp end of the team’s aggression, a physical driving force and a fireball of energy rolled into one. Ask about the great leaders of Wolves teams in recent years and the mind diverts straight to the likes of Paul Ince and even Bully, who was never one to shy away from a challenge. Coady harnesses that energy in a different way, but remains as effective as either of those from a leadership perspective.
If he is bottling up a load of energy, there is one obvious place he releases the tension – goal celebrations. The first to arrive, last to leave and all of that combined with the fact he has furthest to run apart from John Ruddy. Seeing Coady celebrate is the closest we might get to seeing how we would react in celebration of a Wolves goal on the pitch. Football is all about joy and Coady makes sure he lets us know how much he’s enjoying all of this. I relish the image of him celebrating the ‘P’ next to our name in the table.
It’s clear that Coady has taken on the mantle of leading the club towards a glorious era. Despite Danny Batth being a symbol of the local area, it’s clear his time at the club has passed. When we went down to League One he was exactly the man to drag us up from the bootstraps, having a couple of seasons’ worth of experience at that level. He had a galvanising effect on the fanbase, but he was clearly the right man at the right time. We no longer have too much room for sentiment at the club, such is the speed of progression and Coady is riding that wave at the front, poised to take on legendary status. It’s clear that there is a bond between coach and captain as well, an important feature of any great club side. Coady has been conspicuous by his absence this season and it is notable that many of our poor performances have coincided with him either not playing or playing below his usual standard.
An adopted son of Wolverhampton he is no doubt becoming, although there is a striking resemblance to a former Wolves legend with crew-cut hair in his early twenties and a thick local accent. He may not score the goals, but he could become the symbol of the next great Wolves side. Conor Coady: Captain, Leader, Legend?