Andy Nicholls* , moderator at the Wolves fan site Molineux Mix, is another old friend to this site. Seven years ago, he appeared here for a joint interview with a Sunderland-mad Silksworth lass, then his partner. They are no longer together but still speak.
Andy is naturally as thrilled by the football he is currently seeing as we are dejected by what has befallen SAFC. He lived on Wearside for a time and retains happy memories, which are described below, leaving a mark strong enough to make him look for our score once he knows what has happened to his own team, though he feels we’re in for a pasting on Saturday (as Wolves bounce back from winning only 1-0 away in midweek!)
PS Jody Craddock is aware of – and appreciates – Andy’s kind words …
Salut! Sunderland: What a season so far. When we last met here in 2012, you were facing relegation. Now you’re brilliantly placed to return to the big time. What has gone right?
Andy Nicholls: What hasn’t gone right! Bob the Builder sold the club to a rich conglomerate who have only high aspirations for any business that they decide to run – they’re actually serious about being successful – they have a plan and they are sticking to it!
They very quickly saw the limitations of the previous CEO and promoted a bloke who actually engages with fans and understands the need to place the club in the heart of the community – whilst at the same time driving up revenue. They also brought a friend of theirs along – a certain Mr Mendes (agent to the very good), who in turn parachuted into place his first ever client (and closest friend) a certain Mr Nuno Espirito Santo, who in turn told his closest friend that he wanted players who could play a certain system, that friend did what all good and close friends do (he got what his friend asked for – whilst at the same time making a hefty profit) and the rest as they say is [recent] history!
Nuno Espirito Santo – still your manager and not Everton’s – seems to have made a huge difference, with support from the well-endowed Chinese owners. What does Nuno bring the club and how upbeat are you about the future?
Nuno can coach, he can man manage, he has a pedigree that stands up to a lot of scrutiny. He doesn’t suffer fools gladly, he knows what he wants, he knows the system that he wants to play and he is determined to get the players in to play that system – its easy when you’ve got the money to do that. He has also bought in to the “project”. I really do think that he’s here for a few years yet – upbeat you bet I am – I am witnessing the most consistent football I’ve ever seen Wolves play in more than 40 years of suffering!
Leo Bonatini bangs in the goals but who else is really doing the business for Wolves and where is strengthening still needed?
They’re all doing the business at the moment from big Willy Boly in defence, Neves who sits just in front of him and passes the ball like someone in the stands has it on remote control (oh and a snip at £15m!) and then the little 21-year-old that is Jota – he’s going to be some player! And that’s before I mention the reborn Matt Doherty, Ivan Caverleiro and Connor Coady. I still think we are light in the striker department and wouldn’t be at all surprised if Uncle Jorge manages to pull a rabbit out of the hat in January and give his best friend a new toy to unleash on the Championship.
If the owners Fosun are serious about re-establishing Wolves as a force in football, isn’t a capacity if 31,700 a bit small clubbish and won’t they need to reactivate the plan to expand Molineux ?
Yes – and they will – we will need to establish ourselves first but don’t worry if that happens the money WILL flow of that I have no doubt.
How does the top-of-the-league feeling compare with other highlights of your time as a Wolves’ fan?
Same as for any other football fan really – you can’t beat the feeling of winning and looking down on the rest of the chasing pack.
I’m more excited now than probably at any other time on my journey with this club. Of course, there have been huge highlights from winning the League Cup, promotion through the playoffs and other promotions but it is the manner in which we are going about it this time that is different – we are playing some really entertaining football – it really is a joy to see.
What have been the lowest points – I imagine relegation, especially dropping to League One, was no more pleasant for you than it has been for us coming down from the Premier and then starting as if we want another visit to the lower reaches?
Relegation is horrible – no matter where you are relegated from it hurts. But with the lows comes the highs, the eternal hope that next year will be your year – that’s why we follow football!
Who are the best players you’ve seen in Wolves’ famous colours and how much do you wish you’d been around in the club’s heyday, Billy Wright, Stan Cullis and all?
The greatest – John Richards, Kenny Hibbit, Steve Bull – but also of the new crop I really do think that Jota and Neves are going to be something really special. I’d have loved to have seen Billy Wright play – a central defender who could play football, never booked and was the model professional – how good must he have been? Hopefully in years to come some one else will be asking this question and the answer will be that the respondent really wished they’d been there when Diego Jota was gracing the turf of Molineux!
Who have been the duds?
Like most football fans, I’ve seen more duds than I’ve seen good’uns – but if I have to name one then for me (and for many reasons – some that would land me in court if I listed them) it has to be the ass that was (is) Freddy Eastwood.
Many Sunderland fans have fond memories of Jody Craddock – a past Who are You? interviewee, too – , and shared the anguish of the loss he suffered as a father. Assess him as a Wolves player and as a man.
Great player – and an even greater man. A true gentleman who not only conducted himself well on the pitch and gave his all but who also turned to art to get himself through some dark times and is now recognised the world over – top, top man who is always given a great reception at the Golden Palace and I’m guessing the same happens if he ever pitches up on Wearside.
When last we met here, your partner was a Sunderland supporter, Jo from Silksworth, and she contirbuted to what was a great joint interview. I hope it wasn’t anything we said!
No – we’ve gone our separate ways – we still speak but not about football anymore – shame really but life goes on.
And you lived for a while on Wearside. Has the soft spot for SAFC survived and what have you made of our steep decline?
Still the second result I look for every week – hate to see the decline – reminds me a bit of what happened to us. It appears that the owner doesn’t really want to commit; perhaps you need to go and find a Chinese conglomerate that has more money than sense?
Grabban has been mentioned in connection with Wolves. Do you rate him or anyone else in our squad? Any other thoughts on SAFC – the club, the fans, Coleman etc?
If I’m honest I haven’t paid too much attention to the team at present so that’s a hard one to answer and I’ll sit on the fence. As for the rest of the question I still maintain that you have some of the best supporters in football – I always love the walk across the bridge from town having a chat with whoever is next to me – well-informed fans who love the game. I watched the old ground get knocked down and the new one built – I really liked the way the club engaged with fans as it was being built – I hope Wolves do something similar when they eventually redevelop Molineux. I think Coleman will do well as long as he is given time and funds – he does have a job on his hands but one that I hope he will be a success at.
And hand on heart, where will our clubs finish?
You won’t be relegated – we will be promoted. I really hope that’s true in both ways, really do!
The Niasse question? What do you make of the authorites’ attempts to crack down on cheating and how serious an issue is is at the Championship level?
At least they are trying to do something about it. It goes on at all levels of the game and the cheats win when we just accept it. Bring in longer bans and fine the club as well as the player. Give a penalty to the opposition if a player dives in the box – anything to stop it!
What else should happen in football to make it a better experience for fans?
I’m all for TV replays. Why not? It’s enhanced rugby and cricket so why not football. People don’t like change but change is sometimes necessary.
Will you be at our game? What will be the score?
Yes I will – along with my dad and my son – all three generations sitting together, our little bit of family time once every two weeks! As for the score I’m sorry but we didn’t play too well on Monday night (even though we still won and did you a favour in the process), Nuno won’t have been too happy, which means that he will have had them working hard on the training ground this week and we’ve always responded by giving someone a pasting after a rollocking so I’m going for 4-0. Sorry!
* Andy Nicholls on himself: Moderator Molineux Mix, Wolves fan since November 1973 (we lost 3-1 at home to Ipswich), head teacher and dad and son to two other stupidly besotted Wolves fans!
Interview: Colin Randall