Samuel Ricketts has relished his role in leading Wolves to the tenth title in their history – and admitted that it was the dream of such achievements that prompted him to reunite with Kenny Jackett last summer.
Eyebrows were raised when the experienced defender dropped into Sky Bet League One following four years with Bolton and several seasons of Premier League experience with both they and Hull.
But he insisted that the thrill of leading from the front in this historic Molineux season has more than justified what has proved to be a temporary drop in divisions.
“To captain a club like Wolves to promotion and then the title is huge for me,” Sam said this today.
“I’ve won 50 or so caps for Wales and played in the play-off final that took Hull to the Premier League. But this feeling is up there with those.
“I think it’s disrespectful not to know a bit about the history of your club and I’m aware that this is Wolves’ tenth promotion – something that will have the supporters looking back fondly at us in the future.
“As captain, I am very proud to think we as a group have brought another trophy here. Everyone knows about what Wolves did in the past and we have been lucky enough to meet a few of the former players this season – including Steve Bull, who we see a lot of.
“Adding to all the honours the club have won feels very good and it’s why I joined Wolves last year. I could see the potential there was here.”
The ‘be loud and proud’ message with which Sam signs of his programme column at each home game continued to be followed to the letter at Leyton Orient on Monday as Kenny Jackett’s side moved to the very brink of becoming champions.
The large and noisy away following gave the players a rapturous send-off after their 30th League win of the season and the celebrations were stepped up almost three hours later thanks to Brentford’s late loss of a two-goal lead in their game at Milton Keynes Dons.
“We were on the bus travelling home and were watching on Sky Sports,” Sam added. “There was a big cheer when we heard about the equaliser and I think one or two of the lads went out last night to celebrate.
“I had things to do at home so I settled for a quiet drink in but we have a couple of days off now and we should enjoy this because it has been a great achievement.
“We have had that knack of winning games all season and really started to control matches from around the time we played at Tranmere and Gillingham in mid-season, even if those results weren’t great. People wondered whether we might be unlucky and finish third with a really high points total but we knew the likelihood of the top two being able to maintain that pace was slim.
“Even so, it has taken us to reach 99 points to make sure of the title, so no-one can say it has been easy. And to set four or five club records along the way makes it even more special.
“I had never been a club captain before – just a stand-in here and there – and I have loved it. Going to all these grounds and selling out our allocation every time has been a massive help because obviously the fans had had a rough couple of years.
“We can’t say how much it has meant both to have them so firmly behind us but also to be able to give them something to savour.
“From the owner and Jez Moxey down, the whole club seems to have been galvanised by what we have done. To be so successful with around half the squad as Academy graduates is another testament to what has been done here behind the scenes.”
Sam promises there will be no let-up in focus over the next two games, with the prospect of a smashing of the all-time points record at this level now emerging as an extra incentive.
Wolves will also be seeking every possible bit of momentum with which to take with them into next season’s Championship – and to underline the commonly held belief that the supporters have been given their club back after the horror of consecutive relegations.
“We’re out now to finish with a flurry,” the skipper said. “It can be difficult not to relax a bit, even sub-consciously, after you achieve what you set out to do but the gaffer will instil in us the need to keep going for two games and then to enjoy playing a bit of golf.
“We have won 16 of our last 19 games, which is outstanding by anyone’s standards, and it would be tremendous to add two more victories to that and carry that confidence forward.”