Chief football writer for The Times, Henry Winter, has heaped praise on Conor Coady following the Wolves captain signing a new deal which will keep him at Molineux until 2023.
Winter, an award-winning journalist who makes regular appearances as a pundit on BBC Radio 5 Live and Sky Sports' Sunday Supplement, was reporting on Wolves’ fifth round FA Cup win against Bristol City at the weekend.
Before the game kicked off at Ashton Gate, Winter spoke to Wolves.co.uk, describing Coady as the ‘heart and soul of English football’, adding that he is the type of player every dressing room needs, while also sharing his thoughts on the club’s future ambitions.
Henry, have you been impressed with the way Wolves have adapted to the Premier League?
“The table says it all, doesn’t it? They’ve adapted really well, but you could see from the quality of football last season, we knew they would come up and do well.
“Looking at the pre-season pundits’ predictions on who was going to stay up, I think almost everyone had Wolves staying up – I know I certainly did, and I usually get most of my predictions wrong!
“I thought they would do well because of the quality of the manager, the quality of the players and because there seems to be a unity between the players.”
Which players have impressed you most watching Wolves this season?
“Ruben Neves is a great talent, we know all about Morgan Gibbs-White through the England circles, and there’s a fantastic player in Adama Traore with all that pace – maybe his final ball and decision making could be improved, but Wolves have got a manager in Nuno who makes good players better.
“Also, what I like is that Wolves have got players like Conor Coady, who to me is the heart and soul of English football, who is the type of individual you want in the dressing room and out on the field who is an obvious leader.
“I’ve interviewed him several times, many before he came to Wolves, and he just struck me as an honest pro, who, when things are bad, you want alongside you because he will lead you forward.”
Conor and Matt Doherty are our two longest-serving player who’ve both signed long-term deals last week, how important do you think it was it to get them tied down to the club?
“Wolves have always had a solid British and Irish spine to their teams. You look at their history down the years, and although the Premier League and the modern era is heavily cosmopolitan, Wolves have always had that, even heading back to the glory days of the 1950s and 60s.
“It’s good to see players like them doing well in a Premier League side, I think fans like that.
“I can remember going to Wolves back in 1979/80 and can recall the ‘lively’ walk from the railway station in to Molineux. You could tell the passion of the fans and the passion of the players and Conor Coady embodies that.
“I think it’s really important to have a player like that at the heart of the club. Also, when new players come in, you get the impression that Conor is the type of person who would make them welcome – on and off the field – but also explain the traditions of Wolves, the history of Wolves.
“The club has got the museum, a great history, and I think it’s important for foreign players to understand that. I also get the impression, whether it’s Nuno or individuals like Conor who set the tone, but the foreign players who are coming in to Wolves seem to quickly absorb the culture of the club – the history, the great names, and the pride to play for them.
“Within 30 seconds of a game at Molineux they will realise that.”
How much of an impact to you think Nuno has had on players such as Conor since he came to the club last season?
“Nuno’s had an effect on all English football, not just on the players at Wolves. You can see it at the club with their performances, the results, the impact on individual players, his coaching and his staff – he improves players and you can see the team are tactically disciplined.
“Nuno is the type of individual who, when you see him interviewed after games, he never criticises referees, he never has a go at the opposition, their manager, he never comes up with excuses; he seems a very dignified boss and, given the pressure the managers are under, I think it’s very impressive to have someone of such class.
“Also, in the modern world that we live in – and the FA are pushing this – we need more managers who reflect the diversity of the country and the diversity of Europe, and Nuno does that. You don’t want to weigh him down as a role model or a pioneer, but in many ways, he is.
“If you talk to a lot of black managers they say there is a glass ceiling, so for Nuno to be doing what he’s doing is brilliant, on many levels, but particularly the quality of football and long may it continue.”
Wolves are into the FA Cup quarter finals for the first time since 2003 and this side have broken many records since Nuno took over. How far do you think they can go?
“You look at this Wolves team and it’s one that should go far in any tournament. You get the impression with Nuno’s players that when they step in, they know exactly what they should be doing – even if they haven’t been playing regularly.
“There’s been a bit of rotation in the cups this season, but the players he’s brought in know the system, they know what they’re doing and there’s also a sort of brotherhood in the squad. You can tell that they like each other, and they play for each other.
“To get to the top of your profession, you must have hunger. It annoys me when people say players don’t care – players care a lot, and you look at these Wolves players, embodied by Conor Coady, there is ambition on and off the field.
“Whatever the ambitions of the owner are, I absolutely think they can be matched. Whatever walk of life these people go into, they want to be the best, so quite rightly they should be ambitious, and I think they’re doing brilliantly at Wolves.
“Selfishly, as a journalist, the more different stories we have to report on in the Premier League the better. It can get boring when it’s the same teams doing well year-after-year, so I think it’s brilliant when you see a team like Wolves up there.
“When you talk to other journalists, you will find most of them will have a soft spot for Wolves, because of the reputation, because of when you go to Molineux you are always treated well – there’s a class about the place.
“I love going there; walking down the corridors and seeing the pictures of the old players on the wall.
“I was there the day Sir Jack Hayward passed away; it might have been a cup game and it was chucking down with snow, absolutely freezing, and Rachael Heyhoe Flint came in to talk to us, and you thought within its hour of complete mourning, the club dealt with a difficult situation with some great dignity.
“You don’t forget things like that, so for me, as an outsider, I always associate Wolves – on and off the pitch – with class.”