Matchdays for the remainder of the 2019/20 season will be stark contrast to the usual lively, busting experience of Molineux, but Wolves supporters will remain a part of the experience through artwork adorning the otherwise empty stands.
All four Molineux stands will feature artwork provided by local talents Lobos and Ben Mortimer, strengthening the bond between club and supporters, and providing a more aesthetically pleasing view of the famous old stadium from the television screens.
While football without supporters is an unwelcome scenario, Wolves and their fan experience group quickly entered conversation, planning how best to transform the empty space and improve the matchday feel at Molineux, in extremely unusual circumstances.
Lobos, the alias of one of the city’s talented graphic designers, linked up with the club after his artwork captured the imagination of Wolverhampton and beyond in recent years, and now his work will cover the Steve Bull, Stan Cullis and Billy Wright Stands on a matchday.
Lobos said: “My graphics started popping up on videos and in the programme, then a couple of weeks ago I was introduced to Dave Wood at the club about doing some banners. I was invited into a fan experience group which led to doing the banner designs. I had a message standing in the queue at B&Q asking if I’d be interested in the project and it grew from there.
“It was a big job that relied on the templates. Someone at the club went around with a tape measure, measuring each block of stand and that formulated into the templates for me to input my graphics and design. It’s a big chunk of work but will look good.”
Mortimer’s graphic, which will embellish the Sir Jack Hayward Stand, amalgamates the first-team players on the pitch and supporters watching on at home through an intricate mosaic design. Mortimer previously worked on the club’s third kit announcement earlier in the season and was excited for project number two.
“I initially proposed the We Are Back idea to the club because I’d had a lot of feedback on social media from fans asking where they could get it printed. Russell Jones at Wolves said they would take it one step further with the mosaic.
“Quite a bit changed from the original design. It had to be landscape to fit in the stadium and some of the letters needed rearranging. Composition wise, it was bit of a task to find something that suited, there was quite a lot of minor details and effects on the original piece, so it was simplified.”
For both Lobos and Mortimer, the opportunity to work directly with the club they support was too good to turn down. Both individual projects have gathered momentum in tandem with their club in recent years, and now they’re all working side by side.
Mortimer said: “It’s a dream come true. The initial work we did on the third kit launch I was chuffed to bits about and now, what more could you ask for? It’s something you don’t see many other clubs do. I think Wolves have been unique and at the forefront of things and it shows a good relationship between the club and fans.”
Lobos added: “It’s fantastic. When I started on the project, I didn’t dream the club would want to get involved, but it’s fantastic. I’d always thought it’d be cool to get a banner into the ground, but instead of me going to the club, they came to me.”
Courtesy of Lobos, the anonymous artist, Wolves graphics have appeared (almost overnight) around Wolverhampton in recent years, with the Nuno’s roar and ‘Joao Believe’ pieces some of his most popular. The project has gathered real momentum and Lobos now has a worldwide stage.
“I like to keep it faceless,” he said. “The reason is some people like it, some people don’t. The fans have welcomed the anonymity, they claim a bit of ownership. My mates in the pub call me Banksy, but I think I’ve got a long way to go.
“The stickers have travelled far and wide. Fans stick them in various locations. We’ve got as far as Australia, New Zealand, the Arctic Circle, America and most European countries, whether it’s on the back of a bus or on a lamppost.
“I had no idea what it was going to become, it was just me and a couple of mates chatting in the pub after the season we went up. Slowly people have taken noticed, the club got involved and the imagery was used by the Guardian, Sky, BBC and the Europa League.
“I’ve had people ask me to take a photo in front of my work, if only they knew it was me who put it there.”
Finally, as Wolves face AFC Bournemouth, Arsenal, Everton and Crystal Palace, the artwork of Lobos and Mortimer will be on the global stage, so how does that make them feel?
“I’m very excited,” Mortimer explained. “I hope it’s well received and everyone who looks at it will be impressed. The eyes of the world will be on it when the cameras are rolling, so hopefully we’ve done a good job.”
The sentiment is echoed by Lobos. He said: “It’ll be fantastic to watch it on TV. There’s one banner going behind the home dugout, so it’d be great to see a picture of the howling Nuno graphic, with Nuno in front of it.”