Lescott: ‘We believed we were going to win’

Joleon Lescott had full belief that Wolves were going to win the 2003 Division One play-off final, ending an almost 20-year hiatus from the top-flight of English football.

Speaking on the latest episode of Old Gold Club: Big Match Revisited, which saw former players including Lescott reflect on the memorable game in Cardiff 17 years ago, the Academy graduate admitted the team knew they were going to achieve promotion.

Supporters can catch the latest episode of Big Match Revisited on Wolves’ official YouTube channel, with Matt Murray, Lee Naylor, Kenny Miller, Colin Cameron and manager Dave Jones also joining Lescott in looking back at a game which will live long in the memory.

On the noise around the stadium ahead of kick-off

“Heading out onto the pitch before kick-off was the first time I’d been out, apart from for the warm-up, because usually I didn’t used to go out before the games to see the stadium and the fans.

“Going out onto the pitch, you’d just go through the same routine, you’d obviously want to keep yourself as composed as possible.

“We came down a few days earlier and stayed at the hotel, but this was totally different.”

On a quick start to the match

“The preparation was fine, but I get run at the start, I’m sure I get run at by Steve Kabba. I remember thinking early doors that I don’t need that kind of game. But, to be fair, Kabba was decent, he had a lot of ability.

“The first opportunity I get, I try to be clever. Not take a chance, but do something that the strikers are probably not expecting.

“Obviously going up for headers, that was expected of you, that was standard and should be a standard part of your game, but if they’re trying to control it and nip it in front, you’ve got to make them think more about that side of it, rather than just going through them. In those days, someone going through the back of you was standard.”

On high hopes heading into the final

“Going into this game, this was totally different to the year before when we lost to Norwich, we believed we were going to win this, before we’d even got there.

“Before we’d even gone into the play-offs to play Reading, we were already booking hotels for family members, whereas the year before we’d fallen into the play-offs after being second for so long.

“I didn’t feel any pressure. It probably hurt more the year before because obviously we were so close, and the fact we lost out to West Brom.

“But we had belief and it just felt a bit different this year.”

On Colin Cameron’s influence

“‘Cams’ was always decent, but I remember when he had a problem with his teeth, and he went to France and came back with this gum shield and that was it then.

“From there he just changed and went on to another level. He’d been playing in so much pain, then he came back with this gum shield and he was ridiculous.

“But think about all the names of the players we had and the balance in this team with ‘Newts’ {Shaun Newton] and ‘Sparky’ [Mark Kennedy], ‘Blakey’ [Nathan Blake] and Kenny [Miller], ‘Incey’ [Paul Ince] and Cams, Me and ‘Butts’ [Paul Butler], ‘Nails’ [Lee Naylor] and Denis [Irwin] playing opposites, all the units together were great.”

On the aerial dominance of Matt Murray

“Late in the game, they started throwing it outside of the box because they knew that Matty was just going to come for them.

“As soon as you heard ‘keepers’, you get out the way. You’d get out the way because he’d clean you up and he used to love cleaning everybody up, so I wouldn’t give him the satisfaction!

“When we were coming through, Matty probably knew he was that strong, but he probably didn’t want to embarrass the senior keepers as a 16-year-old, to showcase that he’s stronger than them.

“I think he got more aggressive, and I think on the pitch was probably the only time he ever was aggressive, because he’s a gentle giant.”

The latest edition of the must-see 90-minute Old Gold Club: Big Match Revisited is now available to watch on Wolves’ YouTube channel, before appearing in the archive at tv.wolves.co.uk.

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