The importance of Wolves supporters has not been lost on head coach Nuno Espirito Santo, who has described the Molineux faithful as ‘amazing’ for the backing they have given his team this season.
More than 33,000 Wolves fans will be making the trip to Wembley tomorrow for the team’s first FA Cup semi-final appearance since 1998, with Premier League rivals Watford the challenge facing Nuno’s side.
During his pre-match press conference, Nuno spoke about playing a full-strength side in every game, his own semi-final memories as a player and coach, and why giving up is not an option in fighting racism in football stadiums.
On the importance of Wolves supporters
“The fans are important to all occasions. What our fans are giving to us is amazing. It’s always about the fans, always about the togetherness between team and fans, and this exists now. I think both parts have made big progress on it.
“The help of the fans during the games, the way they support and back the team is amazing. At the same time the respect of the players to the fans – there’s no negotiation on how hard we work, and this is what I think our fans appreciate. A team that fights for every ball.”
On choice of goalkeeper
“Ruddy will play on Sunday. He has been very good, all of the games that he’s played – last season he was amazing, this season he’s been fantastic.
“I have full confidence in John, as well as in Will [Norris] and Rui [Patricio], and on Sunday it’s going to be John.”
On possibility of reaching FA Cup final
“Everybody knows what it could mean, but we have to play the semi-final just like another game, focus on the tasks, focus on the actions and make it special, for that to mean something.
“Don’t think about what could happen after. It should be a special game, a good game, let’s play it well.”
On playing a strong side in the FA Cup
“We always play a strong team. We always go full-strength in all the games in all the competitions. It’s based on decisions, options, what we want from the game, the squad that we have, but it’s always full-strength.
“We go game-by-game, we play game-by-game, we didn’t look before at where we’re going to be now. We always look game-by-game, like nothing is going to happen after, and then after we will look back on it.
“It’s that approach every game, it started last season, it’s continued this season. We don’t look ahead of us. You have to play the game, whether it’s FA Cup, Premier League, Carabao Cup, it’s always full-strength and wanting to compete to the maximum of our abilities and our capacities.”
On experience of winning at Wembley
“What helps will be the way we prepare ourselves. The way we’ve been working, respecting our idea and our game plan is what will help.
“What happened before, I honestly don’t think it will be a big help. The preparation for the game, the way you start the game and the way you compete is the big help.”
On his own semi-final memories
“I have been involved in a few semi-finals and finals a long time ago, but I have good memories. They are always special games.
“For me they are another football game. We have to prepare ourselves and compete in all of the games, in all the competitions all over the world, wherever you are. You have to face the game the same way and look at it with the same respect and approach.”
On VAR being used at Wembley
“VAR is coming to our reality and the clear situation of VAR is going to be helpful for everybody. First, we have to initiate ourselves; coaches, players, that are involved in the game with VAR, then there is a step that is educated to everyone else, the fans in the stadium, and this is a good approach.
“But there is always going to be a difference of opinions. This is football.”
On racism in football
“I would never consider taking my team off the pitch. I still believe that nobody can give up, nobody should turn their backs to these situations, we have to face it head on and say to them that there’s no space for racism in football and in life.
“People who do it do not have space in stadiums, they should not be inside a stadium. People who think this way cannot be in sports – stay at home.
“Each and every one of us, not only those who are abused should confront those situations and face it. It’s a situation that’s not only in football but in life, and we have to give a good fight. It will take actions.
“Giving up is not an option.”