With just over 12 hours to go until Wolves and West Bromwich Albion face each other in the first Black Country derby for nine years, Nuno Espirito Santo has expressed the importance of getting three points is not just to get one over on the club’s historic rivals.
The head coach has admitted that the game is a ‘must-win’ for his side for several factors, but knows that even though it will be the first ever derby between the sides without supporters, his players need to turn Molineux into a ‘fortress’, beginning with Saturday’s eagerly anticipated clash.
On knowing the importance of the derby
“From the first day I arrived, I remember a now-friend of mine picked me up from the airport and helped me carry my bags. As soon as I sat down in the car he said, ‘I don’t care about anything else, I just want you to beat West Brom’.
“That was the first message that they gave to me a long, long time ago. Everybody that is here in the club knows exactly what it means tomorrow.
“For the region, I think it’s good to have two teams so close to each other in the Premier League. Unfortunately, we don’t have the fans to make this derby more special than it already is.”
On a must-win match
“It’s a much-win game tomorrow for us. This is what we think, because of previous games, because it’s our main rival in terms of the region and for what it means for our fans, but especially what it means for us.
“We’ve had three games in a row at Molineux, one for the cup and one for the league and besides not having the home factor now, for us, it’s still Molineux. The home factor is always something that we have to keep, even without our fans.
“Molineux must be a fortress, it must be a place that no matter which opponent comes, they must feel uncomfortable, they must feel how hard it is to play at Molineux. Regaining this spirit is fundamental for us.”
Molineux must be a fortress, it must be a place that no matter which opponent comes, they must feel uncomfortable, they must feel how hard it is to play at Molineux. Regaining this spirit is fundamental for us.
On playing a derby without supporters
“Fans are the most important thing. It’s not only about the stadium and the atmosphere at the stadium whether you are at home or away from home, it’s about when you arrive to the stadium.
“We’ve had 300 people in front of Molineux when the bus comes in and this is a big boost. All the adrenaline that comes into your body when you get off the bus, and you hear that.
“When you go on the street and the fans see you, even when they judge you and say, ‘Come on’, and they push you, and even when they thank you for the wonderful times they’ve had.
“The fans are everything, and I miss it so much, everybody misses it. When you go shopping and you have someone there who wants a photo and a hug, you cannot do it and it’s a hard time.
“You have to realise that everyone is trying to follow the rules and make a big effort to keep on doing things right.”
On opportunity for scorers to be written into folklore
“We don’t think about that. That will be a mistake and I will not do it. This is a consequence of what we have to do tomorrow. Let’s think about how we compete, how we’re going to do things – the how is more important than after.
“For us, first is the team, then the individual. This is our main idea, it’s always about ‘us’; it’s always about the spirit of the team, our squad, us and the people who work here. It’s never about individuals and it never will be.
“There are no proper games where it’s ‘Player A’ against ‘Player B’, there are just games to be played as a team. Then, the individual talent of your players can make the difference.”
View this post on Instagram
On reasons behind Wolves’ injury list
“We have to be careful and not overanalyse the injuries. Some injuries are random and situations you cannot expect and some of those happened outside the club, it happened in national teams for the players who went on the numerous international breaks that they had.
“I think all these things together have contributed for some injuries, not only for us, but all over the Premier League, but it’s random. We cannot say they are all because of the short turnaround.
“Of course, pre-season has a big impact on the way we work, but when you start you have international breaks after three days of restarting, the schedule is crazy. You play less than 48 hours during Boxing Day, not many teams do that, and we lost a player in that game.
“We cannot put all the things together and say this was because of that. It’s all things. We’ve had a fantastic injury record and this season it is not like that. When all the squad was available, we never said that we were different from anyone else. We were doing things right and we did not have these random situations that can happen in football.”