Nuno Espirito Santo was pleased to have Leander Dendoncker back among his team and available for selection as the Wolves head coach attempts to juggle a busy fixture schedule with an injury hit squad.
The Belgian is one of several key players who has missed the festive period, but the challenge of putting a gold and black team together during a time when the country has been put back into a national lockdown, amid talks of the Premier League and football as a whole being suspended once again due to the rising cases in Covid-19, is just one of the tasks Nuno faces in these troubling times.
On injuries being a challenge
“For sure it is. We had seasons before, I think in the first season of the Premier League, we made the same starting 11 ten times I think, so that reflects a lot on where we were before.
“Now is a different situation, but we are ready for it. It’s always demanding, for all the situations that are around us, and this particular year is very demanding for everybody.”
On seeing Dendoncker return against Palace
“He’s very valuable, since the beginning. He’s a top player and gives us many things, talented, the distances and the spaces that he can fulfil in the pitch are very important for us. I’m very happy.
“We have Boly out, we have Marcal out, we have problems, and we will try to find solutions for them. Jonny is improving, he’s doing very well, but he still has time to rejoin us again.
“It’s very good to have Raul [Jimenez] around. It’s very good to see him improve. It’s very nice to see him smile and already doing some exercising in the gym and having the positive thought that he’s going to continue and rejoin us. This is what pleases me and everybody around the club more, that we’re going to have Raul back.”
On possibility of season being paused
“We’re very concerned in the situation we are living as a society, that we cannot go back to living in a normal situation. The virus and the pandemic is affecting a lot, the increase of cases is growing in a scary way, but this is what is my main concern.
“With regards to football, I think things have changed. Almost a year ago, we were stopping because we didn’t know what was happening, the virus was something that we had never experienced, we didn’t know what it could cause, so it put a lot of doubts.
“Now, after the restart, I think everybody made a real effort to go again in football, but now things have changed and we start thinking about stopping again. I don’t know for sure what is better, what I think and what I’m afraid of is if the decision is to stop, the football as we know now, will not be the same.
“This is my biggest fear, because the schedule will go crazy, it will be impossible to even finish the league and think about the Euros. What I feel is that if we stop, everything will change. It’s a tough decision to make.”
On knock on effect of pausing football
“If you start thinking about the time frame you have until the end of the season and then you engage with the Euros, it’s impossible.
“That was the consideration when we stopped the first time. We identified that the time that we stopped and time required for the preparation after is equal. If you stop for X amount of weeks, you need X amount of weeks before you restart. If we repeat the same stoppage time as we did before, then it would be impossible.”
What I’m afraid of is if the decision is to stop. Football as we know now, will not be the same. The schedule will go crazy, it will be impossible to even finish the league and think about the Euros. What I feel is that if we stop, everything will change. It’s a tough decision to make.
On difficult decisions to be made
“For everybody involved in the game, it’s been very hard, very difficult to plan, always with the fear that you prepare for the match, then you wait on the result of the tests.
“All of us has a moral obligation to do our best to keep on going. That doesn’t say that we are insensitive to the things that are happening around us, it says that I think this spirit is required in these moments.
“Maybe it’s the right moment to get together and hear all the voices, all the opinions, getting all the feelings from everybody; especially the players, how are they dealing, the doubts that they have, the fears, so we can make the right decisions, like everyone always did in English football.
“All the decisions were made with common sense and all the parts involved, so this is what I expect now, sooner rather than later, a proper meeting with all the sectors of the game involved.”