Gary O’Neil wants his team to be driven by success, as Wolves look to build on Sunday’s big Black Country derby when their focus swings back to the Premier League on Thursday.
It’s a lively camp following the win over West Bromwich Albion, but O’Neil has called for calm heads when his side take on Manchester United under the Molineux lights.
At home Wolves have claimed some of their biggest wins this season, beating Manchester City, Tottenham Hotspur and Chelsea, and that special connection with the supporters has been key to each success, says the head coach.
On team news in the camp
“Pablo’s back fit. Joao is obviously back from suspension and fit. Rayan’s fit to start. We’re pretty good, fortunately.”
On kicking on as a group
“I want the players to have a realistic view on where we are. Their focus should be, and will be purely, on winning the next game. Of course, the more games you win, the more you can start to look upwards. If we lose tomorrow and the teams down the bottom win, we get closer to the bottom, so there’s still a need for realism and how quickly things can change.
“We need to be driven by trying to be successful and a fear of failure. I was always that way as a player, where I didn’t want to fail, and I want the lads to feel that. It can really drive energy and make you focus. It’s important that we have a real understanding. We’re in a middle spot at the moment, not too far away from either, and we need to knuckle down and keep pushing.”
On loving playing at home
“Manchester City started it, being able to beat them at home gave us a real good moment in front of our own fans. The Spurs game, two late goals on the back of a really good performance, it would have been a very different feeling if we’d lost that 1-0, we’d have had to speak about how unlucky we were. Maybe those two moments are the ones which stick in my mind, but it’s the consistency with what we’re trying to do, and the energy the boys put in.
“Even the games which haven’t felt as fluid, the fans have stuck by them against Burnley and Nottingham Forest, we still had the full backing. They understand maybe we’re having a bit of an off day, but the lads have given everything so far, so let’s stick with them and try and get them over the line, and you could feel that. We’ll need it, we’re unbeaten in eight, but Manchester United is going to be an extremely tough test, whether we’re unbeaten in eight or we’ve lost the last eight, the next home game against Manchester United is always going to be a tough one.”
One off last year’s goal tally
“We have the best – touch wood – injury record in the league. Of course, we hope it’s sustainable, but things can happen. When we lost Pedro during the Newcastle game, you heard the whole of Wolverhampton gasp, because they know, firstly how important Pedro is, but also we haven’t got loads of attacking players. We do have a bit of cover there, especially when Channy comes back, but not enough ideally for me.
“I do think if we were to suffer two injuries at the same time in that area of the pitch, we would be a lot worse off than we are normally. We’re trying to close that gap to give ourselves a little bit of protection, but we are blessed with quality in that area so it’s difficult to go out and find players in January that can perform at the same level as the players that have been up there for us.”
It's 6️⃣ goals in 1️⃣2️⃣ games for Matheus.— Wolves (@Wolves) January 31, 2024
On looking back at the opening day
“What it showed is the group were capable and willing, firstly. When I watch it back now, we’ve come a long way tactically since then, but for the boys to be able to buy into what I’d asked them in such a short period of time, and to carry it out with as much zest and passion as they did, was a good start point for us.
“We suffered a few setbacks from there and I’m sure we’ll still suffer some more, but it’s a day I look back on fairly fondly because it was my first game in charge of Wolverhampton Wanderers, a fantastic club. We didn’t manage to get anything out of it, but it gave us a real, good start point to work from.”
On the journey since then
“I’m pleased with where we’ve managed to get to, but not content. I’m not thinking if we motor along like this, we’ll be fine. When you watch our games, there are still so many areas which need improving and the boys know that, they’re working equally as hard.
“The tactical work today we did was excellent, because they understand the importance of trying to push and keep trying to improve. It’ll be a real, tough test for us tomorrow, Manchester United have some incredible individuals and will be a real good test for our good home form.”