It All Starts Now

David Instone on a busy morning at Molineux

It was a busy morning at Molineux as new Head Coach Nuno Espiríto Santo was introduced to a packed media conference in the Hayward Suite.  Respected journalist and former long-term Wolves correspondent for the Express Star - David Instone - looked on.




Ok, this sort of thing has been happening too often. We all agree on that.


The TV screens that were hailing ‘Benvenuto, Walter’ ten months ago to the day were this morning welcoming Nuno Espirito Santo as Wolverhampton Wanderers’ new head coach – and we have had more than half a season of Paul Lambert in the meantime.


Football has moved on massively since the days of Cullis, McGarry, even Turner, and, for Laurie Dalrymple, it has moved faster than most since his elevation to the position of Managing Director in the wake of Jez Moxey’s departure.


At Molineux, there is now the fervent wish that it might move a little slower, at least in terms of senior staff turnover.


“I don’t think any club would want to make changes as frequently as this,” Laurie acknowledged in a busy 10am media conference in the Hayward Suite.


“Stability is the key. Do we see him (Nuno) as being a stable part of the future? Yes, we do.”


The main man was sat at his side at the top table, bearded, tanned and immaculately dressed in dark suit and tie, with white shirt.


Not once under the glare of the cameras did he ask for a question to be repeated or even explained. No translator required here – he may never have played or worked in this country but he speaks excellent English.


To deal with some of the cynical baggage first, we should perhaps point out one important difference between now and last summer when the Fosun Group were in their hectic opening weeks at Molineux.


Yes, Nuno is also a keeper of pedigree. Yes, he’s a Fosun appointment and, yes, he’s friends with Jorge Mendes.


But the turn of the former Valencia and Porto coach to face the familiar barrage of questions has come on June 1, not August 1, and he is armed with a three-year contract. He has also brought in an assistant, a goalkeeper coach and fitness coach of his choosing.


It is nearly four weeks until the players are back at Compton in training. There is some time to plan and, beyond that, a commitment to build.


The national newspaper representatives would love to have heard that Nuno had counselled Jose Mourinho on whether to take this job and so swap Champions League for Championship. They were disappointed, though. The last conversation between the two friends and former club colleagues was some time last year, so what we used to know as the Fleet Street offices had to go elsewhere for a headline.


It’s not particularly revealing to say a manager conducted himself well at an introductory press conference. Most of them do these days.


Nuno was calmness personified, his elbows never leaving the desk on which he remained leaning forward throughout the proceedings. Only after being guided into one of the Billy Wright Stand executive boxes to speak separately to newspaper correspondents, one of whom commented on having been present at Leicester’s 5-0 defeat away to Porto last winter, did he use any kind of hand signals – and then they were less than exaggerated. Everything he said was measured.


While renovation work continued on the pitch behind him, the 43-year-old was also unfailingly polite. He referred repeatedly to his and his backroom team’s excitement at the challenge, promising to organise, develop and improve the players under his control.


And when it came to addressing the issue of those yet to check in, he plotted a considered, safe route around the inevitable Jorge Mendes questions.


He firmly batted away the suggestion that the agent would be calling the shots on transfer targets.


“This is the task of the club,” he insisted. “Everything in football is global now. You have to be open to every option and then try to integrate as fast as possible players that are coming in.


“I have known Jorge for 20 years and we are friends. The best agents have the best players but it’s important that any signings are seen as OUR players, not as one who has been brought over by A, B or C.”


The baton was picked up by Laurie Dalrymple. Having spelled out that it would be very much against the rules for an agent to be in charge of player signing at any club, he emphasised that Kevin Thelwell would continue to head up the recruitment programme.


So wide is the club’s search, he added, that if there was a man on the Moon who was good enough, a scout would be despatched from Molineux. And, by the way, Ryan Bennett, a former Norwich charge of Paul Lambert’s, has arrived this week.


And so English football has another manager or head coach from the country who won the European Championships last summer; someone whom, he told us today, had offers from at least one club who will be playing in next season’s Champions League.


Will Helder Costa be even happier at Molineux now he has a fellow countryman as his boss? Will more of his compatriots follow, whether or not from the Mendes/Gestifute portfolio.


Before we know it, eyes will swing towards Austria and the first public interaction of the new man with the players. The work has started already, though, if not the bold statements.


“Now is the moment of planning, not making targets,” Nuno added. “The first target we have is the first game on the fifth of August. We all start from zero, including me.”