O'Neil on VAR, Neto and season reflections

Gary O’Neil was in reflective mood during his final press conference of the season, following a positive first campaign as Wolves head coach.

O’Neil arrived at Molineux on the eve of the new season and takes his side to Liverpool on Sunday with a top half finish in the Premier League still a possibility. Speaking on Friday, O’Neil discussed VAR, the returning Pedro Neto and work which needs to take place over the summer at Compton Park.

On VAR’s proposed abolishment

“It’s fairly well known how frustrated the club have been, and myself, with some of the decisions this season. We had some discussions and I know Jeff is extremely disappointed with how decisions have gone against the club and not only the decisions against us, but the way VAR hasn’t seemed to improve the consistency very much, which I’m really surprised with.

“When it came in, I thought it would be a huge benefit to the game and officials, and it maybe hasn’t worked that way. In its current state, I’m more than happy for it be abolished. The way it is, it hasn’t helped the experience for the fans. I’m stood in Molineux once every two weeks and the fans’ mood towards it is really clear. There’s a real negative energy towards what impact it’s had on the experience of watching the team.

“I do think there’s scope to just improve it as well. If we’re going to leave it like it is – and I would definitely be a fan of getting rid of it – it needs to be improved drastically.”

On looking to end on a high

“There’s still a chance we can finish in the top ten mathematically and if you’d have said that to me at the start of the season, that we could win the last game and potentially finish top ten, I’d have definitely signed up to it. We go there with that as our real focus. We’re desperate to win another game. We’ve worked really hard to keep ourselves in a position where we still have an opportunity to finish in the top ten.”

On the squad’s injuries lifting

“Pedro Neto will be in the squad. He’s trained well and felt good this week, so he’ll be travelling with us. Slight doubt around Pablo Sarabia, who has a minor injury that may rule him out. Bellegarde’s feeling OK and doing well. Dawson’s out. I think that will be it, everybody else has managed to keep themselves fit this week and we’re in a decent spot. We had some illness earlier in the week, but they’re all back. Much better place for us.

“It’s a tough test, so we’ll need everyone available to us. Anfield’s a tough place to go at the best of times, so the atmosphere and emotion around Sunday will be extremely tough. We’re going to need everybody to put in one hell of a performance to give us a chance.”

On the summer being an opportunity to reflect

“I’m looking forward to the summer and pre-season, more around trying to make sure we improve. When you’re in the week to week, you’re really blinkered and narrow minded around the next game. When the game ends on Sunday, it allows me to look up for a second and start to look at the bigger picture and where we need to get to over the summer, and how I can improve things around what I’ve done and how we can improve the group, because it’s going to be a big summer for us.

“We have been found short this year with the numbers we’ve had and the depth we’ve had, so we’re going to look to address that over the summer. I’m going to try to address some of the issues we’ve had on the pitch during pre-season and if we can get both of them right, recruitment and team understanding, there’s no reason that we can’t do better again next year.”

On an enjoyable first season

“How we’ve arrived at this point has been ups and downs. Tough spell at the end, but the point we arrive at, if we win at the weekend, it gives us a chance to finish top ten. If I’m really honest, I didn’t expect to be doing my last press conference with that chance. I thought it was going to be a tough year for the group with the losses that we’d had. The Premier League is ruthless and will find your weaknesses, and over the past few months it has. But maybe it’s a time where it gives us a little jab in the ribs.

“Going into the summer it gives us fresh impetus and we need to improve things to be even more competitive. I’ve really enjoyed it, I’m really proud of what the squad has achieved. I’m unbelievably disappointed with the last ten games. Even when I speak about how the season has gone, there’s a voice in the back of my mind. I look at things I could have done better to help the group keep momentum. We have one more chance at Anfield to finish the season on a high.”