Wolves: Why newbies are well-equipped for survival

REUTERS/Murad Sezer

"Our goal is crystal clear," Jeff Shi said, the man who led negotiations on behalf of Fosun International in 2016 for the purchase of Wolverhampton Wanderers. "We will do our very best to help take Wolves back to the Premier League as soon as possible and to stay there."

Becoming the second Championship club to fall under Chinese ownership, Wolves have had a far better time than Midlands rivals Aston Villa under Dr Tony Xia's stewardship.

Unlike the Villains, they weren't simply sold a dream. They realised it.

Nuno? More like Nu-yes

One of China's largest investment companies, with links to super-agent Jorge Mendes, Fosun have delivered on their promise to steer Wolves back to the Premier League when they won the 2017/18 Championship with two games to spare, ending a six-year exile.

We believe the club and the fans belong at the top of English football and getting there is our first and top priority. - Jeff Shi.

Shi signalled his intentions upon completion of Fosun's purchase by immediately dismissing Kenny Jackett. A period of managerial flux ensued, with Jackett's successor Walter Zenga lasting 14 games before Paul Lambert came and went by the end of the season.

Finally, the Mendes connection proved vital when former Porto boss Nuno Espirito Santo took charge. A year later, Wolves return to the Premier League.

In Nuno, Wolves have a manager with a vision and his impact was immediate, winning the Manager of the Month award for November 2017, as his side won all four matches, scoring 13 goals.

When Football Manager becomes reality

Unlike Xia, Shi invested wisely, with the focus on sustainable success, as opposed to seeking a short-term solution to achieve promotion. Wolves had money to spend, but crucially they had a connection with Mendes, thus pertaining to the acquisition of Ruben Neves.

One of those players you'd always sign on Football Manager because of his high potential, it was somewhat surprising to see him holding the orange strip of Wolves as the club and league's record signing. It proved inspired.

A defensive midfielder by trade, Neves is fearless on the ball and was a key source of attacking impetus, often launching counter-attacks through his incisive range of passing - the Portuguese made 8.6 accurate long passes per game.

A record of 2.3 tackles per game, 1.7 interceptions and 1.2 clearances per game, coupled with an 84.9% passing accuracy, makes for promising reading in the context of Premier League survival.

The Wise and the Foolish Builders

In the Bible, there's a parable. One that tells of a wise builder who constructs his house on a solid foundation, contrasted against his foolish counterpart who builds over sand. When the inevitable storm comes, whose house still stands?

It's definitely not the one built on sand.

Neves is as solid a foundation as it comes, but just as there are hidden support structures that go unnoticed in construction work, such is the case at Wolves. Nuno has taken advantage of the situation at Sporting Lisbon to poach goalkeeper Rui Patricio.


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