Wolves captain Conor Coady on the revolution taking place at Molineux
SITTING in a dressing room at the Sir Jack Hayward training ground, Conor Coady laughs when it’s put to him that Wolves are the Manchester City of the Championship.
There are parallels. City are dominating the Premier League with style and goals, yet to be beaten by anyone.
Wolves are leading the Championship, a team that Bolton manager Phil Parkinson says will win the league by ten points and, like City, are a side of style, goals.
The ambitions might be different. City want to be the best club side in Europe, then the world. Wolves want to be back in the Premier League.
City have spent one fortune and then two more recruiting the best talent available.
Wolves can outspend anyone in the Championship, probably three-quarters of the Premier League as well, and have recruited from Portugal and Brazil.
Coady is one of the players who was at Wolves before the revolution and has made himself an integral part of what they are doing.
He had a taste of what it will be like if Wolves get up when he played against Manchester City at the Etihad in the Carabao Cup and lost only on penalties.
Wolves stopped Manchester City scoring, the only team to do that this season.
Coady was at the centre of Wolves’ defence as City’s sky blue was turned at least a light shade of purple with embarrassment.
“It’s not something here where we want to play like other teams,” says Coady as he answers the City analogy.
“The manager has implemented his own way of playing, his own style and the boys have bought into it.
“We want to keep learning off him. Everybody is on the same wavelength, where we want to go.
“It’s something where we have a way of playing and we don’t want to go away from that.
“We do it our way and see if teams can stop us.”
There is an echo of City there.
The man behind it all, Wolves’ own Pep Guardiola, is Nuno Espirito Santo. He’s simply “Nuno” at Wolves and close to being a miracle worker. He’s a private man who has extremes. He is volatile on the touchline, respectful but cautious when he talks to the media. Coady opens up on how Nuno operates. “We have been learning since pre-season, since he came in. Everything is the same in training, very repetitive. We do a lot of team possession, a lot of defensive work. He’s huge on clean sheets. “His attention to detail is massive. “Everybody has bought into it. They know their role inside out.”
City have what looks like a gimme and lots more goals at home to West Ham today, while Wolves have a tough local derby tomorrow, away to Birmingham on a cold Monday night.
Wolves have outscored Manchester City over the last five games. It’s 15-10, with Wolves redhot in the last two with nine.
Birmingham are being turned into an attritional side under Steve Cotterill. The Bovril will be steaming on the Kop, traditional English winter football.
Wolves’ six Portuguese and one Brazilian are not supposed to fancy this, are they? Will Wolves freeze?
“I keep on hearing little things like that. That it’s going to be tough on the boys,” says Coady, himself Liverpool-born with medals for rainy nights at Millwall and doublelayer days at Burton.
“It gets cold in Portugal as well. And it rains. These boys can play. They have fantastic talent. It doesn’t matter if it’s raining, sunny, snowy, these boys will play. We know what’s being said, we have a little laugh about it and we are ready.”
Coady’s trade was as a central midfielder, who filled in at fullback when Wolves found themselves short last season.
But Nuno re-invented him as a central defender. No deep discussion. Nuno just asked him in pre-season to play there in a 3-4-3 formation.
That plan has taken the Championship by storm and given Coady a different career. He has been immense as a key man, made captain while Danny Batth can’t get in the side, a Scouser, a thorn among these foreign roses.
“I don’t know about me not understanding them,” says Coady. “When I’m playing I like to organise from the back and I’m shouting away.
“They just nod. I don’t think they understand a word.”
As a Liverpool fan, Coady smiles again when it’s put to him that Wolves might take Everton’s place in the Premier League.
“I’m not getting into that one,” he says. “Anyway, I don’t think Everton will go down now Sam Allardyce is there.” Diplomatically dodged. Coady’s biggest moment in football to date is Wolves’ 2-1 victory at Anfield in the FA Cup last season.
He was on Liverpool’s books from six years old until he left, initially on loan, to Sheffield United in 2013, seeing no way into a midfield that had Steven Gerrard, Jordan Henderson and Joe Allen in it.
Huddersfield was next where, ironically, he scored one of his rare goals, a 30-yarder at Molineux in a win that stopped Wolves going top of the Championship three years ago.
Kenny Jackett, one of the four managers Wolves have had since Fosun International bought the club, paid £2m for Coady and now he could be heading back to play Liverpool on a regular basis.
That Cup win was the first time Coady had played at Anfield, his two appearances being away in the Europa League and at Fulham.
“Winning at Liverpool was very special to me,” says Coady. “I had loads of family there. To think of maybe going back next season with Wolves and play my first Premier League game there...special, yes.”
NUNO: A private man of extremes PREMIER STYLE: Classy Manchester City CHAMPIONSHIP PEDIGREE: Leaders Wolves EARLY DOORS: With Liverpool LEADER: ‘I shout, they nod but I don’t think they understand a word