Nuno Espirito Santo has been telling Wolves players their name could be on the FA Cup since day one.
Thirty-nine years to the day since Wolves last won a major trophy – the League Cup in 1980 – defender Ryan Bennett has revealed how the Molineux head coach has stressed the importance of gaining some silverware.
Wolves are 90 minutes from a first Wembley cup appearance in 31 years as they prepare to host Manchester United in the sixth round at Molineux tomorrow night. The last time they visited the national stadium was at the old Twin Towers when they beat Burnley 2-0 to lift the Sherpa Van Trophy, as a Fourth Division side.
Bennett insists Nuno has got Wolves up for the cup.
“The manager has gone from day one saying we’ve got the chance to win a cup,” said the former Norwich centre-back.
“He realised we had an opportunity to win a cup and how good and big it is. It was made clear inside the club how seriously we need to take it and we’re getting the rewards for how hard we have worked.”
Bennett says the players have started talking about how far they can go after beating Bristol City 1-0 in the last round.
“In the last round it was spoken about a little bit more, it opens up doors,” he said. “If we play as well as we can and win, everyone knows where it’s going to take us.”
At 29, an FA Cup quarter-final is new territory for Bennett. It is easily the furthest he has been in the competition, as he has never got past the third round before.
“Someone asked what my highlight was in the FA Cup and I said ‘f*****g none’!” he said.
“It’s rare I’ve had a successful year in the FA Cup – going out as a Premier League side (Norwich) to Luton who were in the Conference at the time was a big upset at the time.”
All the more reason why he is savouring this cup run.
“Personally, I’ve not been beyond the third round so to play at Wembley and get a trophy is something you’ve always watched as a kid. To be part of it now is massive,” he said.
Cup fever has swept through Wolverhampton and Bennett is only too aware of what a victory will mean to the city.
“Definitely, the fans have been like that all season and the following has been incredible,” he said.
“You get through this round and you’re at Wembley and I’d be surprised if they didn’t sell their allocation out within minutes.”
Bennett admits that this week the players are daring to dream of what beating United would mean.
“It’s difficult for it to be the talk of the dressing room, as we’ve had enough games in between, but leading up to it this week we know what’s at the end of it,” he said.
“It is massive, because of where you can get to if you win. That will be huge in itself. It’s the next game and it will be a massive step forward if we win.”
Wolves have proved they are big-game players with their impressive record against top-six teams this season. In fact it’s the best of seventh and below against those sides.
Bennett believes their way of playing – soaking up pressure then hitting teams on the break – plus ‘world class’ attacking players is the key to their success.
“It’s difficult to pinpoint it, but the way we set up, we’re hard to break down and those sort of teams have a bit more possession which creates more spaces when we do win the ball back,” he said.
“We have players at the top end who can counter against any team in the world.
“When we do nick it, we nick it in areas where the full backs from the other teams are going and they’re being expansive and we can exploit that.”
Bennett also reveals that there is more to Wolves’ success than their formation and tactics however.
No stone is left unturned in their preparations to unearth the tiniest gains.
“There are changes in the attention to detail with each player – that’s something I’ve not really had before,” he added.
“Every little thing makes a difference. Everyone here has embraced everything we do. Lots of little things combine to become one big thing. That helps massively.
“Throughout the club, whether it be nutritional, we’ve got Julio (Figueroa) who comes in and talks to you mentally, and sees things you probably don’t see.
“We’ve got the nutritionist, Antonio (Dias) and Joao (Lapas) on pre-training routines, and there’s stuff I’ve never done before.
“The condition I’m in now is probably the best I’ve ever been, that does play a part.”