Kenny Hibbitt believes it’s the right time for the Wolves players to take a break so they can come back refreshed for the run-in.
The Wolves legend travelled with the fans on Tatter Travel coaches to watch yesterday’s 3-1 defeat at Southampton.
Hibbitt believes the whole squad look jaded after yesterday, combined with the effects of losing the FA Cup semi-final after extra-time to Watford the week before.
The players and staff have now jetted off for a warm weather training camp in Marbella. They return on Thursday, before returning to action on Saturday for the visit of Brighton. The double League Cup winner believes the timing is right for a change of scenery.
“They need a break and they will come back fresher for this trip so they will be right for the Brighton game,” said Hibbitt, who has now witnessed three defeats out of the three with Tatter after watching the 4-1 defeat at Villa and the pre-season friendly at Derby when they went down 2-1. “It was a pity they weren’t at home yesterday because they might have been better for that.
“At 2-1 we were desperate to get back into it and we played well for half an hour. But then we seemed to lose our legs and it wasn’t just one or two players, it was the whole team. The team didn’t play well and they looked tired.
“Nuno could have taken all of them off and brought 11 different players on. I think it was the after effects of the semi-final and that had taken its toll.
“Playing extra-time at Wembley takes it out of you and it takes some recovering from.
“Southampton looked sharper and better and it’s unusual to see a Wolves team like that because normally it’s us looking like that. It’s a good time to take the players away.”
Hibbitt played in three losing FA Cup semi-finals for Wolves, in 1973, 1979 and 1981. And although they bounced back to win immediately after the first two – beating Everton at home 4-2 and Tottenham at home 3-2 respectively – they lost 3-1 at home to Manchester City after the 3-0 replay defeat to Spurs at Highbury in the latter, and ended up on a three-game losing streak.
The former midfielder believes it takes a lot to bounce back not just physically, but mentally as well after such setbacks. But he is convinced they will rediscover their form.
“I’m not surprised what happened because when we lost in the ’81 semi-final, it knocked us for six,” he recalled. “And yesterday it looked like we were still hurting from Wembley.
“It was so disappointing, not just for the team but the fans as well, but we will recover from it.
“It was a bit like Brighton – they lost the week before in the semi-final as well and they ended up getting hammered by Bournemouth yesterday.”
Nathan Redmond’s first goal was timed at 94 seconds and Hibbitt admitted it didn’t just catch Wolves by surprise, but him as well!
“We started off really badly because we conceded so early. We were just taking our places and I didn’t even see it go in!” he said.
“From then on, we dominated the first half and got back into it with a great header from Willy Boly. If we could have kept it to 1-1 to half-time it might have been different. But as soon as we kicked off, we let the second goal in and we just fell asleep at the back.
“We never really looked like recovering from that but you can’t just point a finger at one or two of them – they all looked tired.
“In the second half we didn’t get going and it looked as if we didn’t have any legs. We didn’t respond at all.”
Hibbitt is anxious Wolves fans look at the season as a whole rather than dwell on the last two games.
“We’ve had a great season. We have probably been the best side that have come up in the 16 years I have been a Premier League referees’ assessor, so we shouldn’t get too disheartened about it,” he said.
“I hope everyone feels that way. I hope people don’t get carried away and allow their expectation levels to go through the roof because everything has gone so well this season.”