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Wolves boss Nuno defends Raul mask wearing as ‘cultural’

Nuno Espirito Santo has defended Wolves striker Raul Jimenez for wearing his mask.

The £32m club record signing donned the WWE wrestling headgear after netting the second goal to put Wolves 2-0 ahead against Watford in the FA Cup semi-final at Wembley on Sunday, before the team lost 3-2.

Watford captain Troy Deeney called Jimenez ‘a loser’ while Hornets legend Luther Blissett said it was ‘disrespectful’ and said he should ‘get another job if he wanted to be a cartoon character’.

The criticism of Jimenez sparked a huge reaction on social media, leading to Deeney closing down his Instagram account amid allegations of racism.

But Nuno said: “I would like Raul to score as many goals as he can – that’s all I really want.

It wasn’t disrespectful. If you look at it, it’s a cultural thing in Mexico, so it was not his intention to be disrespectful to anyone. He was just celebrating a moment of joy.”

Wolves fans travelling to tomorrow’s game at Southampton have snapped up masks online in a defiant message of support to the Mexico international, after they were made available for a £10 donation to charity via @pedalsingh and @wolvespremier.

Nuno supported their move. He added: “I hope so. Our pack is always present in all of the stadiums so we hope tomorrow is another full house with our pack behind us. It’s amazing what they give to us.

We are doing it together, so the togetherness between the squad and the fans is something that is so important and we are so happy to have it.”

Nuno insisted there was no special effort in having to pick the players up after the semi-final defeat.

It’s like we always do. It’s the same process over and over again, all the weeks,” he said. “We’re a group of people want to play, to compete. The result doesn’t change the approach. We want to move forward, to compete, grow and become better.

It’s a philosophy. It’s an idea that we have, always. All the games, we analyse, work on it, and be ready for the next one.

In all these moments, you have to organise your thoughts. What we feel now is pride. We are proud of what we have achieved – it was a good thing, and we have to move forward.”

Southampton have won three and lost four of their last seven, beating Tottenham along the way and Nuno is expecting another difficult test.

It will be a tough challenge. They’re a very good team, very organised,” he said. “They have good players and a good manager. They have changed, clearly. They’re a tough team. It will be a very tough game.”

Wolves’ squad will travel to Marbella for a warm weather training camp after the game. The trip has been planned for a month and it will be the third time Nuno has taken the players away to the same venue in southern Spain.

This was planned, and we are proceeding with the plan, going to the training camp to regroup and become stronger for the next games,” said Nuno.

It’s been good. Every time we have done it we have had a reason behind it, and we have another reason now.

It was planned before and we think that allowed us to spend more time together, not only in terms of training sessions but social life. We consider it really important so that’s the idea.”

Nuno insisted the trip wasn’t just about a change of scene for the players.

I will not say that that is the main reason behind it,” he insisted. “I think it allows us to be in a different environment, but spending more time together because we have breakfast together, we train together, we eat lunch together, we eat dinner together and sometimes we spend time together after dinner doing different activities. So it’s a really enjoyable time for everyone.”