Nuno Espirito Santo says he would hug every Wolves fan if he could after his team continued their excellent form at Molineux by signing off their home season with a 1-0 win against Fulham.
Leander Dendoncker’s 75th-minute goal ensured Wolves ended with an 11-match unbeaten run in front of their own fans, who made it a carnival atmosphere. The attendance of 30,456 ensured the club has been watched by 30,000-plus in every home League game for the first time since 1949-50.
Afterwards, Nuno, his staff and the players went on a celebratory lap of honour to thank the support, which the head coach says has made such a difference.
“It’s for the fans. I have been out and applauded them – if I could, I would hug them all; one by one,just because of how thankful I am,” said Nuno.
”It’s right for them (supporters) to be with the players because we’ve been so good at home. They have helped us so much that they deserve every man out there.
“It was a special day because it was our last game at home this season, so we wanted to play well.
“This is because our fans are amazing and the support they have given us at home was so important, and the boys played well.
“It was a special day for everybody because this way we keep the momentum at home which is so important.”
Wolves dominated throughout, hitting the woodwork through Matt Doherty and Diogo Jota, while the former had an effort disallowed for offside and the latter wasted three chances.
“We were very good, and played well, so I’m happy,” added Nuno. “Performing well was the most important thing.
“I was worried all the game because we were facing a very difficult, well-organised team. The have good players and (caretaker boss) Scott (Parker) is doing a good job.
“We created good chances in the first half, but Fulham also played well and made it hard for us.
“We had to stay focused and continue to create chances, but the moment of the goal was so well played, and it was worth the wait.
“We broke with the movement of Leander and I’m so happy for him, happy for the boys, because it’s not only about today, but about the season.”
Wolves are guaranteed their highest placing since finishing sixth in 1979-80 and they will secure seventh spot if City avoid defeat against Leicester on Monday.
If they do, they will also be in Europe for the first time in 39 years if Manchester City win the FA Cup, in the Europa League.
Nuno refuses to discuss the prospect of where they will finish and what it could mean. But he is brimming with pride in his players.
“They made it and committed so much. I’m so proud of them I can’t express it in words. I can’t express how proud I am of our team,” he said.
“I’m proud of how we played every game. The draws, the games we lose, the way we lose – even in the FA Cup, I’m proud of that, because it was a big moment for us.
“I’m proud of every minute, even the training sessions, every minute. The achievement is for the players because how we did things here is important.
“We started with a squad of 18 – plus goalies, then in December we reduced the squad to 16, and these players made it.”
Before the game, Nuno was presented with an honorary doctorate of sport from the University of Wolverhampton, which prompted a humble reaction from the Portuguese.
“I am not a doctor, I am a simple man,” said the head coach. “But this is recognition I will never forget. I am very, very thankful.
“It was an honour and a privilege, especially for an institution like a university to give you an honorary doctorate, but it goes beyond me. It’s the staff, it’s the players, employees, fans.
“It’s two years of building something. You can take away a lot of things from your life, but it’s nice to be given something this special.”
But the Wolves boss does not want to be called ‘doctor’. “No no, call me Nuno,” he said.
Wolves go to Liverpool a week tomorrow in their final game of the season. The Reds could clinch the Premier League title
“We’re going to enjoy now, have two days off for rest, because the boys deserve it, and then it will be a long week of preparation for the last game of the competition.
“Nothing will change, it will remain the same as always, as strong as ever. Training every day, working every day, competing all the games.
“The way we did it requires commitment of the players, commitment of the staff, of everybody, the girl who prepares the chicken for us after the game.
“This is important. It is building something. It is a long, long process. It started two years ago in the Championship. We will never forget where we came from.”