Kevin Thelwell has hailed Wolves’ best signing – and it’s none of the stars who have performed so impressively on the pitch to clinch seventh spot in the Premier League.
Wolves’ sporting director is convinced head coach Nuno Espirito Santo is the biggest reason why the team has made such rapid strides over the last two years.
When the Portuguese took over in May 2017, Wolves had just finished 15th in the Championship.
Since then the transformation has been nothing short of astonishing as Wolves won the Championship in his first season in charge and are now confirmed as the ‘best of the rest’ in their first campaign back in the Premier League for six years.
After being voted the Championship’s manager of the year last season, Nuno has won three nominations for the Premier League’s Manager of the Month award, winning it in September.
In the last two weeks he has been voted the Midlands Football Writers’ Manager of the Year and was awarded an honorary doctorate in sport by the University of Wolverhampton for his contribution to the region.
Thelwell believes none of Wolves’ success would have been possible but for the contribution of the former Porto and Valencia coach.
“He’s always keen to say it’s a team effort, and we support him in that because there’s a fantastic group in place, but he’s been the catalyst for us achieving many things over the last two years,” said Thelwell.
“The difference he’s made to our organisation has been huge and, without question, he’s been our best signing.
“I hope we continue to have success and he continues to be rewarded because it means we’re still making strides forward.”
Nuno’s side go to Liverpool in the Premier League title decider on Sunday, and with seventh place already confirmed, Wolves will be playing in Europe for the first time since 1980-81 should Manchester City beat Watford in the FA Cup final on May 18.
Thelwell admits the team has exceeded expectations this term.
“We once again have an opportunity to achieve something this season,” he said. “If you’d had said to me at the start of the season we’ll get to the FA Cup semi-final and have a chance of reaching the Europa League, I would have jumped at it.
“For that dream to become a reality would be an unbelievable achievement.”
Thelwell also highlighted the contribution of forwards Raul Jimenez and Diogo Jota.
Jimenez will become the latest club record signing on July 1 after a £32m fee was agreed with Benfica, which already looks good value for a striker who has scored 17 goals in his first season of English football.
Jota has bagged 10 since they were paired together and both feature in the shortlist for the club’s Player of the Year award.
“An area in which we’re enjoying great success at the moment is up front – Raul and Diogo are unplayable currently, and it’s not just about goals and assists,” Thelwell added in Wolves’ matchday programme.
“It’s also their attitude and mentality. Even if they’ve not had the opportunities to score or assist, they’ve still been a handful for any defence in the league.
“The more they play together, the greater their understanding will be, and the more people will be wary of them because they’re a force to be reckoned with, as are the team behind them who complement them very well.”