Kenny Hibbitt has backed Wolves to succeed in Europe because of their experience.
Wolves have 10 players who have played in the Champions League or Europa League as the prepare to compete in continental competition for the first time in more than 39 years. Midfielder Joao Moutinho has won the Europa League in 2011 with Porto and was a finalist in the competition with Sporting in 2005.
Hibbitt, 68, was a key player when Wolves reached their only European final, the UEFA Cup in 1972, and is one of only three who have played in all four UEFA Cup campaigns the club have been involved in, with Derek Parkin and John Richards. The Yorkshireman is convinced that know-how will be vital as Nuno Espirito Santo’s side look to experience a European adventure again.
“Definitely. Back in our day, we were virtually all British players (Uruguayan-born Rafael Villazan was the only non-British player in the Wolves squad). Nowadays, we have international players who have played in this competition and done well in Europe,” said Hibbitt.
“The players who have not played in Europe will benefit from the others’ experience and these players are not kids. They might 21, 22, 23 (Ruben Neves and Diogo Jota) but they’re experienced, so it’s going to be interesting.”
Wolves face an extra six games before the group stages of the Europa League but Hibbitt believes they can go where Burnley didn’t last season and sustain a challenge in Europe and also keep the fans happy in the Premier League with a similar season to last campaign after the seventh-placed finish.
“Looking from the outside, I think they could,” said the double League Cup winner. “Nuno knows what he’s doing and he knows what the club are capable of. He knows the squad and his players and we all know the Premier League is a bigger priority to the club than playing in the Europa League, so we will see.
“We haven’t signed anyone as yet, so maybe there will be a couple or three additions, and I think you need a big squad if you’re going to go into Europe, whether it be Champions League or Europa League. I’m talking about numbers, because we have got quality.”
Wolves enjoyed an amazing 97 per cent availability of their squad last season, with no serious injuries. Hibbitt, who is the second highest appearance maker with 574 appearances for the club, is hoping for similar luck for the coming campaign, with the added congestion of the Europa League.
“Wolves were very lucky with injuries last season – their key players were never out for long periods, so that was a bonus to the manager and staff and to the fans because they were seeing the players week-in, week-out,” said the popular former midfielder. “So it was nice to avoid three or four long-term injuries because some clubs have that problem.
“We didn’t and hopefully that can continue in this coming season, and, with the Europa League matches coming thick and fast, we will keep our fingers crossed that they keep clear of serious injuries.”