Matt Doherty believes ‘proud’ Wolves can go a long way in the Europa League after finishing the group stages in style.
Nuno Espirito Santo’s side head into Monday’s draw for the round of 32 with their heads held high after thrashing Besiktas 4-0 at Molineux on Thursday night.
Their excellent record in Europe now reads 10 wins and a draw from 12 games, scoring a club record 30 goals along the way – surpassing Bill McGarry’s team who netted 27 reaching the first UEFA Cup final in 1972 – giving the players the confidence not to fear anyone in the next round.
Wolves will play one of Ajax, Basel, Benfica, Celtic, Espanyol, Gent, Inter Milan, İstanbul Başakşehir, LASK, Malmö, Porto, Salzburg or Seville in the next round, and be at home first on Thursday 20 February, with the away leg seven days later.
“I’m really looking forward to the draw, it will be interesting to see who we get,” said Doherty, who was rested for Thursday’s win to prepare for Sunday’s visit of Tottenham.
“It doesn’t really matter – we’ll take who we get, and whoever that team is, we’ll be confident we can beat them.
“We’ve not set a goal for ourselves in terms of positions in the Premier League, but we’ve got out of the group stage and we want to go as far as we can in the competition and see what we can do.
“We believe we’re good enough to go quite a long way.”
Doherty, 27, admits he and his team-mates used to look on with envy at other clubs playing in Europe. But now Wolves have come this far, he wants to continue their run in the knockout stages.
“We’re proud that we’ve qualified. We were looking at other teams last season, and in previous seasons playing in European competitions, and you always wished it was you,” said the Ireland international.
“It’s our turn this year and we’re making a pretty good fist of it by qualifying for the next round.”
Wolves have lost just once after a Europa League game – the 3-2 defeat at Everton on October 1 after beating Torino 2-1 at home – while they have beaten Manchester City, Aston Villa and drawn against Leicester, Manchester United, Burnley, Crystal Palace, Newcastle and Sheffield United after their other encounters in Europe this term.
Doherty insists their European campaign is not affecting Wolves in the Premier League, where they are on an 11-game unbeaten run, the club’s longest in the top flight since 1959. With European games, that run stretches to 16 without loss.
“I don’t think the Europa League is a hindrance at all,” said the long-serving wing back.
“This is why we played the way we did at the back end of last season, to get into the Europa League and this kind of situation.
“If you look at the games as we’ve gone, we’ve looked stronger and better. I think everyone’s on the same wavelength.
“It’s not been that difficult (balancing games) because we’ve been getting (good) results, so we’re confident.
“I guess if we were losing games, then it might be a bit more difficult, but when you’re in a good run of results, you just want to play the next one as soon as possible.
“Every day we can’t wait to play the next game. We’re playing against quality teams away from home in Europe and we’re getting the results we want.
“I know we didn’t hang on to the lead at Braga, but we didn’t lose the game, we’re still unbeaten and we’ll be pretty confident heading into the next game.”
Doherty believes the key is to follow the advice of head coach Nuno.
“Since the manager came in, there’s been a complete turnaround,” he added. “As long as we stay on the right path and keep listening to what the manager is saying, there’s nothing but good stuff ahead of us.”
Wolves return to Molineux on Sunday when they are back in Premier League action for the visit of Jose Mourinho’s resurgent Tottenham.
Doherty can’t wait for the visit of Spurs, where he was linked with a move to in the summer transfer window.
“Being back here, it’s always a huge joy to play at Molineux at the moment,” he said.
“When you’re doing well, the atmosphere is electric and I’m sure it will be absolutely fantastic.”
* Doherty was talking to Wolves’ matchday programme for the Besiktas game.