For many fans and senior players at Wolverhampton Wanderers, it looked like the season was petering out. However, a group of young players sporting the old gold and black shirts have given fans renewed hope and optimism now.
It was Morgan Gibbs-White who scored the winning goal against Brighton and Hove Albion earlier today, and the 21 year-old was just one of a number of young players at the club who repaid their manager by being in the starting XI.
In the team’s youngest starting XI of the season, in came 19 year-old Ki Jana Hoever at right back, 23 year-old Max Kilman at centre back and Gibbs-White into midfield.
Rather than rotate them for fellow young players, Wolves manager Nuno kept faith with the two other emerging talents who had impressed in the club’s 1-1 draw against West Bromwich Albion last Monday – left-back Rayan Ait-Nouri and attacking midfielder Vitinha.
Initially, it looked to have been a mistake as Wolves struggled to recover after going down 1-0 in the opening quarter of an hour after Lewis Dunk’s header flew past Rui Patricio from a corner.
Yet after some scares, especially in set pieces, the former Valencia manager will have been delighted with the resolve and bravery on the ball Wolves displayed in the second half.
The first big moment that happened in the club’s favour was Dunk getting sent off following a lovely attacking move from the hosts which saw Vitinha send another teen starter, Fabio Silva, through on goal. The striker’s touch, which has deserted him at times earlier this season, was exquisite and forced the foul from the English defender, and subsequently the red card.
With their one-man advantage Wolves continued to press, with both teen full backs, Ait-Nouri and Hoever, showing immense responsibility to keep peppering the Brighton box with crosses.
Helped immensely by substitute, Adama Traore, Wolves found the equaliser but continued to look for a winner.
Other attributes on display during this late charge were their discipline and character. Despite attacks occasionally breaking down and chances being wasted, Nuno’s men relentlessly searched for a winner.
They were eventually rewarded when Gibbs-White, who wasted their best chance by blazing over an open goal just minutes earlier, buried a fine effort into the top corner to send their fans ecstatic and the club into a 2-1 lead.
It was a rare moment of satisfaction in a largely underwhelming season and it was the young guns who provided it. While key players such as Pedro Neto and Raul Jimenez have been out injured, the likes of the young players who starred in today’s game showed an appetite to win that’s been missing from a number of the more senior Wolves players over the course of the season.
It might just be that the youngsters themselves,are thinking about their Wolves future just a little more seriously than their seasoned colleagues. One thing is for sure – they have put a smile on many of the Wolves fans’ faces.