Wolves to make it 'special'

Wolverhampton Wanderers' Matt Doherty joined the club in 2010, making him the longest serving player.
Wolverhampton Wanderers' Matt Doherty joined the club in 2010, making him the longest serving player.PHOTO: REUTERS

Boss Nuno hopes to extend fairy-tale run, while Watford promise 'a good game'

LONDON • No other player at Molineux is in a better position to judge the rise of Wolves than Matt Doherty. The Ireland right-back is the only surviving member of their 2011-12 Premier League season when they went down after finishing rock bottom.

In the years since, Wolves have suffered the ignominy of another relegation to League One, and several terms mired in Championship mediocrity.

But the wheels to be the "best of the rest" were set in motion with the 2016 takeover by Chinese conglomerate Fosun International and the appointment of manager Nuno Espirito Santo a year later, resulting in a return to the top flight after a six-year absence.

Wolves have carried on where they left off in the Championship, taking 13 points off the "Big Six" as they sit seventh in the league, a point ahead of today's FA Cup semi-final opponents, Watford.

As far as Doherty, who joined in 2010, is concerned, it has been an "unbelievable" ride.

The 27-year-old, the club's longest-serving player, said: "You've got to remember it's been a short space of time where this has all happened. It's not that long ago that we were in League One.

"Who would've thought we'd be in the semi-final of the FA Cup and seventh in the league - it's kind of a fairy tale, so we're all very happy with the situation at the moment. I'm completely settled, so long may it continue."

And why should Doherty go anywhere, with Wolves a game from making their first FA Cup final since 1960.

They are fresh off making another statement of intent, breaking their club transfer record to sign Mexico striker and top scorer Raul Jimenez for £30 million (S$52.9 million) in midweek.

The club now want to take the next step in their evolution by winning their fifth FA Cup trophy.

Acknowledging the occasion at his pre-match press conference before his team's trip to Wembley, Santo said: "Everybody knows what it could mean, but we have to play it just like another game, then make it special."

While Watford, who were losing finalists in 1984, cannot boast the same pedigree in the competition, they are also punching above their weight in a cut-throat league.

On Tuesday, they broke a club record tally in reaching 46 points - their best mark in a top-flight campaign since 1987 (63).

The longevity of Javi Gracia is why the Hornets have shown sting all season, with the Spaniard the first manager since Gianfranco Zola six years ago to last more than a year in charge.

The 48-year-old is confident of giving Wolves "a good game", adding: "We have to be ready to give 100 per cent."

AGENCE FRANCE-PRESSE

WATFORD V WOLVERHAMPTON Singtel TV Ch111, 10.55pm

A version of this article appeared in the print edition of The Sunday Times on April 07, 2019, with the headline 'Wolves to make it 'special''. Print Edition | Subscribe