Shropshire Star

Sporting director Matt Hobbs urges Wolves fans to get behind Gary O'Neil

Sporting director Matt Hobbs has urged Wolves supporters to get behind Gary O'Neil and the club's philosophy.

Matt Hobbs embraces Matheus Cunha after the win over Man City (Getty)

A superb performance and win over Premier League and Champions League champions Manchester City on Saturday saw Molineux get back to its vociferous best.

The result also eased some pressure on O'Neil, with fans frustrated at the start of the campaign before the win over City, and Hobbs has called on the supporters to make Molineux a fortress and stick with the team.

"The fans have been unbelievable – they have been great with me since I've come in," Hobbs said on the club's Wolves Weekly podcast.

"I'll always be honest with them and since I've come in they've been unbelievable in getting behind the team.

"People will get frustrated and obviously people will be disappointed that Julen (Lopetegui) left, I was disappointed too and he remains a friend of mine now, but that's not Gary's fault.

"He did an unbelievable job at Bournemouth and many people thought he was going to be manager of the season. I can already see the changes he's making in us.

"The fans, as they showed Saturday, make the difference. I hope, whether they like what I'm saying or not, that they understand what we're trying to do and appreciate the honesty.

"Trust that everyone is working unbelievably hard to give them a team and a club they can proud of."

A big part of the club's 'strategy' since Hobbs was made sporting director almost a year ago, was transforming the squad into a group of players desperate to play for the club.

That has meant bringing in experienced players with a point to prove, alongside 'young and hungry' footballers who are closing in on reaching their potential.

"Everything we're trying to do is in it's infancy, with a different strategy where the club controls it, rather than the manager," Hobbs added.

"The project we're trying to build is in it's infancy. Julen was hugely successful for us in keeping us in the league and we had to be adaptable to what I would have liked the strategy to be at that time.

"I said this on Julen's first day, and I said the same on Gary's first day, I want a team on the pitch that represents the team in the stands.

"I felt under Bruno we stopped representing the fans. A hard-working area, people who love their football, passionate, will get behind you if they see you putting the effort in and working hard on the pitch, and they'll forgive you a missed pass, or missing a chance if you keep going and play until the end.

"We saw that under Julen and it was interesting because under Bruno we hadn't outrun a single team in the Premier League. Under Julen only one team outran us and with all the physical data now, no one is out running us.

"For me, the strategy was a smaller first team squad, a young, hungry set of players like Joao Gomes, alongside your experience in Daws (Craig Dawson) and Mario (Lemina).

"If you want young, hungry players, in my opinion the best coach to have is a young, hungry coach who is on the same journey with you and wants something long-term.

"But someone who has that desire and work ethic that the players can buy into. That's what we've found."

Once Julen Lopetegui decided he needed to leave in pre-season, Hobbs began the interview process for his successor and spoke to four managers, of which the club felt O'Neil was the outstanding candidate.

Hobbs admits this campaign was a 'transition season' and the implementation of the philosophy is more important than a high finish in the league table, as he calls for O'Neil to be given time.

"We had some unbelievable seasons under Nuno and you can kind of get carried away with that, and it becomes the expectation," Hobbs said.

"But it's the most competitive Premier League now, with some mid to lower teams bought by countries with huge investment. We're now in a different spot.

"If you're open and honest with people, they may not like it, but at least if we're honest they can never accuse us of not communicating.

"We want to take them on the journey with us, because as we saw on Saturday, they were unbelievable. It's been a while since we had an atmosphere like that, they are 100 per cent out twelfth man.

"If they can buy into it and see the team working, my hope is that they'll allow the time.

"Time is an interesting point because it's not Gary's fault that Julen left. It's not Gary's fault that we had to be plus £85million in the transfer window and it's not Gary's fault that we didn't do one or two more players in the summer that we wanted. It's not Gary's fault he didn't have a pre-season or that he had four days to work with the team before Man United.

"We have to understand Gary's not had time, or six to eight weeks in pre-season to get to know the players and get a feel for it.

"He came in four days before Man United away and they put in the performance that they did. We were excellent and deserved something from it.

"In the limited time Gary's had, there's been so many positives."

In recent weeks, Wolves have also pressed ahead with new contracts for senior players, with Max Kilman and Jose Sa both committing their futures.

Kilman was attracting interest from several clubs in the summer, with Wolves rejecting a £30million offer from Italian champions Napoli, and Hobbs was full of praise for the how the skipper conducted himself.

He said: "Everyone knows of the interest in Max in the summer. Not just the club that was in the media, and the size of the offers that we had, but there were other clubs as well.

"But he never forced anything. In the conversation I had with him, he said 'Wolves are the club that gave me the opportunity, it's up to you, if you want to accept then I'll talk to them, but if you don't I'm the captain and I love this club'.

"Big and experienced players are important, but it's also important to reward players that are loyal, represent the club in the right way, that are good enough and reliable.

"They can see what we're trying to do. I'm always honest with the players and my door is always open. Pedro (Neto) came to see me the other day and he's unbelievably happy with what Gary's doing and how he's letting him play.

"Our communication is very strong and that's built some strong relationships around the club. We've come through the summer and we need to show them that our ambition is to improve, and our leaders are important to that."